Bucs need to play well in final 4 games

by Gary Shelton on December 9, 2020

in general

Arians hopes the bye week helped the Bucs/JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Four games to go.

Four games to decide whether this is season is about the playoffs or the bust. Four games to decide if this team was kind of disappointing or really, really disappointing. Four games to go between the post-season and a punch line.

So what do the Tampa Bay Bucs do now?

On paper, things look okay or the Bucs. They're atop all three of their remaining opponents in the standings, and they still have Tom Brady and a great gaggle of weapons. But they still start slow, and finish slow. They have yet to break the ceiling into the league's upper echelon.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.

They are 7-5, and could make the playoffs for the first time since TV was in black-and-white. But they have the potential to stub their toes, also. Last week's bye week didn't change the slow starts.

“I think we had those answers going into it – it’s third downs [and creating] manageable third downs on offense," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "Defensively, it’s just matching the speed. We do a great job in the second half, but we have to do a better job of matching the speed – especially if the [other] team is in tempo – to start the ballgames and get off the field on third down.”

Sunday against the Vikings, the Bucs will have to be in manageable third down situations.

"They’ve done a good job on third down [and] getting teams in a little bit longer situations," Arians said. "They’ve got a great blitz package – Mike Zimmer is one of the best there is [and] one of the guys I respect the most in this business. They have a heck of a third-down package and they know what they’re doing in the red zone. We played them a couple times in Arizona and they’re very, very solid. They know what they’re doing [and] there’s not really anything you’re going to show them formationally that they don’t know what to do.”

At this point, Arians just wants to see the Bucs in the playoffs.

“Just getting in the dance," Arians said. "We’ve been a one-seed (as an assistant with the Steelers) and won it [and] we’ve been a six-seed and won it. This year especially – with no fans – the home-field advantage is really going to be out the window. It’s just going to be lining up and playing in empty stadiums. What has been a big, big part of the playoffs in the past is home-field advantage [but] I don’t think it’s going to be an advantage this year. It’s just a matter of getting in.”

Added linebacker coach Larry Foote: “I shared with my guys that [before] my first Super Bowl, we were 7-2 and lost three in a row. We just had to wipe the board clean and just figure out a way to get in the playoffs. We’re at that same point [now]. Each game is a playoff. What happened in September and October [and] what happened last week – it [doesn’t mean anything]. You’re trying to get a ticket to the dance. Whoever believes and whoever is executing, they’re going to be the Super Bowl champions. They don’t care about your record. I know Tom Brady can speak to that – they were undefeated and lost in the Super Bowl. It’s just any given Sunday. But, most importantly, you’ve got to get a ticket to the dance.”

The Vikings are only 6-6, but Arians is impressed with their weapons including Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.

“[They are] dynamic," he said. "Dalvin’s one of the best backs – arguably the best back – in the league right now, and they feature him. He’s a great zone runner, he’s a downhill runner, one cut [and a] hard tackle. It’s going to be a great challenge defensively. Jefferson – he takes the top off the coverage [and] we’ve seen a bunch of those guys this year. Don’t ever forget Thielen because he’s really the go-to guy.

"Minnesota’s one game behind us [and] they’ll have the tiebreaker. This is a huge game. We’re not looking by [anybody] – that’s for sure.”

For the Bucs to get into rhythm, they need to be better on first down. They also need to establish running back Ronald Jones.

“He’s having a heck of a year and when things are good, he’s got 20 touches. We’ve just got to stay in the ballgames earlier and not fall behind. That is what we try to do every week. I thought in the Kansas City game we did a good job of staying in the game plan, keeping him going and getting back in the ballgame. He is where we start.”

The Bucs, who have lost three of their last four, have a crucial stretch to make the playoffs.

“I think our attitude is going to remain the same in really being consistent," said defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. "When we start playing at a consistent level the way we know how to play [and] executing the way we know how to execute, we’ll be perfectly fine and in the right position. That position is setting up our offense to go score more points, getting them the ball back [and] not allowing teams to score in the first and second drive. In addition to that, I would say creating turnovers [will] allow for us to make big plays on our own side of the ball. We can go score points ourselves and we’ve proven that early on in the year, so we’ve got to get back to those things.”

The Bucs are home at Raymond James Stadium against Minnesota at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Previous post:

Next post: