The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team reborn, leading the New Orleans Saints 10-7 at the half.
The Bucs' defense looks like a completely different animal. After giving up quick pass after quick pass last year, they managed to stifle Drew Brees, forcing punts on the Saints four drives to start the game. The Bucs' pass-rush looked much improved, with Jacquies Smith notching two sacks and Gerald McCoy one in the first half. Of course, Brees coldn't be held down forever -- two Marques Colston catches near the end of the first half got them near the goal-line and Mark Ingram ran it in after being stifled by the Bucs' run defense throughout the first half.
Taking a cue from last week's Titans performance, the Bucs aren't asking Jameis Winston to throw the ball a ton -- which is a good thing, because his receivers haven't quite helped him today. Mike Evans is officially active but only got on the field in the first half when Louis Murphy went out with an injury. But when the Bucs needed Winston most, he turned it on in the two-minute warning, converting a third-and-16 with a beautiful throw and finding Vincent Jackson in the endzone a few plays leader to give the Bucs the lead.
That said, the Bucs offense is still inconsistent. Jameis Winston looks a lot more comfortable and both Doug Martin and Charles Sims are running strong on a week New Orleans defense, but the offense continues to stifle itself. The offensive line misses too many routine blocks through miscommunication, while repeated penalties and drops hurt the team's offense. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was a particularly strong offender, with two holds and a massive drop on what would have been a huge play toward the end of the second quarter -- but then he also had a few big plays and quality blocks, showcasing his potential.
All in all, this was an encouraging first half, and much better than what we saw last week.