The Bucs have shut down the last two mobile quarterbacks they've
faced, the Falcons' Michael Vick and the 49ers' Jeff Garcia,
which might not look good for Donovan McNabb. But he can operate
with equal efficiency from the pocket, and his broken ankle has
taught him the value of staying at home. Tampa Bay got to Garcia
on Sunday, but it was interesting that the Bucs had to resort to
blitz pressure, which they don't usually do. Except for one
fumble-producing sack by defensive end Simeon Rice, the front
four was very ordinary against San Francisco, and Warren Sapp was
practically invisible. If Tampa Bay goes to the blitz against
Philadelphia, look for the Eagles to run the ball. Philly will
open the game with short, controlled passing, taking an
occasional shot downfield in an attempt to surprise the Bucs'
defense. I don't think the Eagles will try to run much until late
in the game, when some of the life has been drained from Tampa
Bay's defensive line.
Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson put the Niners to rest with three
straight scoring drives, but he was working against a crippled
and confused secondary--and even then he completed fewer than 50%
of his passes. Tampa Bay won't be able to run against Philly. The
Bucs' best hope is that Johnson can get to his hot reads quickly
against a ferocious blitz package. Third wideout Joe Jurevicius
will be key.
Do I see anything dramatic happening to change the recent history
of this matchup? Not really, but I think the final score will be
closer this time. --P.Z.