When you think back to the days of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as great NFL picks for the Super Bowl, a lot of thoughts came to mind. Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn would control the football, and Brad Johnson or whomever the quarterback would be at the time was largely unimportant as long as he just took care of the football. The defense played the patented “Tampa 2,” and seemingly undersized players at every position made a huge difference with their speed that frustrated opposing offenses.
Replace the names Alstott and Dunn for Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount and the name Brad Johnson with Josh Freeman, and if you squinted and paid really close attention, you might have seen some of those Buccaneers of yesteryear in these Buccaneers that pummeled the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Stopping Cam Newton and the Panthers was an impressive feat to say the least, especially knowing that Carolina amassed just a total of 10 yards on the ground after having three men rush for at least 600 yards a campaign ago. Newton just had nowhere to go with the football, and his chances were limited thanks to a new, ball control offense constructed by Greg Schiano. The game plan was literally perfect.
But now, the time is here for a new challenge against the New York Giants, a game in which the Bucs are nine-point underdogs at MetLife Stadium in Week 2.
What made those Tampa Bay teams in the early-2000s great was the fact that they never had to change their game plan. They were always running the Cover 2, and they were always going to try to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers as easily and with as little risk as possible. That’s exactly what the Buccaneers are going to have to do even though these are the defending Super Bowl champion Giants that are going to be lining up on the other side of the field.
The moment can’t become too much for Freeman, and he can’t try to force throws. Martin once again needs to get the ball in his hands at least 20 times. The defense can’t all of a sudden try to leave its scheme to try to confuse Eli Manning and the G-Men. It just won’t work.
Stick to the game plan though, and all of a sudden, these Bucs might have something else that those Bucs had: A winning pedigree and a shot at the Super Bowl. New York had better be very, very careful. This Tampa Bay team has the formula to pull off this upset.