ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Over the next week, DenverBroncos.com will continue to preview the team's 2012 schedule, including a look at the last time the teams faced off, what to watch for this season and more.
Below, the Broncos take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers featuring a young and maturing quarterback and a star wideout they've seen many times in the past.
|o DATE: Sunday, December 2 |
o TIME: 2:05 p.m. MST
o LOCATION: Sports Authority Field at Mile High
o TELEVISION: FOX
o OPP. 2011 RECORD: 4-12
o ALL-TIME VS. OPP.: 5-2
THE LAST TIME: In Week 5 of the 2008 season, the Broncos responded to their first loss of the year by edging the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, 16-13, to improve to 4-1.
The Denver defense kept Tampa Bay out of the end zone until the fourth quarter, forcing seven punts and six three-and-outs. Former Broncos quarterback Brian Griese started for the Bucs and was held to just 88 yards passing and no touchdowns.
Former Bucs running back Michael Pittman, in his first and only year with the Broncos, ran for the game's final first down to allow Denver to clinch the 3-point win from the victory formation.
Answering the Call | Pittman Shines in Win Against Former Team | The Morning After: Week 5
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Bucs finished the 2011 season 4-12 after losing their last 10 games, but they made some moves in the offseason and NFL draft to get back on the winning side. Their biggest move: signing former Charger wide receiver Vincent Jackson as an unrestricted free agent, giving young quarterback Josh Freeman a target. The Broncos have been going up against the 6'5", 230-pound receiver for his entire seven-year career with San Diego and they haven't seen the last of him yet. Jackson caught 60 passes last year for over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns. He's certainly a player to keep an eye on during this matchup.
The Bucs first two choices in the 2012 draft will also help them improve this year. Alabama safety Mark Barron was taken with the seventh overall pick and is expected to start Week 1. The Bucs' second-round pick, Boise St. running back Doug Martin should get his share of touches.
KEY MATCHUP: The Trenches
The Tampa Bay offensive line was one of the team's bright spots in 2011, finishing ninth in the NFL allowing just 32 quarterback sacks. They allowed the quarterback to be hit just 64 times, good for fifth in the league. During the offseason, the O-line got even better by picking up Carl Nicks, a fifth-year center rated by SportingNews.com as the best interior lineman in the NFL. Nicks played a key role in the success of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense over the last four years. With the Nicks pickup, left guard Jeremy Zuttah will likely move to center and replace Jeff Faine, who was cut in the offseason.
There's no better privilege for a young quarterback to have than time. If the Bucs' line can provide that for Freeman, Broncos fans could be hearing more from Vincent Jackson. But Freeman has shown in the past that if he doesn't have open receivers or doesn't have time to find them, the result is an inefficient Buccaneers offense.
NOTES: This will be the 800th regular-season game in Denver Broncos history...The eighth time the Bucs and Broncos meet...Denver is 3-1 at home against Tampa Bay...The Buccaneers will be operating under new head coach Greg Schiano, who has three years of NFL experience from 1996-98...Schiano was the head coach of Rutgers University for the last 11 years.