Bucs know well the thunder the Cowboys bring

BY foxsports • September 19, 2012

TAMPA, Fla. — Forgive the Tampa Bay Bucs if this all looks strangely familiar.

For the second consecutive week, they're heading into an NFC East stadium to face an elite quarterback and a talented team that's ticked that it just lost one week before.

"This is like déjà vu — something going on with the 'Twilight Zone,'" defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.

Coming off their 41-34 collapse against the New York Giants — a game in which Eli Manning shredded the Buc defense with a 25-7 fourth quarter — Tampa Bay now ventures into the palatial Cowboys Stadium on Sunday hoping to grab a lead and hold on to it this time.

But the challenge will be a steep one, especially considering that the Cowboys are coming off an embarrassing 27-7 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle and playing their 2012 home opener. What's more, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has completely dissected Tampa Bay's defense in three career games, with 11 touchdowns, no interceptions and quarterback ratings of 148.9, 140.6 and 133.9.

That doesn't bode particularly well for a defense that allowed Cam Newton to pass for 303 yards in the season opener (albeit holding the Panthers to 10 rushing yards) and Manning to a jaw-dropping 510 yards.

"We've got to be ready for it," McCoy continued. "These are the types of matchups we look for. These are the types of matchups you want to see and you want to get wins, that's how you become a championship team."

In spite of their massive fourth-quarter meltdown, the Bucs did put a scare into New York, taking a 14-point lead in the second quarter and holding an eight-point edge with just more than six minutes to play. And now they'll get to try all over again against the team that beat the Giants 24-17 in the season opener in New Jersey.

"We had a pretty good practice today," McCoy said Wednesday. "And we're doing everything necessary to make sure that (collapse) doesn't happen again, because (of) the guy we're facing this week. People say he does well in the pocket — I'm not saying he's not a good pocket guy (but) I believe he steps up, finds his way out and then makes the play. And if we don't contain this guy, he can kill us."

Romo has had two sharply different outings so far this season, completing 22 of 29 passes for 307 yards, three touchdowns and one interception (with a quarterback rating of 129.5) in a come-from-behind victory vs. New York; and last week going 23 for 40 for 251 yards, one TD and one pick, and a rating of 74.1, in the loss to Seattle.

But Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano knows what Romo is capable of on any given play, with his uncanny knack for scrambling away from pressure until he finds an open receiver.

"He's a dangerous quarterback, and he's especially dangerous when he extends plays," Schiano said. "And he's a hard guy to keep from extending the play. When you look at the big-play reel, a lot of them are when (a guy's) not initially open and then he moves. He can scramble and get yards, but that's not what he's looking to do. He's looking to extend the pass play, and he's got a strong arm on the run."

The goal for the Bucs defense will be to box Romo in as much as possible, though Schiano expects to see plenty of passing. Romo has several tantalizing targets as well: 6-2, 217-pound wideout Miles Austin and 6-2, 220-pounder Dez Bryant.

"They're not afraid to throw the ball — and until we stop it, why wouldn't they?" Schiano said.

Schiano says the problems the Bucs have encountered defending the pass boil down to several basic issues.

"There's only so many things it can be attributed to," he said. "Either we're not pressuring the quarterback enough, or we're not covering well enough. The reasons why that is? There are several. You can help with play selection. You can help with better technique. We have to coach them better and get them in better position to make the play. And technique-wise, we have to hold them accountable. … We have players who can do it. We have to get them to that point where they will."

Cornerback Aqib Talib found himself one-on-one most of the afternoon against Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks — and Nicks got the best of the showdown, with 10 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown. But Talib says he's looking forward to being tested once again by the best Dallas has to offer.

"It's going to be an opportunity to get a lot of picks, that's how I look at it," he said. "… You don't want to go out there thinking 'I'm not going to get any action this week.' I'm going to out there, guard whoever and get the action. As a DB, that's what I want. That's what I look forward to."

On the flip side, the Bucs' offense is bracing for a Dallas defense that features one of the best linebackers in the game. DeMarcus Ware has already amassed 101.5 career sacks since breaking into the NFL in 2005.

"I didn't have a great understanding of him until we started covering the Cowboys, ‘cause like I've told you guys many times, I didn't have a chance to study pro football because I was working (at Rutgers)," Schiano said. "He is one of the best players in this league as far as just production and consistency. He plays all the time. He plays hard all the time. He's relentless. And he's got incredible pass-rush technique."

The Bucs' line will be put to the test by Ware, including newly named right tackle Demar Dotson, who officially moved ahead of Jeremy Trueblood on the depth chart Wednesday. That marked quite an accomplishment for the 6-9, 315-pound Dotson, who played only one year of college football as a defensive tackle after starring in basketball during high school and college at Southern Mississippi.

"He has an athleticism to protect in the pass game," Schiano said. "… I just think he gives us the best chance to win this week. It doesn't have anything to do with down the road, or anything like that."

Dotson wants to make it a more permanent situation. "I have to continue to work so I can show I'm the best guy this week, next week and the next 15-16 weeks to come," he said. "It's another tough matchup (this week) and another opportunity to prove that I can get the job done."

That goes for the Bucs as whole, who want to prove that against a tough NFC East foe in hostile territory — and this time finish what they start.

NOTES: The Bucs re-signed wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who was cut in the final round of roster trimming in August. Shipley was signed because of a foot injury suffered by wideout and return specialist Sammie Stroughter. Schiano said the injury could be a "long-term issue." The Bucs cut offensive lineman Derek Hardman to make room for Shipley, who caught 52 passes for 600 yards for the Bengals in 2010, then missed most of 2011 with a knee injury.

… Linebacker Quincy Black didn't participate in practice due to a back issue, and defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn didn't participate for non-football-related reasons.

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