Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs coach Greg Schiano masters short-week prep for Vikings

TAMPA

When Bucs players opened the door to their hotel rooms at the Depot Renaissance in Minneapolis on Wednesday, they found the televisions tuned to an analog station playing a continuous loop of the Vikings' first six games. The motivational device was ordered and arranged by coach Greg Schiano.

That is an example of the lengths to which Schiano will go to ensure every little detail is taken care of to prepare his team. (The room thermostat was set at 68 degrees, which may or may not have been his doing.)

The hardest thing to do in the NFL is to win on the road. It's even more difficult to win on the road during a short week. The Bucs did both with their 36-17 win Thursday night.

Before that, road teams were 1-5 in Thursday night games, the lone exception being in Week 2 when the Giants beat the Panthers.

For all the great performances against the Vikings — including Doug Martin's 214 total yards and two touchdowns, and Josh Freeman's three touchdown passes — the Bucs may have won the game between Sunday night and Wednesday.

Schiano, known for his rugged, uptempo practices and toes-on-the-line disciplinary tactics, did a very smart thing. He was just as concerned about giving his players time to physically recover from a tough 35-28 loss to the Saints as he was preparing them mentally for the Vikings.

"We took everything off them as far as helmet and shoulder pads, but they worked," Schiano said. "It wasn't full sprint, but they really paid attention to detail, and I think they prepared both in the meeting room, and you heard them talking throughout the week. … They did an excellent job in their preparation, and it showed.

"It's no mystery about the short week, going on the road and all that stuff. We got into that locker room right after the (Saints) game. Everybody was so disappointed. I'm just so happy for our players and our fans because (the Saints loss) was a hard one. … That game a week ago was really tough, so I'm happy for our fans back in Tampa (who) got to enjoy (the win)."

RUSHING BOWERS: The Bucs' defense needed a lift, and defensive end Da'Quan Bowers may be the guy who provided it.

Having made an impressive recovery from a torn right Achilles he sustained in May, Bowers was activated a few hours before kickoff Thursday. After losing defensive end Adrian Clayborn to a season-ending knee injury, the Bucs' pass rush stalled. Tampa Bay entered Thursday with only eight sacks and on pace to finish with fewer than the 23 that was worst in the NFL a year ago.

Bowers played a dozen snaps and was credited with one of the Bucs' three sacks Thursday when he jumped atop the Vikings' Christian Ponder after the quarterback mishandled a bad snap. The Bucs had a good plan of stunts and twists that produced one-on-one opportunities for tackle Gerald McCoy and end Michael Bennett, who recorded his fifth sack of the season.

But as Bowers gets into better shape, he should be a force and prevent teams from sliding protection toward McCoy.

"The pass rush was good," Bennett said. "We had a lot more one-on-ones this week. They did some chips but not as much as the Saints did.

"Bowers is Bowers. He did a great job coming off the injury, and they limited his snaps to get him back into the rotation. In a couple weeks he'll be right where he left off."

TRADE WINDS: The trading deadline is Tuesday. Will the Bucs be buyers or sellers? Most likely, they'll remain on the sideline.

However, there is speculation that running back LeGarrette Blount could be on the trading block.

Martin has established himself as the Bucs' premier back and didn't look any worse for wear after 29 carries Thursday. He also looked pretty determined and powerful during a 2-yard touchdown run. D.J. Ware is the Bucs' third-down back. Blount has had short yardage failures and wasn't used in goal-line situations Thursday.

Blount's role seems to have been reduced to spelling Martin and closing out games in the fourth quarter when the Bucs have a lead. Former Colts GM Bill Polian speculated a good landing spot for Blount would be the Raiders.

Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected] and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.

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