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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Game Preview: Buccaneers (2-0) vs. Packers (0-2)

by Thomas Pyc
PackerChatters Staff

The Battle of the Bays is back again for the first time since November 2003. The two teams enter this game with opposite momentum but obviously similar goals, winning this game. Winning games in Packer country is the only acceptable way to play (or coach) in Green Bay and unfortunately that’s not the way the season has started. Down in Tampa, people are talking about getting back to the Super Bowl. A sound football philosopher would tell you that you need to run the ball and play good defense to win on Sundays, the Bucs are definitely doing both those things very well. But no game in the NFL is a foregone conclusion in these days of parity and that’s why they play on Sunday.

The Buccaneers’ Offense vs. The Packers’ Defense

Tampa Bay’s offense has been running as smooth as a Cadillac this season, one they got right off the NFL Draft lot. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams has been a solid contributor to their attack and currently leads the NFL in rushing. The kid runs hard, fast and without regard for anyone’s health including his own. Head coach, John Gruden, used plenty of beef last week and grounded out a victory against the Buffalo Bills. The Bucs do have some threats in the passing game with second-year man Michael Clayton, speedy vet Joey Galloway and surprising rookie tight-end Alex Smith but quarterback Brian Griese has not been put into two many tough situations. Between Griese and an overachieving offensive line there is room for error on the offensive side of the ball.

Jim Bates’ defense followed up a pleasant performance with one bad enough to give Packer fans a migraine. Shoddy tackling, miscommunication and a lack of playmaking caused this group’s progress to stop. Another shaky performance might send them directly into reverse. Na’il Diggs will be on the field for the first time this season and his contributions are definitely needed.

The entire Packers front seven will need to be on top of their game and ready to get physical if they want to slow the Buccaneer running attack. The importance of group tackling in order to slow down Williams was hopefully stressed early and often this week and practice. An important key to putting themselves in a position to take on Williams as a team will be coping with the heavy dose of motion and shifting the Bucs’ offense uses. Rookie safety Nick Collins and fellow safety Mark Roman have to work to alleviate the communication problems that put the Packers at a disadvantage last week.

The Packers’ Offense vs. the Buccaneers’ Defense

Brett Favre is not talking like he cares about the history he is currently making but if the Packers offense cannot put together some clock-consuming scoring drives those historical records might be the only positive thing fans have to talk about after this year.

The Green Bay offense looks exactly like an offense that has two new guards and is missing their top wide receiver should look like, impotent. Now tight end Bubba Franks is listed and questionable (has yet to practiced this week) and disappointing veteran David Martin will be expected to help the Packers’ rushing attack improve. Speaking of disappointing veterans, wide receiver Robert Ferguson needs to help keep the opposition from cheating up on the running game. Ferguson has lacked any sort of consistent contribution that is going to be necessary for the Packers’ offense to give opposing defenses unfavorable matchups.

In Tampa, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has his group leading the NFL in defense. The unit as a whole has been fast and physical. Former Vikings’ defensive lineman Chris Hovan has reinvented himself as a threat to offenses in Kiffin’s defense. The front four of the Buccaneers is playing better than any other defensive line in the NFL. The linebackers (lead by Pro Bowler Derrick Brooks) are filling accordingly and creating turnovers and using the Cover 2 approach Kiffin has solidified a slow-than-average secondary. Well-timed pressure and playing with an attitude is what gives this unit its identity. From defensive end Simeon Rice to Super Bowl MVP safety Dexter Jackson this unit appears to be ready to make Tampa Bay a serious contender early in the 2005 season.

The Bottom Line

The Packers’ rushing attack has to have a great game to pull up Tampa’s safeties and allow for Donald Driver and friends to give Favre an opportunity to attack down the field. On defense, the Packers obligation to the run might put them in a position to give up plays in the passing game. They cannot afford to give Brian Griese the time that Trent Dilfer had last week to pick apart the secondary. The defensive line has to have a stellar performance.
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