By Matthew Asher
With Tampa Bay’s 22-19 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, there are no longer any winless teams in the NFL this season. The Atlanta Falcons will head to Raymond James Stadium this week looking for their third win of the season, and second against the Bucs this season in a battle for whatever is the exact opposite of NFC South supremacy.
What does Atlanta need to do to secure that third win of the season? Here are three ways to stay at seven losses and keep those slim hopes of a winning season alive.
Pirates Belong in the Water, Keep them Grounded
Tampa may have narrowly avoided another close loss, but the win came with a steep price. Already without their original starting running back Doug “Muscle Hamster” Martin since the previous game against Atlanta, backup running back Mike James broke his ankle in the Monday night victory.
Martin and James have combined for 187 rushes for 751 yards. Only two other Bucs have run more than 10 times this season. Brian Leonard has 29 rushing attempts for 90 yards and quarterback Mike Glennon has 44 yards on 17 carries.
Shut Down and Double Up Vincent Jackson
With Tampa having to resort to a third-string running back, expect them to want to throw the ball a lot. There are three receivers who all have more than 20 receptions and more than 200 receiving yards but Vincent Jackson is the primary weapon.
Jackson has 21 more catches than the next leading receiver on the team, Timothy Wright has 25. Jackson also has exactly 450 more receiving yards than Mike Williams’ 216, who has 22 receptions on the season. Both Wright and Williams have combined for four receiving touchdowns, the same number Jackson has done on his own.
This would actually be a great learning experience for Atlanta’s rookie cornerbacks Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant if they spent the entire game double teaming Jackson in coverage.
Do What Falcons Do and Stick to the Air
Tampa Bay may have a lousy offense, but their defense is competent. The one area of defense they excel at is the ground game. Allowing just 95.8 yards a game, they have the fifth stingiest running defense in the NFL. The Bucs held Miami to just two yards rushing on Monday night. Atlanta has the absolute worst rushing offense in the league. They average 64.3 per game and have only rushed for more than 100 yards in a game once this season, and that was a combined effort.
Atlanta still piles up the sixth most passing yards per game with 275.1. Tampa Bay gives up 237.2 through the air, which is the 14th best in the league. This is one battle that Atlanta must win in order to leave Florida with a “W”.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST. #RiseUp
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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.