Bucs can learn from their biggest wins

by Gary Shelton on January 20, 2021

in general

Ronald Jones has been impressiver./TIM WIRT

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

It shouldn't be hard for the Tampa Bay Bucs to come up with a game plan for the Green Bay Packers for Sunday afternoon's NFC Conference Championship game.

Pretty much, all they have to do is bring out last week's game plan against New Orleans.

On top of it, they can stamp the word "ditto."

That, and "add ice."

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Hey, it shouldn't be a shock. Beating any good team is a familiar formula: You force turnovers, you tame the opposing quarterback, you run the ball, you cut down on penalties.

You know, like the Bucs did when they won their biggest game of the regular season (against the Packers).

Also, like the Bucs did when they won their biggest game of the post-season (against the Saints).

Review the two games, and they are remarkably similar. The results, too.

Go back to the middle of October for a minute. The Bucs were wheezing, coming off a 20-19 loss to Chicago. Three months later, the Bucs traveled to New Orleans after being carved up by a quarterback making his first start (Taylor Heinicke).

And then came the typical shock-the-world game plan.

  1. Challenge the receivers. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, in October, had a rating of 35.4. He was intercepted twice. Last weeks Saints' quarterback Drew Brees had a rating of 38.1. He was intercepted three times. (For the regular season, Bucs' opponents had a 94.2 rating).

2. Be efficient: Quarterback Tom Brady of the Bucs didn't have eye-popping stats in either game., throwing for 166 yards against Green Bay and 199 against New Orleans. But he didn't throw an interception in either game and ended up with ratings of 104.9 and 92.9.

3. Control the quarterback: The Bucs sacked Packers' quarterbacks five times in their earlier meeting. They got to Brees only once, but he was never a threat.

4. Check the receivers: The Bucs have had a tendency to get lost in coverage sometimes. But against the Packers and Saints, they covered receivers with attitude. Davante Adams of the Packers caught six passes for an ordinary 61 yards. They were even better against the Saints, shutting out Michael Thomas completely.

5. Be clean: Against the Packers, the Bucs didn't have a penalty. Last week against the Saints, they had seven for 62 yards.

6. Run the ball: Yes, it's a passing team. But there is still room for a running game. Against Green Bay, the Bucs ran for 158 yards, a 4.5 average. Against the Saints, they had 127 yards and a 3.6 average. Ronald Jones II has 175 yards in the two victories.

7. Win the turnover battle: Against the Packers, the Bucs took it away two times, including a pick six. Against the Saints, the Bucs took it away four times, setting up 21 points.

8. Finish strong: Over the last three quarters against the Packers, the Bucs outscored its opponent 38-0. Against the Saints, it was 30-14. Slow starts are to be avoided, but they aren't always deadly.

9. Be good in the red zone: Against the Packers, the Bucs were 4-4 in the red zone. Against the Saints, they were 3-6.

10. Control the running game: The Bucs stopped Aaron Jones, who was fourth in the league with 1104 yards, holding him to 15 yards rushing. They weren't as effective against the Saints, who had 104 yards rushing, but the running game wasn't deadly.

For the Bucs, the key is to try to get as close to their previous numbers against the Packers as in their earlier game. They need to ignore the cold, and the history of Lambeau Stadium.

Just that.

The game is at 3:05 on Sunday afternoon.

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