D-line issues could burst Bucs' bubble

Posted Nov. 02, 2010 @ 2:06 a.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

Tampa Bay came from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the Cardinals 38-35 in Week Eight and moved into a tie with the Falcons, who had a bye Sunday, for the top spot in the NFC South.

It was the Buccaneers' fifth straight win on the road dating back to the 2009 campaign, and four of their five wins this season have come in games when they trailed in the final quarter.

The Bucs are saying they're not surprised with their 5-2 start, but some league observers still aren't ready to call the team a legitimate contender for a playoff spot. Tampa Bay has an opportunity to attract more believers in Week Nine, when it travels to Atlanta to face the Falcons.

The PFW spin

The Bucs are not beating the league's finest — they have defeated Cleveland, Carolina, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Arizona — and the Falcons have the potential to re-establish order within the division in Week Nine.

It should be no surprise that the Bucs' defensive line is what could keep them from making as big of a leap as they would like this season. It was one of the team's biggest weaknesses last year, and GM Mark Dominik opted to address the interior of his D-line in this year's draft, selecting DTs Gerald McCoy and Brian Price with his first two picks. He didn't spend a pick on a much-needed defensive end until the seventh round.

The Bucs could still use an intimidating pass-rushing presence off the edge. They have only six sacks in seven games, and four of them came in Week Two against Carolina. The run defense is a problem, too, although it looked better vs. Arizona.

McCoy and Price, who has missed the last two games and could be out awhile longer because of inflammation in his hip, are adjusting to playing in the pros, and the Bucs lack a consistent run stuffer up front. Tampa Bay has allowed at least 100 yards rushing in every game, and it has given up 149 yards rushing or more in four of the past five contests. McCoy and DT Roy Miller were credited with being more disruptive against the Cardinals, and they'll need to play even better against Atlanta.

Falcons RB Michael Turner should find some sizable running lanes, and QB Matt Ryan likely will not face a barrage of pass rushers deep in the backfield on Sunday.