NFL Preview - Tampa Bay (1-1) at Dallas (1-1)
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie head coach Greg Schiano took some heat for having his team play all the way to the final whistle last weekend.
The Dallas Cowboys didn't show much fight at all in their second game of the season, however.
The Bucs will try to prevent the Cowboys from getting back on track this Sunday in a battle of 1-1 clubs in Dallas.
After opening the season with a solid defensive showing that led to a 16-10 win over the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay traveled north to visit the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in Week 2. Schiano's team found its offensive footing, going up 27-13 on a Connor Barth 52-yard field goal just 1:46 into the third quarter.
However, the Buccaneers failed to hold off the Giants, who put up 25 points in the fourth quarter and capped the scoring on a two-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds to play, handing Tampa Bay a 41-34 defeat.
The game ended a bit chippy as the Giants looked to run down the clock with a kneel-down following Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman's second interception of the game that sealed the result. With the game decided, Tampa Bay's unit still rushed the offensive line and knocked down Giants quarterback Eli Manning during an attempt at forcing a turnover.
That led to New York head coach Tom Coughlin exchanging some words with Schiano on the field after the game, but Tampa Bay's sideline boss didn't back down from his players' actions.
"I don't know if that's not something that's done in the National Football League, but what I do with our football team is we fight until they tell us the game is over," Schiano said. "There's nothing dirty about it. There's nothing illegal about it. We crowd the ball. It's like a sneak defense and we try to knock it loose.
"We're not going to quit. That's just the way I coach and teach our players. Some people were upset about it. I don't have any hesitation. That's the way we play: clean, hard football until they tell us the game is over."
Tampa Bay, which lost its final 10 games of last season, will look to bring the same style to Dallas in a matchup with a Cowboys team that couldn't build off the momentum of their season-opening win over the Giants.
Dallas visited the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday and were trounced in a 27-7 defeat, committing a number of first-half mistakes before getting outworked in the second half.
The Cowboys found themselves down by 10 points following a pair of special teams turnovers. Felix Jones fumbled away the opening kickoff, leading to a Seattle field goal, and Chris Jones had a punt blocked on the ensuing series that was returned for a Tampa Bay touchdown.
"Ideally, you don't want to start the game off the way we did," said Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. "It just wasn't a good game for us, (down) 10-0 before we even got started, and then we just made too many mistakes."
Dallas was held to just 49 yards rushing and went from looking like Super Bowl contenders after Week 1 to a team trying to avoid falling in an early hole.
Now the Cowboys have to take on a Bucs squad that will certainly have a chip on its shoulder after last week's criticism.
Dallas head coach Jason Garrett didn't want to comment on his opponent's end- game antics on Monday, instead opting to focus on his own club.
"Certainly, there's a style of football they're trying to implement down there in Tampa and they feel that's in some ways indicative of how they want to play, how they handle an end-of-game situation," he said. "So, we're going to focus on our team and the things we have to get better at to prepare for that ballgame."
Garrett's club should get a boost with back-to-back home games after beginning 2012 with a pair of road outings. Dallas has dropped two of its three home openers at new Cowboys Stadium, but has won 12 of its last 18 such games overall.
Cowboys lead 10-3
Streak: Cowboys have won last four meetings Last Meeting: Cowboys 31, Buccaneers 15 (Dec. 17, 2011 at Tampa Bay) Last Meeting at Site: Cowboys 13, Buccaneers 9 (Oct. 26, 2008 at Texas Stadium)
Buccaneers HC Greg Schiano vs. Cowboys: 0-0 Cowboys HC Jason Garrett vs. Buccaneers: 1-0 Schiano vs. Garrett Head-to-Head: First Meeting
Notes: Buccaneers are 1-9 all-time in Dallas, which includes losses to the Cowboys at the since-demolished Texas Stadium in a 1981 NFC Divisional Playoff and a 1982 First-Round clash. Tampa Bay's lone road win in the series was a 10-6 decision in the 2001 season opener, and the team's last victory of any kind over Dallas was a 16-0 home shutout on Oct. 26, 2003. Garrett spent a portion of the 2004 season as a backup quarterback for the Buccaneers.
