With the Raymond James end zones painted red the Buccaneers played host to the Saints and came away with a fifth straight victory.
Observations and Reactions – General
– Most folks expected to see a shoot-out between the Bucs and Saints but instead we got an ugly, low scoring defensive game. Drew Brees got the last say and for the second straight week Keith Tandy created the game sealing interception. The Bucs put together a complete team effort and won in all three phases which is always a recipe for success.
– Penalties from both teams really slowed down this game. New Orleans had a season high in penalties by the 3rd quarter, including a couple that gifted the Bucs a touchdown.
– It’s always nice to be lucky. The game could have been much different if not for two dropped touchdowns by the Saints, along with an over-thrown bomb by Brees.
– Five in a row! Here are some thoughts on the offense, defense and special teams.
Observations and Reactions – Offense
– Jameis Winston had one of his slower games of the season, entering half-time with just 88 yards and 13 pass attempts. He made a couple of key throws throughout the game, but overall wasn’t able to find his rhythm. Winston’s ridiculously long streak of games with a touchdown was snapped and Winston finished 16-26 for 184 yards.
– The Bucs quarterback continues to prove that he’s one of the very best scramblers in the NFL. He doesn’t rack up a ton of yards, but his ability to extend plays and buy extra time is invaluable.
– Mike Evans had a second straight quiet week with just four catches for 42 yards. It’s encouraging to see the Bucs offense find ways to pick up yards with their best player not a factor.
– The offensive line has had much better days. Jameis Winston was under pressure too much and Doug Martin ran into too many walls. Donovan Smith had three penalties. The line continues to play just good enough to win but leaves a lot to be desired.
– The Bucs rushing attack was balanced between Doug Martin and Charles Sims, with Jacquizz Rodgers not getting as much work as he was expected to. Martin ran hard all game and led the group in carries with 23. He finished with 66 yards rushing and a touchdown.
– The Bucs ability to control the clock was a huge key heading into this game and jump-starting their run game really helped keep Brees off the field.
– The Bucs had their first play from the pistol formation all season! Jameis Winston attempted a screen to Josh Huff, who dropped the pass.
– Huff wasn’t very involved much on offense in his debut game but snagged a clutch 17 yard reception on third down.
– Cameron Brate continues to be Jameis Winston’s safety blanket. The second year tightend finished with four catches for 47 yards.
Observations and Reactions – Defense
– The Bucs defense opened up the game on fire, swarming around and putting Drew Brees under constant duress. They were strong against the run with a few exceptions and got the Saints offense to a terrible start. Things started to loosen up late in the second quarter on a long Saints drive, but Robert Ayers sacked Drew Brees to force a field goal. Ayers’ sack ended up being the only sack for the Buccaneers all game.
– Part of Drew Brees’ slow game came thanks to Vernon Hargreaves who finally recorded his first career interception in the first half today. Kwon Alexander made a fantastic play to tip the ball and it fell into the diving arms of the rookie cornerback. Hargreaves turned in another very involved game overall and continued to return punts like last week and brought the Saints last punt all the way to the 50 yard line.
– Beyond Hargreaves the secondary was as solid as one can be versus Drew Brees, who finished with 257 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions.
– On top of his clutch game sealing interception, Keith Tandy was the Bucs leading tackler with eight. Tandy flashed multiple times in the first half with a couple of big hits, and in the second half tipped a pass that was picked off by Brent Grimes.
– Speaking of Grimes, the veteran has been terrific this season after being labeled washed up before the season. His huge fourth quarter interception tonight was his third on the season.
Observations and Reactions – Special Teams
– Roberto Aguayo started off strong with a 41 yard field goal straight down the middle, and made his lone first extra point. Aguayo later nailed a 39 yarder and a 26 yarder. He continues to be solid after a bad start to the season, though still needs to prove he can kick from distance.
– Low scoring games like this tend to be won and lost with special teams and they largely were today. The play of the game came on a 4th quarter punt that Bryan Anger pinned on the 1 yard line, thanks to a great play by rookie Ryan Smith who scooped the ball behind him to keep it out of the end zone.
– Bryan Anger for MVP. Anger had a rare punt out of bounds following a safety which put the ball on the 50 yard line, but was otherwise fantastic. Anger pinned the Saints late two times when the Buccaneer offense wasn’t able to get going and it ended up being too much for the New Orleans offense to overcome.
– Newcomer Josh Huff was expected to give a spark to the Bucs return game, but instead delivered a colossally bad mistake that resulted in a safety and momentum swing in favor of the Saints.
– We’re seeing something truly special right now with the Bucs. This looks to be legitimately the best Buccaneer team in well over 10 years, and the arrow is streaking upwards.
– Tired of seeing Drew Brees? Too bad. The Bucs will go to New Orleans for a re-match in just two weeks.
– The Bucs got no help from other teams losing today, as Washington, Detroit, Minnesota and Atlanta all got victories. Now sitting at 8-5 the Bucs will need to take care of their own business if they want to keep the playoff dream alive. With the Falcons win the Bucs remain tied with their division rival.
Next week the Bucs will look to make it six straight as they travel to Dallas to take on the NFC leading Cowboys on Sunday night football. Put on your seat belts folks, this ride is only going to get crazier.