Six keys to the Bucs upsetting Dallas

by Gary Shelton on January 16, 2023

in general

Monday, 4 a.m.

At this time of year, there are no secrets By now, the checklist for recording an upset are well scripted.

A team -- any team -- has to protect the football. It has to limit penalties. It has to guard against big plays. It has to score in the red zone. It has to run the ball, and it has to make sure the opponent does not.

Ah, but beyond those, there are keys. There are matchups to be won, weak spots to exploit. There are ordinary players who have to make extra ordinary plays. There are good players who have to play great. There are close games that can be won late.

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So as the Tampa Bay Bucs prepare to host the Dallas Cowboys tonight, what are the most important issues:

One): Tom Brady has to be great again. Oh, he hasn't been this season. Brady probably had more ordinary plays, and more plays that are less than ordinary, than in any season he has played. There are times he cannot connect the dots from A to B, times he reminds you of his age.

Then there were the four fourth-quarter comebacks, the drivers that have saved this season. No quarterback in the history of the league has ever been better with a fourth quarter deficit.

So it stands to reason. If the Bucs can keep it close. until late, they have a good shot at an upset.

Two): Leonard Fournette: For the most part, Playoff Lenny has had a bad season. He's rushed for 667 yards, or 142 less than a year ago. He's lost playing time to rookie Rachaad White.

But the last time Tampa Bay played Dallas, Fournette was a beast. He rushed for 127 yards -- by far his most in any game this year. His legal block on Micah Parsons left defenders around the league whining.

Granted, it has seemed like a bad idea most of the time the Bucs have run the ball since. They're last in the NFL in every major rushing category. But the Bucs have to run it some to help keep the heat off of Brady. If they can have some success, it will help.

Three): Carlton Davis: The first time the Bucs played the Cowboys, receiver CeeDee Lamb had not established himself as Dallas' major receiving threat. He had just two catches for 29 yards that night. But now Lamb has come into his own. He has 107 catches for 1,358 yards.

Davis, and the rest of the Bucs' secondary, has spent a season making opposing quarterbacks look good. They need to control Dak Prescott.

Four.): Devin White: White hasn't had a great year, either. His effort has been questioned as well as his discipline. But White had eight tackles and two sacks in the opener against Dallas.

As result, Both Prescott and Zeke Elliott were ordinary against Tampa Bay. The Bucs can't allow either to take over the game.

Five:) Vita Vea: The blueprint of the Bus in recent seasons has been to snuff the opponent's running game and survive its passing. That hasn't worked as well this year when other teams have been able to run.

For the Bucs to compete in this game, they need to hope Vea and Akiem Hicks can make running the ball are chore for Elliott. If Dallas can gash the Bucs, it's going to be a long night.

Six:) Mike Evans-Chris Godwin: A team has to play to its strengths. For the Bucs, that starts at wide receiver. Brady cannot be shy about throwing to Evans, even if it means taking a lick along the way.

Both Evans and Godwin had more than 1,000 yards this season. Tonight, they both need more than 100.

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