BY THE NUMBERS
Offensive Team Rankings
Tampa Bay: 29th overall (282.5 ypg), t16th rushing (104.5 ypg), 29th passing (178.0 ypg), 15th scoring (25.0 ppg)
Dallas: 11th overall (364.5 ypg), 21st rushing (96.0 ypg), 6th passing (268.5 ypg), 29th scoring (15.5 ppg)
Defensive Team Rankings
Tampa Bay: 31st overall (452.5 ypg), 3rd rushing (52.0 ypg), 32nd passing (400.5 ypg), tied 19th scoring (25.5 ppg)
Dallas: 9th overall (292.0 ypg), 23rd rushing (132.0 ypg), 3rd passing (160.0 ypg), tied 13th scoring (22.0 ppg)
Tampa Bay: +3 (5 takeaways, 2 giveaways) Dallas: -2 (1 takeaways, 3 giveaways)
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (offense)
Tampa Bay: 50.0 percent (4 possessions, 2 TD, 2 FG) -- tied 20th overall Dallas: 66.7 percent (3 possessions, 2 TD, 1 FG) -- tied 6th overall
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (defense)
Tampa Bay: 16.7 percent (6 possessions, 1 TD, 5 FG) -- 1st overall Dallas: 50.0 percent (6 possessions, 3 TD, 3 FG) -- tied 11th overall
WHEN THE BUCCANEERS HAVE THE BALL
Tampa Bay made the most of its offensive chances last weekend versus New York, racking up 34 points despite gaining just 307 net yards. Freeman (381 passing yards, 3 TD, 2 INT) accounted for 243 of those through the air and connected on touchdown passes with wideouts Vincent Jackson (9 receptions, 1 TD) and Mike Williams (5 receptions, 2 TD). After unspectacular debuts with their new team in Week 1, Jackson and fellow first-year Buc Dallas Clark (5 receptions) played a big part in the offense, with Jackson making five catches for 128 yards and Clark adding four receptions for 33 yards. Freeman will look to get the duo involved again this weekend and hopes that running back Doug Martin can rebound from a disappointing 66-yard effort on 20 carries against New York. Martin did find the end zone on the ground for the first time in the rookie's career last Sunday, but had less of an impact after logging 118 total yards in the Week 1 win over Carolina. Freeman will also have a new permanent right tackle, with Demar Dotson replacing incumbent Jeremy Trueblood in the starting lineup after performing solidly with the latter out with an ankle injury against the Giants.
Dallas' secondary could be put to the test this week due to some injuries in the secondary. Starting free safety Gerald Sensabaugh (5 tackles) has his status in doubt due to a calf injury suffered versus the Seahawks, while strong safety Barry Church (3 tackles) suffered a quad injury in the loss. Church is likely to play this weekend, while reserve Danny McCray may be called upon to replace Sensabaugh. Cornerback Mike Jenkins could also see time at safety. Defensive ends Kenyon Coleman (3 tackles) and Marcus Spears (7 tackles) also came out of the Seattle came banged up, as did backup linebacker Alex Albright. Dallas needs its secondary healthy given its struggles versus the run this season. The Cowboys saw Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch accumulate 122 of his team's 182 yards on the ground over 26 carries. Inside linebackers Sean Lee (26 tackles) and Bruce Carter (15 tackles) will try to slow down Martin on Sunday, while outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (14 tackles, 2 sacks) picked up two sacks a week ago.
WHEN THE COWBOYS HAVE THE BALL
With Dallas playing from behind against Seattle, the ground game only got 16 carries, with DeMarco Murray leading the way with 12 run attempts for 44 yards. Murray has big play ability, which he showed with a 20-carry, 131-yard effort in Week 1, so the Cowboys should try to get him involved early. That would also take some pressure of quarterback Tony Romo (558 passing yards, 4 TD, 2 INT), who had to attempt 40 passes and logged 251 yards in last week's loss. He did hook up with wide receiver Miles Austin (9 receptions, 2 TD) for a touchdown, but wideout Dez Bryant (7 receptions) managed just three catches for 17 yards on seven targets. Austin and Witten (6 receptions) led the way with 10 targets each in the Seattle game, with the former ending with five catches for 63 yards and Witten -- a favorite target of Romo -- having four receptions for 58 yards. One bright spot for the Cowboys' offense was that Romo was sacked only one time despite numerous pass attempts.
Tampa Bay's defense needs a big rebound effort after getting torched for 604 yards by New York. The secondary had an odd game, intercepting Manning three times and getting a 60-yard return for a touchdown on a pick by cornerback Eric Wright (7 tackles, 1 INT), but also allowed Manning to throw for 510 yards and three scores without sacking him once. Cornerback Brandon McDonald (9 tackles, 1 INT) and linebacker Mason Foster (18 tackles, 1 INT) also had interceptions, while Foster added 13 tackles to go along with 10 stops by rookie safety Mark Barron (13 tackles). The Bucs will certainly need a better pass rush from the front four as well as outside linebackers Quincy Black (10 tackles) and Lavonte David (14 tackles) if they hope to keep Romo off-balance.
It has been an up-and-down season early on for the Buccaneers and Cowboys, and both will be looking for redemption in this matchup. Both teams come in with issues that need fixing, with Dallas looking to avoid making costly mistakes and Tampa Bay trying to avoid giving up the big plays that dogged the team last weekend. The Cowboys should have some extra fire this weekend in front of the home crowd, and talents like Romo, Austin and Murray may be in for big games against a defense that has struggled in stopping teams from moving the ball. Tampa Bay's defenders will need to keep the plays in front of them or risk getting blown out in Big D.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cowboys 28, Buccaneers 20
09/20 13:50:24 ET