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New Orleans Saints Win with the Big Play

One of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ biggest strengths over the years has been their ability to stop the big play. In their first game of the 2008 season, it became their biggest weakness.

The New Orleans Saints scored three touchdowns on Sunday, averaging 55 yards per score. Drew Brees started and ended the scoring with a 39-yard TD pass to David Patten in the first quarter and a game winning 42-yard pass to Reggie Bush in the fourth. But the biggest play came near the end of the third quarter, when Brees hit Devery Henderson for an 84-yard touchdown.

We can’t really fault the Bucs for the biggest of the big plays. Ronde Barber was with Henderson step for step, but he tripped just before Henderson caught the ball. From there, few people in the NFL are going to catch the speedy receiver. That play was just completely unlucky. But the other two long scores raise a few concerns. On the first touchdown, Patten got behind the defense – something’s that’s not supposed to happen against the Tampa 2. Hopefully it was just a case of it being the first few minutes of the first game of a new season and a receiver won’t be missed like that again. The last play is exactly what the Bucs needed to stop. Reggie Bush only ever needs a small chance to turn something into a big play. But perhaps the "pulling your hair out" moment came when sure tackler Jermaine Phillips completely missed Bush. Reggie did make a move inside to avoid the tackle, but Phillips hardly gave it much effort.

With the exception of those big plays, the Bucs’ defense actually looked like it was supposed to. And the fact that Tampa Bay only lost by four despite those plays, gives Bucs’ fans some hope for the season. I have a feeling Monte Kiffin’s group will learn from this game and be ready for next week.

Craig T: 

Well, I had to settle for the radio call, but I got to listen to the whole game.  I know the total yardage allowed on defense was high, but I thought the defense overall played well.  Big plays will happen, especially against a high-calibur offense like New Orleans, and especially early in the year.  The big plays that did happen were as a result of a rookie misplaying a ball and a veteran slipping and falling.  I don't think we're going to see that too often, so, take those plays away and you've got a pretty solid effort.  Barrett Ruud is Superman (my apologies to Tim Tebow and Gator fans).... led the team with 10 tackles and created the defensive score.  T-Jack showed up big with 8 stops and 2 pass breakups.  Greg White entered the sack column in Week 1. 

What concerned me was the offensive line play against what has been considered a meh defensive front 4.  The Fresh Prince of New Orleans and Charles Grant got their names called early in the game.  Unfortunately, so did Trueblood and Sears for penalties.  They stepped it up later in the game, as Garcia had time to make some plays and Graham ripped off some nice runs. 

Regarding next week's matchup... look.... I understand Atlanta had a nice game yesterday.  I'm a big Turner advocate and he didn't disappoint.  All we know about this week is that Atlanta beat a bad team with a really bad defense.  Runs like he had will be few and far between against the Bucs front 7 in a hostile environment.  Atlanta's going to have to have balance on offense to come out of Ray Jay with a win, and I don't see White, Jenkins, Turner and Co. pwning the Bucs D like they did against Detroit.  We'll see who goes and sits off the injury report for the Bucs, but Tampa's defense should be able to hold the Falcons relatively in check. 


Game Summary:

As you know, the Buccaneers lost (painfully) to the Saints yesterday by a score of 24-20. The entire team can hang their hat on this loss. The defense gave up three huge touchdowns: 39 yarder to WR David Patten, an 84 yarder to WR Devery Henderson, and a 42 yarder to RB Reggie Bush; while the Offense scored a putrid 7 points, and the Return game was non-existent. Despite the close score the Saints demolished the Bucs amassing over 400 yards in total offense.


The opening drive of the game was a sign of things to come as on the 4th play from scrimmage Rookie CB Aqib Talib misplayed a Drew Brees pass that went for a 39 yard touchdown reception. In the second half, Veteran CB Ronde Barber stumbled, fell, and allowed an 84 yard touchdown reception to WR Devery Henderson. Late in the 4th quarter LB Matt McCoy (he replaced injured LB Derrick Brooks) took a bad angle on a Reggie Bush screen pass that led to a 42 yard game winning touchdown, Jermaine Phillips was also juked out of his shoes on the play. The defense continued to give up huge chunks of yardage throughout the game, specifically to TE Jeremy Shockey and spurts of yardage to RB Pierre Thomas.

