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After taking the week off to self evaluate and rest - the Buccaneers take the field on Sunday against a Kansas City Chiefs team in turmoil. Can the Bucs finally get that elusive "W"?
It was a good week off for the beloved pirates of pewter pants. Some nagging injuries got a chance to heal up, the Bucs coaching staff got to hit the reset button and evaluate what they do well and where they are struggling. Josh Freeman got a chance to burn a few more worms in practice (kidding because we care, Josh).
Now the introspective Bucs get to turn their attention to an opponent that has struggled mightily this season.
Blown out in three of their five games this season, without their starting quarterback and playing this team on your home turf - the Bucs should roll over these guys, right?
In the immortal words of Lee Corso - not so fast, my friend.
Series: Tied 5-5
Last Meeting: Tampa Bay 30, Kansas City 27 (OT) on November 2nd, 2008
Can we get one game where Josh Freeman remains consistent from start to finish? Freeman has the weapons in Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn to do some serious damage to opposing defenses. He's had plenty of time in the pocket to throw. Where he has struggled is in his ability to make quick decisions and deliver the football where his receivers have a chance to do something with it.
It's resulted in the fourth worst passing offense in the NFL. That should not be happening with this unit. It's incumbent on Mike Sullivan to be creative and allow Freeman to attack downfield. We're not saying bombs away Air Coryell here. We're just saying take a shot every once in awhile. When the reigns have been released, Freeman and the receivers have done some serious damage.
If the Bucs are successful against Kansas City, Tampa Bay will have succeed where the likes of Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Joe Flacco failed. The Chiefs are downright stingy on pass defense and are ranked 8th overall.
In their 3-4 scheme is buoyed by OLB Justin Houston (6 sacks) and Tamba Hali (3 sacks). Derrick Johnson continues to be a tackling machine, leading the Chiefs with 38 stops.
Advantage: Kansas City
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Attack vs. Kansas City Chiefs Run Defense
To say the Bucs running game has been a disappointment is an understatement. Expected to be the strength of the team, the loss of Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph and the porous ability of the tight ends to block the edge has derailed a once promising attack.
The Bucs went back to the drawing board during the bye week to try to fix the problem. The result? Mauler Jeremy Trueblood will move inside from his right tackle position (where he had already be supplanted by Demar Dotson) and replace Ted Larsen at guard. Larsen hasn't been terrible but the Bucs were sick of his penalties and inability to get push in the running game.
Tampa Bay also added a blocking tight end in Nate Byham to try and help the edge.
The good news is the Bucs' 23rd ranked rushing attack will be facing the Chiefs 22nd ranked run defense. Opponents went over 100 yds rushing in three of the Chiefs five games, including a 201 yd performance by the Buffalo Bills.
Kansas City has been victimized by big runs. If Doug Martin or LeGarrette Blount can get to the second level - there is some gridiron gold to be had.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Kansas City Chiefs Passing Attack vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Defense
After facing the likes of Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Cam Newton and RG III - the much maligned Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass defense gets Brady Quinn - a quarterback who hasn't started a game in the NFL since 2009. Now, normally that would be a good thing - but sometimes the unknown can come up and bite you.
Quinn has had good games in his NFL career - On November 22nd 2009, Quinn threw for 304 yds and 4 touchdowns against a Detroit Lions team that would go on to finish 2-14. A few weeks later, he torched the San Diego Chargers for 271 yds and 3 touchdowns. So the guy is not completely inept.
All the Chiefs want from Quinn at this point is to not be the human turnover machine that Matt Cassel had turned into. Cassel had 13 of Kansas City's league leading 19 turnovers and one of the main reasons that KC fans cheered him going down was because they hoped that at the very least, Quinn could manage the game and not get their boys beat.
For the most part, the Bucs defense has been decent against the pass - but there are times when they sell out with the blitz and their secondary gets burned for big plays. It got really bad in the fourth quarter of the Giants game - where Eli Manning entered with 258 yds passing - not a great performance by the Bucs defense but considering the competition and the setting - not terrible. He finished with 501yds. The fourth quarter from hell skewed the Bucs stats from mediocre against the pass to worst.
Still, it's Brady Quinn. He's more likely to hit Captain Fear on a deep route than Dwayne Bowe.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Attack vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Run Defense
Jamal Charles is perhaps the best running back in the National Football League. It's good that at the very least, the one thing the Bucs defense does well is stop the run. The only time the Bucs have struggled against the run this season is against big, bruising backs who can run guys over.
The shifty scat backs haven't given Tampa Bay much trouble because the Buccaneers have one thing they have been missing since Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks roamed the Pirate Ship - team speed on defense. The Bucs are one of the fastest defenses in the league.
Will it be enough to slow down Charles? It really depends. If the Chiefs decide to pound the 51 times like they did at the Ravens - Charles is sure to break loose a few times. While the Chiefs faithful point to the Ravens game as validation at how great Charles is - the truth is the Ravens defense isn't what it used to be - ranking 20th against the run.
In fact, other than the Ravens, none of the Chiefs other opponents rank higher than 28th against the run. That's not to say Charles isn't a force to be reckoned with - but the Bucs are by far the best run defense Kansas City has faced.
The Special Teams Battle
Connor Barth has made a team record 25 consecutive field goals for the Buccaneers while Michael Koenen continues to be solid in the punting game with 43.6 average and 11 kicks inside the 20. Both Regus Benn and Roscoe Parrish are adequate return guys.
Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop is 10 of 11 with a long of 45 this season. Dustin Colquitt is punting at 45.9 yds a clip and has placed 13 inside the 20. Javier Arenas handles most of the return duties for the Chiefs and does a decent job at both.
By the Numbers
- Tampa Bay has won the last three meetings.
- Kansas City is 2-3 lifetime in Tampa Bay and hasn't won in Tampa since 1993.
- Kansas City is -15 in the give/takeaway ratio, dead last in the NFL. The next closest team is -7.
- The Bucs are +3 in give/takeaway ratio
- Kansas City is 27th in the NFL in points allowed, surrendering an average of 29 pts a game.
- The Bucs are 9-7 following a bye.
- Kansas City has lost their last four trips to the east coast, surrendering 31.2 points a game in the process.
- The Bucs had two 100 yd receivers in a single game in their last outing at home against the Redskins. It was the first time the Bucs have achieved that since 1992.
- Tampa Bay has lost 13 of their last 14 games.
- Tampa Bay has lost 4 of their last 5 at home.
The Bucs are rested and re-focused as they try to overcome the 1-3 hole they've put themselves in. The Bucs have played some good football this season - unfortunately the scoreboard hasn't shown it. After playing the rugged NFC East, Tampa Bay gets a reprieve from playing the best quarterbacks the NFL has to offer by facing the tumultuous quarterback situation in Kansas City.
Brady Quinn can be dangerous - but I don't believe the Bucs believe he can beat them - even with Dwayne Bowe to throw to. Tampa Bay is one of the best in the league at stopping the run and you can be sure they will be loaded for bear against Jamal Charles.
Had Peyton Hillis been available (even Shaun Draughn is questionable at this point) I might have been a little worried about the Bucs' run defense - the big backs seem to give Tampa Bay's undersized line and linebackers a bit of trouble. With scat backs Jamal Charles and Dexter McCluster I think the Bucs' team speed will have them in the right position to make stops.
This game is going to come down to turnovers and whether or not the Bucs can run the football consistently. It may be the fastest game in the NFL this season as both teams are going to want to grind it out and minimize mistakes.
I trust the Bucs to protect the football better than the Chiefs and at home I believe Tampa Bay will get a badly needed victory.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 24, Kansas City 13