Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has his hands full this week, trying to find a way to beat the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, who bring an eight-game win streak to town with a defense that's second in the NFL with 12 sacks.
"There are other teams that are harder to figure out, but Denver really doesn't have to be that hard to figure out," Koetter said after Friday's practice. "They want to say 'We've got good rushers. Let's see you block us.'"
Super Bowl MVP Von Miller leads the NFL with five sacks, and former first-round pick Shane Ray had three sacks in last week's win against the Bengals. Even without veteran DeMarcus Ware, who will miss the game with a forearm injury, they're a difficult pass rush to contain, reminding Koetter of the Colts' Robert Mathis (118 career sacks) and Dwight Freeney (120.5) from his days as a Jaguars offensive coordinator from 2007-11.
"When they get a lead on you, it's kind of like the old days when I was in Jacksonville and when Peyton Manning was the quarterback of the Colts," Koetter said. "They get the lead and they had those two great ends and they just say 'Let's see if you can block us.'"
Koetter and the Jaguars went 1-5 in his first three years against the Colts, but went 3-1 in his last two years, with Mathis and Freeney combining for nine sacks in those 10 games.
If there's complexity to Denver's defense, it's in blitzes out of their dime package, which has six defensive backs on the field, including versatile S T.J. Ward.
"They play 43, Ward, kind of like a linebacker, and he really is their No. 1 blitzer," Koetter said. "And he's good at it. He's slippery."