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Bucs 23, Saints 20: random thoughts

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OFFENSE:

- The Cadillac is back!  Ok, well maybe not 100% full-time back stuff yet, but he looked good plowing through the line on a 4th and short in the first half and taking a handoff shifting right when the hole closed up, cutting around the end, and turning on the jets to make the corner of the end zone for his first score since the injury.  Nice to see him pushing hard and cutting on that knee.  Warrick Dunn ran hard, totaling 74 yds on the ground, but didn't find the end zone.  I hope to see Cadillac start to split carries a little bit more now so Dunn's old body doesn't wear out in the final games of the season.

- Jeff Garcia managed the offense just well enough to move down the field, completing only 9 passes on the day.  Fortunately one of those completions was to Antonio Bryant for a 39-yd TD pass when Bryant beat Gay on a deep post pattern.  The Saints DB's did a good job of sticking with the Bucs WRs on the short routes, forcing Garcia to go through his progressions... which, in turn, gave the Saints' front 4 enough time to get to Garcia and force him to scramble out of the pocket or throw the ball away. 

-Galloway dropped a big 2nd down pass in Saints territory in the 4th qtr, stalling a drive.  Not what I wanted to see from a guy who's trying to stay out of Gruden's dog house. 

-Antonio Bryant is still awesome.  What a pickup he's been.  The "Eric Hinske" pickup of the season for the Bucs.

-If Clifton Smith had an X in his name, I'd call him "Weapon X" (Dexter Jackson does, but oh well...).  Smith followed up ridiculous games in KC and DET with another solid game.  He had a KO return of 34 yds and a punt return of 42 yards. 

DEFENSE:

-3 INTs for the defense today.  Nuff said. 

-I was a little disappointed to see the Saints hit some inside runs for 7-10 yard gains with Pierre Thomas in the second half.  The Saints hadn't been overly physical in the running game in the first half, so Hovan and the front 4 got surprisingly pushed around a little bit there. 

-Derrick Brooks is so gifted, it's freakish.  Great coverage and pass breakup on a Reggie Bush angle pattern in the first half.  That was truly amazing. 

-Barrett Ruud also broke up a pass intended for a Saints WR on 3rd down.  Those Tampa LBs really shined today in the Tampa 2 against the Saints midrange passing game.

-The Saints found a little bit of daylight to Colston on deep out routes behind the corners and underneath the safeties, which the Bucs eventually adapted to. 

-Rhonde Barber was called for a ridiculous illegal contact penalty that allowed the Saints to get the TD right before the end of the first half.  Can't blame him too much for that, although he did jam Shockey beyond 5 yds past the LOS.  That's a call that'll normally be overlooked.  Still, he had a nice game, breaking up a deep post to Devery Henderson in the first half.

-Drew Brees was sacked by Gaines Adams and Greg White to stop a 2nd half drive.

OVERALL: A gutsy, hard-fought win over a team with a potent offense and improved defense.  I want to see Jeff Garcia show a little bit more poise when he gets pressured, as he had a tendency to dance and make a belated, dangerous throw, but he still made just enough plays today despite the off-day to get the win, so you can't knock him too much.  I don't know what more you can say about this defense.  They have to be considered the NFC's best.  Hopefully they can make a deep run this year, because losing Monte Kiffin will be felt down the road.