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Sunday, Oct 22, 2017
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Slow starts still an issue

TAMPA - Mike Williams realized the issue at hand Wednesday. The Buccaneers' second-year receiver knew he was going to be asked about the team's slow starts through two games and came prepared to face the questions. "I don't want to say it's turning into our identity, but it's kind of making (quarterback) Josh Freeman a hero at the same time," Williams said of Tampa Bay's sluggish openings and dynamic endings. "We want to start fast because we know we can finish. If we get a good start, we think we can beat anybody." Freeman led Sunday's comeback from a 17-0 halftime deficit at Minnesota as the Bucs rallied for a 24-20 triumph that evened their record at 1-1 heading into Sunday's home matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.
Kickoff is at 4:15 p.m., a rare late-afternoon start at home for Tampa Bay. "Maybe it's a good thing we're starting at 4 because we usually don't get started until 3:30 anyway," LT Donald Penn said. "That way, maybe we'll play a whole game of Buc football." Tampa Bay boasts a 21-3 scoring advantage in the fourth quarter this season and outscored opponents 101-63 in the fourth quarter last season. "We try everything," Williams said. "In practice, we say to each other that we've got to start fast. It's crazy how it turns out, but (late comebacks were) most of our wins last year and our win against Minnesota this year." No exposure Tampa Bay's string of consecutive regular-season blackouts will increase to 10 if Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium is not sold out by today at 4:15 p.m. If the game is not sold out 72 hours before kickoff, NFL rules require it be blacked out in the local television market. Tickets are still available, a team spokesman said Wednesday. Next challenge Penn is in the midst of perhaps the toughest three-game stretch of his career, trying to protect Freeman's blind side. Penn faced Minnesota DE Jared Allen last week and allowed one sack. He will face Atlanta standout John Abraham on Sunday and Indianapolis DE Dwight Freeney on Oct. 3. "These three weeks right here might be my toughest three weeks in the league," Penn said Wednesday. "I'll take it game by game and focus on Abraham." Penn has been focused on Abraham since cracking the lineup in 2007. Abraham had four sacks in four games against Tampa Bay in 2007 and 2008. He has not, however, recorded a sack against the Bucs in the past two years. Penn, who played in last year's Pro Bowl, realizes Abraham's rare quickness stamps him as a serious threat off the edge. "I don't want to get ahead of myself because, like I've said, it could change just like that," Penn said. "As fast as it changed for me getting better, it could go back the other way. I just want to make sure it doesn't, so I'm just going to go in there calmly and still take the same approach I did before." Extra points Bucs OLB Quincy Black, sidelined for much of the Minnesota game with an injured ankle, did not practice Wednesday. … Michael Turner, who has opened this season with a pair of 100-yard games, is averaging only 4.0 yards per rush against the Bucs in five games with Atlanta. … Opposing quarterbacks have posted a 105.1 passer rating against the Falcons through two weeks. … The Glazer Family Foundation and Walgreens will team up with Hillsborough and Pinellas County schools Sunday for an annual school supply drive outside Raymond James Stadium. Ira Kaufman, Anwar S. Richardson
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