The road is long. The season is tough and the competition, fierce. And when the Saints come marching into Tampa Bay on Sunday, it won’t get any easier.
So how do you beat those Saints, anyway?
Well, we can’t ask anyone who has faced them this year, because none have succeeded. The Saints may know, but I doubt they’d share with us. And the Buccaneers have hardly drafted a foolproof formula for victory in their 2009 campaign, so I’ve called upon Captain Obvious to aid in the discussion.
"Run the football," says Obvious, "and when the play is over, get up and run it again."
Thank you, my wise friend. You are truly a cornucopia of strategical knowledge. After all, wasn’t that the plan from the beginning of the year? A three-headed rushing attack led by a resurgent Cadillac Williams with Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham not far behind to keep fresh legs in the game for a full 60 minutes?
On paper, match-ups don’t get much more lopsided than this. It’s the team with the best record against the team with the worst. The Saints are among the tops in the NFL in all major offensive categories, and the Bucs are hiding near the bottom defensively. On the NFL map, the Saints are coasting to the playoffs in the warm gulf waters while the Bucs are caught in an arctic snowstorm, far from any reasonable level of respectability.
At this time I would like to interrupt and take a moment to thank the Cleveland Browns, simply for existing. It keeps the heat off the Bucs. Thanks, boys.
The Bucs have just four rushing touchdowns this season and average just over 28 minutes of ball control each game. They also average under 100 yards on the ground. These statistics must improve to have any chance at their second win. While the passing game has shown signs of life with Josh Freeman and Kellen Winslow developing some chemistry, it’s certainly not enough to keep up with the Saints’ high-flying offense in the event of a shootout.
The Bucs have not done a great job protecting the ball, but they’ve had some success taking it away, with a turnover ration sitting at zero through nine games. They’ll need to protect the ball and keep it out of Drew Brees’s hands this Sunday to put them in a position to beat a Saints team that has had difficulty getting an early lead in recent weeks.
The road is long. It’s a tough job, this professional football gig. However, if the offense can keep the ball away from the Saints and in the hands of the Buccaneer backfield, they just might have a chance to send the Saints marching home with their first loss of the season.