Tampa Bay, All The Way!
January 24, 2003
Filed under Archives
Watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in action in the playoffs this year has been a textbook lesson in how to play football. The Bucs do just about everything right. Against the San Francisco 49ers, Tampa simply brought the Niners to their knees. The Bucs responded to the critics who said they couldn’t win on the road or in the cold by humbling the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10, in Philadelphia, one of the most hostile stadiums in all of football. In that win, the Buccaneers shook the Veterans Stadium monkey off their back, winning there for the first time in four tries.
Tampa’s defense has only given up 17 points in two games, and seven of them came primarily because of a 70-yard kick return by the Eagles’ future Hall of Fame return man, Brian Mitchell. The defense has responded to all challenges, handcuffing the Eagles for three quarters, then responding to a late threat to their lead by intercepting Eagles QB Donovan McNabb on a first-and-goal situation, with the score 20-10. Tampa’s offense has been efficient, getting leads and then protecting the football. When the Eagles’ defense shut the Buccaneers down early in the second half, the Bucs didn’t panic. They kept to their game, preventing turnovers and letting their top-rated defense protect the lead.
The Oakland Raiders come into this game with the top-rated offense in the game, and future Hall of Famers on both sides of the ball; WR’s Tim Brown and Jerry Rice and safety Rod Woodson are the names that jump off the page. Tampa will have to adjust their defense, which is designed to prevent the deep passing play, to defend Oakland’s passing game, which is mostly short routes to the wide receivers, who then run with the ball to create the big play.
What Tampa Must Do To Win
Tampa’s defense has the speed to negate the big-play ability of Oakland’s receivers. The Buccaneers just need to sit back, stay with their man defensively, and most importantly, keep the receivers in front of them. The defensive front must be able to contain running backs Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley. With Pro Bowlers Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice anchoring the line, and Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks at outside linebacker, as well as run-stuffing safety John Lynch, the Bucs have the personnel to match up with and contain the run.
Offensively, the Buccaneers simply need to keep it simple: take what the defense gives you, and don’t get greedy. If Tampa’s offense is on the field, Oakland’s offense isn’t. That is the best way to beat a great offense: keeping them on the sidelines. RB’s Michael Pittman and Mike Alstott must wear down Oakland’s front seven, while QB Brad Johnson must avoid interceptions. The Raiders’ secondary is one of the best in football, and is capable of making a big play. If the Buccaneers stick to running the ball and short passes, they can keep Oakland’s offense off the field and off the scoreboard, and give the city of Tampa its first major sports title.