The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are bracing for a heavy dose of Jamaal Charles when they face the struggling Chiefs on Sunday.
"They pride themselves on running that rock," Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib said, noting that Charles is the NFL's leading rusher. " The quarterback don't do nothing but turn around and hand the ball off in that situation."
That, of course, is not entirely true.
When Brady Quinn makes his first start in three years Sunday, replacing the injured Matt Cassel, the Chiefs will be counting on the sixth-year quarterback to be effective throwing the ball as well. Still, Talib is right that Tampa Bay's challenge defensively begins with containing the speedy Charles.
"They have a strong philosophy of what they want to do as a football team. So I think regardless of who the quarterback is, they're going to stick to that philosophy," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "I don't see them varying way off."
The Chiefs (1-4) have the NFL's second-ranked rushing attack at 221.6 yards per game, with Charles off to an impressive start after missing the final 14 games of last season with a knee injury. The fifth-year pro is averaging 153.6 yards rushing over his past three games, including a 233-yard performance against New Orleans three weeks ago.
The Bucs (1-3) are coming off a bye week, which Schiano used to address offensive and defensive shortcomings that have contributed to a three-game losing streak.
"We went back and looked at every single play," said Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman, the former Kansas State star who grew up in the Kansas City area rooting for the Chiefs.
"Some stuff was good, some stuff was bad," the fourth-year pro added of his own inconsistent play. "You've got to get more of the good, eliminate the bad. It's pretty black and white."
Like the Bucs, the Chiefs feel their record would be better if not for critical mistakes. Kansas City has turned over the ball a league-high 19 times, including nine interceptions thrown by Cassel, who's out after leaving the fourth quarter of last week's 9-6 loss to Baltimore with a concussion.
Quinn, a former first-round draft pick, will make his first start since Dec. 12, 2009, when he was with the Cleveland Browns.
"I'm not here to make predictions or anything like that," Quinn said. "I hope to go out there and play a good clean game and give us an opportunity to win."
Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, who was with Cleveland when the Browns drafted Quinn in 2007, thinks the former Notre Dame quarterback is more than capable.
Quinn came off the bench last week to complete all three of his passes for 32 yards and had a go-ahead touchdown nullified by a penalty against the Ravens.
"Quinn has been in the league, and he's been on different teams and he's seen different operations and how things are done," Crennel said. "I think that he's excited about this opportunity. I think he'll be good and make the best of it."
Schiano called Quinn a "highly qualified" quarterback who's a little more mobile than Cassel, who's completed just 58.5 percent of his passes and thrown for five touchdowns this season.
"He's played in Cleveland. He played a little bit (with Kansas City) in the preseason. There is tape out there and we've gotten our hands on pretty much what we need to see," Tampa Bay's first-year coach said.
Crennel said the Chiefs aren't inclined to tailor a game plan specifically for Quinn because he has similar skills to Cassel. As far as the Bucs are concerned, that includes handing the ball to Charles again and again.
In addition to averaging 5.4 yards per carry and leading the league with 551 yards rushing and two touchdowns, Charles has 15 receptions and is averaging a league-best 133.8 yards from scrimmage.
"They do it the old-fashioned way. They line up and run the ball down your throat. ... They're built to do that," Schiano said.
"This ain't my first go-around playing this guy. I played him for two years" in college, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "He's dynamic. He's always been good. And if he gets some space, he's got some juice. ... He's a patient but not patient runner. Once he sees a seam, he's gone. But he's patient in finding it."
Charles carried 33 times, averaged 7.1 yards per attempt and scored on a 91-yard burst in his big game against New Orleans. He gained 140 on 30 attempts against Baltimore's defense a week ago.
"He's giving us a chance. So when it's going good, we keep feeding him," Crennel said, adding, however, it would be wrong to assume the Chiefs will use the same strategy against the Bucs, who have been stingy against the run (75.5 yards per game) while ranking last in pass defense (343.5 yards).
"One game doesn't define a team or doesn't define an offense or defense. It's just one game," the Kansas City coach said. "Each week is a different week. You game-plan differently by the opponent you're going to face ... It just so happened that last week, we played it close to the vest a little bit. And part of that has to do with what's working."
Freeman has completed 54.6 percent of his passes for Tampa Bay, throwing for 790 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. The Bucs spent part of their bye week poring over the playbook to identify what their 24-year-old quarterback is most comfortable doing in games.
The Chiefs' first objective on defense will be to try to stop the run and make the Bucs' offense one-dimensional.
"We're a 1-4 team, trying to get out of the hole. ... Tampa Bay's trying to do the same thing. We both need a win," Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "This is going to be an old school-style game. We're going to run the ball, they're going to run the ball, and we'll see who does better on Sunday."
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