BUCS – GOAL LINE STAND : COLTS
By Leo Haggerty
Archived under Featured Articles – Professional & Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As we head into the last four contests, don’t expect a long dissertation on my keys to victory.  Some of them you could probably put down every week no matter who the opponent happens to be.  There are still, depending on who shows up in the other color jerseys, some unique detail that I may need to extrapolate on further.

Today, Tampa Bay host Indianapolis at Raymond James Stadium.  Kickoff is schedule for 1 pm.

The Colts come into the contest with a 6-6 log after being beat 31-17 by the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium.  That puts The Horseshoes in third place in the American Football Conference South Division.  The Blue & White are two games behind the division-leading Texans and are, mathematically, still in the hunt for a division title.

The Bucs improved to 5-7 with a 28-11 thumping of the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field.  That puts the Pewter Pirates tied for the second spot with the Panthers in the National Football Conference South Division.  The Buccaneers are still five game behind the front-running Saints who have already clinched the top spot in the NFC South.

So, how does Tampa Bay come away victorious over Indy today?  Below are the four ways I believe need to be successfully accomplished to end up on the left side of the dash when the final whistle blows.  Enjoy.

1ST DOWN – BE THE BULLY

Let’s be real here.  On almost all occasions, the tougher team emerges victorious.  It’s just the way NFL  football happens to be.  Intimidation and bullying are an enormous part of the contest.

On offense, the Bucs have to play smash-mouth football and wear down the Colts defense.  That will open up the play-action passing game that is the best part of the skill set that QB Jameis Winston possesses.

On defense, just keep being nasty especially up front.  The Pewter Pirates D-Line needs to stop the run.  That will force Indianapolis to move the football through the air and the Buccaneers can then tee off on The Horseshoes Jacoby Brissett.

2ND DOWN – IT AIN’T BROKE SO DON’T FIX IT

The past two games have been Buccaneers wins.  So, why don’t the Bucs repeat what they did in the last two contest that led to victories?  Novel concept, eh?

The big stat that jumps off the paper at you, when it comes to the Tampa Bay offense, is the balance between the run and the pass.  It was almost 50-50 and the Bucs won.  Do you think there is a pattern here?

The Pewter Pirates need to strive for that balance of 30ish runs and no more than 30 passes again this week against Indianapolis.  Don’t get pass-happy and expose #3 to possible bad results.

3RD DOWN – KEEP 3 CLEAN

This one is huge and needs very little explanation.  If the Bucs keep Winston clean and upright, their chances of winning increase exponentially.

Also, the former Florida State alum is starting to get it.  He’s realizing that he can throw the pigskin to the tuba, if the receiver is covered, and still move the chains on the next play.

Plus, the Bucs receiving corps has stepped up big-time.  We knew the wide outs were good but now the tight ends and backs are becoming a prolific part of the passing game.

Let’s hope that #3 remembers the main mantra of quarterbacks and that is that you never broke if you check down.  That will go a long way to putting up a third consecutive victory.

4TH DOWN – OWN 3RD DOWN

Simple one here.  On offense, the Buccaneers need to convert third down situations at a 40% clip or higher.  That wears out the Colts defense and gives the Bucs defenders a chance to rest and and stay fresh.

On defense, the Pewter Pirates need to get off the field as often as they can.  If Tampa Bay can keep the Indy third-down efficiency rate under 25%, they should win the football game.

OK, time to make a call.  Like I said last week, I think the Jacksonville victory was that “turn the corner ” game that the Bucs needed to springboard the team to playing winning football.

I see a three-game win streak coming.  TB, 26-17, with Matt Gay splitting the uprights four times in a field goal fest.