Bucs still playing to win in final stretch
Dashon Goldson speaks during a news conference earlier this year. (USA TODAY Sports / January 27, 2013)
The Sports Xchange
NFL Team Report - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - INSIDE SLANT
It's too late to save the Tampa Bay Buccaneers season. They could win enough games, however, to protect the job of head coach Greg Schiano.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said that while the Bucs (3-9) have been eliminated from the playoffs, they still have much to play for beginning with Sunday's 1 p.m. game against the Buffalo Bills at Raymond James Stadium.
"We're not going to the playoffs. It's a fact. So what?" McCoy said. "Are we going to lay down, or are we going to finish off strong? We have four more weeks to leave our mark on 2013. What are we going to do with it? It's up to us."
McCoy said it's important to establish positive momentum for the offseason, remembering last year's season-ending win against Atlanta, which ended a five-game losing streak.
"Same thing: Our last four games, how we finish this season, that's the first thing you're going to talk about next year," McCoy said. "We've got four more guaranteed opportunities to leave our mark. We have to refocus and prepare to be able to do that."
Schiano is on the hot seat. After losing the first eight games to start the season, the Bucs won three in a row before falling 27-6 at Carolina Sunday.
Tampa Bay's offense, which ranks 31st in the NFL, has begun to go backward. They had a season-low 206 total yards against the Panthers and injuries have begun to catch up to them.
Defensively, the Bucs didn't play with passion or tackle well against the Panthers.
McCoy was held without a tackle and the defense was held without a sack or a quarterback hurry. The Bucs face a rookie quarterback this week in Buffalo's EJ Manuel, and McCoy said it's crucial to contain him in the pocket and not allow him to scramble as Carolina's Cam Newton did last week.
"We don't want him using his feet. He's an athlete, and if he gets out in the open, he can make throws," McCoy said. "We want to put him in tight windows and make him beat us from the pocket. Same thing we wanted to do with Cam. We got away from that."
McCoy said the Bucs didn't look good on offense, defense or special teams Sunday, and he said that included himself, as he faced things he hadn't expected in terms of personnel blocking him on plays.
The Bills represent the last team the Bucs will be favored against the final month of the season. Tampa Bay hosts the 49ers next week before traveling to St. Louis and New Orleans to end the regular season.
"That Carolina game just wasn't us, all around the board," McCoy said. "They neutralized me in so many ways. I remember one time, I got hit by a receiver and a running back. I said, 'What's going on?' I got around the tackle, got hit by a receiver coming across and a running back. Carolina just played a great game and Cam did what he did. We can't allow EJ to do the same thing."
SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular season meeting. Bucs lead series, 6-3. But Tampa Bay lost the last meeting 33-20 in 2009, its only trip to Rich Stadium in Buffalo.
NFL Team Report - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - NOTES, QUOTES
--Bucs kicker Rian Lindell spent 10 years as the Buffalo Bills' kicker, so the 36 year old admitted Wednesday it will feel odd to be kicking against his old team Sunday when the Bills come to Tampa.
"It's exciting," said Lindell, who was cut in mid-August and signed with the Bucs. "I've been on that sideline for so long, it'll be odd to see that uniform from across the (field). It was certainly something when I came down, I saw we were playing them, and thought 'That will be cool.' Here it is."
--There's no such thing as Big East football anymore, but Sunday's Bucs-Bills game is a reunion of sorts for Bucs coach Greg Schiano and first-year Bills coach Doug Marrone, who coached against each other from 2009-11 while at Rutgers and Syracuse, respectively.
The two have been good for some tight games in their short history against each other -- Marrone got the first two meetings, while Schiano rallied to win the third meeting in double overtime in 2009.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He just said, 'I'm happy for you.' We shook hands and that was about it. I knew it was tough on him." - Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon, on his discussion with former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel after Glennon's North Carolina State team upset the Seminoles 17-16 last season.
NFL Team Report - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Bucs signed linebacker Danny Lansanah from the New York Jets' practice squad. Lansanah (6-1, 255) entered the league as a college free agent with Green Bay in 2008. He played in five games with the Packers as a rookie, recording two special teams tackles. He has been with the Jets for the first 13 weeks of this season. Lansanah will wear No. 51 for the Buccaneers.
Lansanah played at the University of Connecticut, starting 34-of-45 games, totaling 323 tackles, with 35 for loss, and 10 interceptions. He was named first-team All-Big East following his senior season.
--Linebacker Jonathan Casillas has been placed on injured reserve. This season, Casillas has played in all 12 games, starting four, totaling 25 tackles, two passes defensed and a forced fumble. He leads the Buccaneers with nine special teams tackles.
--LB Dekoda Watson will return to the strong side and start for Jonathan Casillas, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a knee injury.
--K Rian Lindell has missed three of his last five field-goal attempts.
--G Gabe Carimi was used as an eligible tight end 12 times in last Sunday's game at Carolina.
--QB Mike Glennon was a roommate with Bills QB E.J. Manuel at the Elite 11 camp during high school and college and they competed against each other in the ACC.
--WR Vincent Jackson has a hamstring injury and did not practice Wednesday. But coach Greg Schiano said the injury is not considered serious and he was scheduled for a day off from practice.
--G Carl Nicks (toe) did not practice Wednesday. With a month left in the season, coach Greg Schiano said he is uncertain whether Nicks will play again this season.
--CB Darrelle Revis, who was unable to finish Sunday's game at Carolina due to shoulder/chest injuries, returned to practice Wednesday and had full participation.
--DT Akeem Spence has a wrist injury but had full participation Wednesday in practice and should play vs. the Bills.
GAME PLAN: The Bucs have to re-establish their running game. Tampa Bay's offensive line was manhandled by the enormous defensive fronts of Detroit and Carolina. The Bills lead the NFL in sacks, so they must find a way to slow down their pass rush.
"Certainly with Buffalo's pass rush, their front seven is very, very good, they lead the National Football League in sacks," coach Greg Schiano said. "We've played against two really fine front sevens in the last two weeks and now we're getting our third. We have struggled a little in pass protection so that's a play emphasis, getting rid of the football, finding some different ways to protect, we have to do that."
The Bills play a lot of man coverage, which means quarterback Mike Glennon must use the quick game to get the football out of his hands. It's actually good news for receiver Vincent Jackson, who has been doubled each week.
Defensively, the Bucs have to contain the Bills strong running game led by C.J. Spiller.
"They're a no-huddle outfit," Schiano said. "They're going to go up-tempo, so we're going to have to be ready to go, every snap. And they have two very good running backs, very good running backs that we're going to have to tackle. C.J. Spiller, if he gets out in the open or he gets the edge, he's gone. He has unique speed. (They have) good people in the skill positions so deep balls, we've got to keep them in front of us for sure and in the kicking game they have some dangerous returners. Both their punt returner and their kickoff returner can score at any time, so it's a lot of speed on that field, a lot of explosive players that we have to make sure that we do everything in our power to keep them contained."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bills DE Mario Williams vs. Bucs LT Donald Penn -- Williams leads the Bills with 12 sacks this season. Penn struggled against the Panthers Sunday, allowing two of the five sacks on QB Mike Glennon.
--Bucs CB Darrelle Revis vs. Bills WR Stevie Johnson -- The one-time AFC East rivals renew their battle. Revis has failed to finish each of the last two games due to hamstring, chest and shoulder injuries.