Patrik Nohe, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers blogger at Pewter Plank, and I took some time to exchange questions and answers in preparation of the Lions game against the Bucs. Head over to Patrik’s site to check out my answers to his questions.
Zac Snyder: How many Bucs fans thought they would contend for a playoff spot this year? I am guessing that the team has been a pleasant surprise overall. What is the biggest factor that has contributed to their improvement this year?
Patrik Nohe: Nobody thought the Bucs would do this, if anyone tells you that they’re lying or disillusioned. I personally expected about five or six wins and a more gradual next step. It’s definitely been a pleasant surprise, but the record is a bit misleading too. The Bucs have played five games against teams with winning records and lost all five of those games. They’re beating teams they should beat, but they’re not having much luck against the proven teams. Still, aside from strength of schedule the biggest factor has been the Bucs swagger. It comes down from Raheem Morris and rubs off on everyone. The fact this team is the youngest in football means nothing to them because he has them believing they deserve the be in the middle of the hunt.
ZS: Gerald McCoy may very well end up a great defensive tackle but he certainly didn’t have the immediate impact Ndamukong Suh before being lost for the season. Is there any jealousy or “what ifs” from the Tampa Bay fan base?
PN: Apples and oranges. I wouldn’t mind having gotten Suh, but at the same time I think most teams understood he was a special player coming out. McCoy has struggled to find a position, the Bucs moved him around a lot at the beginning of the year and that set him back. He finally moved inside for good and settled down around mid-season, right before the injury he had recorded three sacks in the last two weeks. McCoy’s effectiveness was also compromised by the other injuries along the line, I don’t think Bucs fans are worried about him per se, it’s the other three spots on that line that are a concern. The only issue facing Gerald McCoy is a perceived work ethic issue. When he came in he was clearly a guy who got by on athleticism at Oklahoma, now that he’s in the pros he’s had to learn to be one. That’s not unlike the transition for a lot of players, but it is something to watch.
ZS: Is LeGarrette Blount a one year revelation or will the organization look to him as a major contributor for a number of years?
PN: He’s the real deal. He’s got an outside shot at 1,000 yards rushing yet has started just four games all season. When Blount first stepped into the Bucs backfield the run-game was anemic. Cadillac Williams looked old, he was averaging 2.5 per carry and the line looked awful. Just the physical, down-hill style Blount brought coupled with his tenacity was the shot in the arm the run game needed. Since starting to see PT his average is 4.5 yards per carry, the Bucs have gone from 28th to 11th running and the offense has a new balance that it lacked before. Keep in mind, before he punched out the guy at Boise State, Blount was considered a first or second round NFL talent. He took a strange path, but I think he’s going to have a nice career in Tampa. He’s brutal, you’ll see on Sunday.
ZS: What is the Buccaneers greatest vulnerability that the Lions could take advantage of and what is a particular area of strength the Lions will struggle with when playing the Bucs?
PN: Stopping the run. The Bucs have handled injuries all year long in their front seven and just last week lost Gerald McCoy and starting OLB Quincy Black for the rest of the year. The Redskins had 150+ on the ground by the half last week and the Bucs didn’t have much of an answer, the Lions should attack the same way. The area or phase of the game the Bucs hold an advantage in is going to be the 4th quarter. The Bucs are a very good second half team and have won six games in the fourth quarter this season. If the Lions are in a close game with the Bucs in the 4th quarter, that’s where Josh Freeman thrives. He’s a different player at the end of a game, I really have never seen a QB be such a good closer at such a young age. But if the Bucs are within a score in the 4th, watch out. Freeman is sneaky good.
ZS: What is your prediction for the game?
PN: I think the Bucs win, they had a frustrating week against Washington and they know they have to win to get in to the playoffs. I think the ground game will start strong and Freeman will make plays when he has to. The Lions are a good team but when the Bucs have had to come back after a tough game this season they’ve usually been great the next week. I think Tampa handles it 24-13.