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Buccaneers, Schiano want to change narrative

The SportsXchange

The Bucs would like the change the narrative on first-year coach Greg Schiano.

Tampa Bay is 2-4 and has lost every game by a touchdown or less, including Sunday's 35-28 thriller against the New Orleans Saints Sunday.

But as Tampa Bay travels to Minnesota to play in a nationally televised game on NFL Network against the Vikings in the Metrodome, the storyline continues to be the press-the-envelope tactics of Schiano.

It began in a Week 2 loss to the New York Giants at the Meadowlands when Schiano ordered his defense to fire off the ball on the final play while quarterback Eli Manning was taking a knee to kill the final seconds off the clock.

Schiano received a stern rebuke from Giants coach Tom Coughlin for not following NFL etiquette and Schiano was unapologetic, saying he had used that tactic at Rutgers University to cause a fumble four times.

Perhaps that was what had the Saints on high alert in Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium.

With the Bucs trailing by a touchdown, Saints kicker Garrett Hartley lined up for 51-yard field goal. Just prior to the snap, linebacker Mason Foster ordered the defensive line to shift and flags flew.

The Bucs were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and the Saints completed a touchdown drive to take a 14-point lead. The NFL has since confirmed that the play was legal, but said Foster used words disconcerting to the offensive snap.

Schiano says he's not happy with all the focus being on him this season.

"Not amused," Schiano said. "I think comes with the territory ... We are not afraid to do what we think is right. Maybe it is a little different than it has been done. That doesn't particularly -- the thing that is frustrating is when what happened Sunday happens and you don't believe that -- I said enough."

On the field, the Bucs have been hot on offense.

Quarterback Josh Freeman has passed for 748 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception in the past two games. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson has made the Bucs go. Despite playing with a calf strain, Jackson set a club record with 216 yards receiving and two touchdowns against the Saints.

Jackson's presence has drawn a lot of attention away from wide receiver Mike Williams, who has thrived in man coverage. It also has begun to make life easier for rookie running back Doug Martin, who has averaged better than 5-yards per carry the last two games and averaged 125 yards rushing and receiving.

Defensively, the Bucs biggest challenge will be trying to stop Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who has rushed for 652 yards this season. The Vikings are a run-first team and that plays into the Bucs' strength. Tampa Bay's defense is ranked third against the run, allowing 76 yards rushing per game.

Look for Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder to test the Bucs leaky secondary. Tampa Bay is playing without CB Aqib Talib, who has two games remaining on his four-game suspension for testing positive performance enhancing drugs.

The Bucs have been forced to start E.J. Biggers and play Brandon McDonald at nickel back. There have been communication errors and coverage busts galore.

The other thing that has hurt the pass defense is the loss of defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who led the team in sacks last season. Clayborn suffered a season-ending knee injury.

As a result, the defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Michael Bennett have got a lot more attention from blockers.

"When you lose a guy like Adrian Clayborn or even Davin Joseph, you do see different schematic shifts from your opponents," Schiano said. "Because you don't have to deal -- again it is players not plays. So you identify the players (and) how can you neutralize those guys. That's what our opponents do the same. So certainly losing Adrian (Clayborn) does have an effect on a lot of things defensively. Pass rush, run game, (and) everything. I just think everybody in the league deals with it in some form or fashion and whoever deals with it best usually ends up winning."

Schiano knows the Bucs have holes to plug in the secondary.

"I don't want to make an epidemic here, and it hasn't been a problem," Schiano said. "I shouldn't say that. There have been spurts where it has been a problem, but it is not like that's our main issue. We just got to get it cleaned up. There was a little indecision. When you are playing against the level of athletes that they are in the secondary against the wide receivers, there is not a margin for error that big. If there is even a little indecision they got you. We have to make sure that is not a factor. We got to clean it up and cover people because we can."
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