The defense did keep the Offense in the game however. In the first Quarter LB Barrett Ruud narrowly missed a sack on QB Drew Brees and caused his pass to be under thrown. CB Phillip Buchanon was the recipient of this good fortune and returned the ball 26 yards for the touchdown, giving a great second effort on the 5 yard line to secure the touchdown. Despite Barber’s trip up in the second half, he laid the thunder all game, flogging WR Marques Colston’s brainwaves and he even forced RB Reggie Bush to fumble the ball (it was ruled an incomplete pass, but it was definitely a fumble). The defensive line did not get enough push though. Greg White was the lone sack getter and he literally rolled into the sack.


The story of the game was the offense. Despite the Defense’s short falls, the offense had opportunity after opportunity to put points on the board. QB Jeff Garcia was off target all game. He and his receivers (namely Joey Galloway) were not on the same page as Garcia would throw behind them and several of the routes run were incorrect (it’s hard to tell if that’s on Garcia or the Receiver just running the wrong route). What’s maddening about the offense is that it wasn’t both phases that were unproductive. The RB’s Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn were racking up yardage at will. Garcia should have NEVER attempted 41 passes. Graham had 10 attempts and averaged 9 yards a carry! 9 YARDS A CARRY!! Warrick Dunn was no slouch either as he ran the ball 9 times and averaged 6 yards per rush. How the running game got ignored is beyond me. It wasn’t like the passing game saw success every other possession as Bidwell ended up punting 8 times.

A lot of people will say the Offensive Line didn’t pass protect for Garcia, but the majority of the time it was Garcia either holding the ball too long or getting happy feet while stepping up in the pocket and rushing throws. What makes Garcia a decent Quarterback is also what tends to get him killed in games. He tends to create pressure on himself by leaving the pocket and defenders just light him up. If he stood tall in the pocket yesterday I truly believe the outcome would have been a lot different. Was the offensive line perfect? No, but it also shouldn’t get a bad rap for Garcia’s horrid decisions. I honestly didn’t see this coming. I thought the offense would be much improved over last year solely based on the experience it has in Gruden’s offense. That was not the case Sunday. Jeff Garcia was rusty and it showed. Like we’ve all said before, if Garcia and Galloway are ineffective, hurt, or rusty this team will suffer and go nowhere, such was the case Sunday.

Return Game:

You all know I love Rookie KR Dexter Jackson, I’ve done nothing but hype him up all off-season. He really didn’t show much in his first Pro game. For the entire first half he would catch the punt/lkickoff and once defenders got close he would get down ala Colts WR Marvin Harrison, what the hell were you doing DJax? He was clearly nervous and Gruden didn’t trust him in clutch situations as WR Ike Hilliard was brought in to relieve the pressure. I don’t necessarily agree with that move. The guy needs to learn what every game situation is like and you’re not helping him by hiding him from potential short falls. With that said, for his first NFL game, DJax wasn’t horrible, I would say he was mediocre. He averaged 33 yards on Kick Returns which is nice, but his Punt Returning was anemic (5.8 yards per return). He also set-up Garcia with nice field position for that final drive. With the yards the Rushing game was racking up, it would have been nice to see DJax on an end around or a screen pass. I understand he looked like a Rookie out there, but you’ve got to utilize all of your players.

After Thoughts:

The bright side in all of this is that we lost to the Saints by 4 points, on the road, in a game we had no business being close in. The team bounced back from just about every possible adversity throughout the game and that is encouraging. The NFL Season is a grind and one loss does not make a season. The downside outside of the "L" in the loss column to a division rival is that we lost LB Derrick Brooks to a hamstring injury. You have to wonder whether the result of the game would have been different had Brooks been on the field for that Reggie Bush touchdown. Hopefully by sitting out the game when he did, he’s able to rehab his hammy quickly and get back out on the field. #1 it felt weird to see him sitting on the sideline as that never happens, and #2 despite his age he produces when the game is on the line.

The Bucs do have a tough game this week however. I know I was in the minority when it came to thinking Matt Ryan was more than a serviceable QB, but I never thought RB Michael Turner would turn in the performance he did or that defense for that matter. What was thought as a cake walk a little less than a week ago appears to be a serious match-up set to take place in Raymond James Stadium. Bring on the Dirty Birds!!!