Things you should know about the Buccaneers as the Bears head out to face them this Sunday in Tampa Bay:
- Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has 1305 yards rushing on the year in a contract season. That’s only nine yards behind the Vikings Adrian Peterson for the league lead. The Bears did an adequate job stopping Peterson on Sunday and they’ll have to do the same or better against Martin. It will be interesting to see if they choose to put eight in the box against Martin as they did against Peterson or if they choose to try to stop him with the standard seven which has been more their habit this season when facing good running backs.
- Not to be forgotten in the running back mix is Charles Simms. Simms is one of the best at catching balls out of the backfield this year. He is one of only four running backs in the NFL with at least 400 yards rushing and receiving. The others are Devonta Freeman, Mark Ingram and Giovanni Bernard. He’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Add in the threat of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who returned this month from a shoulder injury that had left him sidelined since week 2, and this is all bad news for the Bears who have struggled to cover both running backs and tight ends with their linebackers. Look for the Buccaneers to take full advantage of that match up.
- Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will have a reasonable opportunity to get back on track this week. Of course, the Bucs defense might be saying the same thing about the Bears. The Buccaneer’s secondary has been their biggest weakness this year. Opposing quarterbacks have completed a NFL high 69% of their passes against them this year. Opponents have a passer rating of 100.3, fifth highest in the NFL, and its 107.9 the past three games. They’ve made Ryan Mallett, Matt Hasselbeck and Case Keenum look like franchise quarterbacks.
- On the other hand, the Bucs have been very good against the run. They held Rams rookie Todd Gurley to 48 yards on 21 carries on Thursday. They are tied with Denver for the league lead at 3.3 yards per carry. Again, this doesn’t bode well for the Bears who rely on ball control and defense when they are playing well.
- This game will be a contest to see who will have the worst first quarter. Like the Bears, the Bucs are becoming notorious for their slow starts. They have averaged just 3.4 points in the first quarter. Greg Auman at the Tampa Bay Times reports:
“‘It affects your game plan when you’re playing from behind, obviously,’ rookie G Ali Marpet said after Thursday’s 31-23 loss. ‘Our mentality is to run the ball first, and it takes you out of that, which is frustrating.'”
Tell me about it.
- The Bucs are also struggling on special teams. They gave up two long kickoff returns to the Rams, a 44-yarder on the opening kickoff to set up a touchdown and a 102-yarder that led to a fourth-quarter field goal. We can hope the Bears are headed in the opposite direction after a good effort Sunday against the Vikings.