The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the New Orleans Saints in a tight, defense-driven game. That 16-11 victory gave us plenty to talk about, so let’s go to our four winners and two losers.
S Keith Tandy
I’ve been pretty hard on Tandy throughout his career, but the fifth-year safety has really delivered the past couple of weeks. Playing mostly in free safety and robber roles, Tandy has consistently made impact plays by perfectly timing his jump on routes.
That led to three defensed passes yesterday, one of those resulting in Brent Grimes’ interception, and one in Tandy’s own, game-sealing pick. He also led the team in tackles with nine, and had a tackle for loss. An all-around great game for a safety who isn’t even a regular starter.
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith
The Bucs defense was playing at an incredibly high level against one of the best offenses in the league. Drew Brees could not find the end zone, the Bucs picked him off three times, and they managed to hold the Saints offense to just three field goals, with Josh Huff gifting them two points on a safety.
That’s five wins in a row, all of them driven by the defense. The Bucs have allowed just 13 points per game and produced a total of 14 takeaways since they started their winning streak. If that’s not dominant football, then I don’t know what is.
DT Gerald McCoy
Gerald McCoy is the engine that makes the Bucs defense go, and that’s been eminently obvious in recent weeks. While the defensive tackle doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet, he always shows up on film. This week he flashed repeatedly, disrupting both the Saints’ passing game and their running game, and causing at least one interception with his pressure. Pro Football Focus had him down for four pressures this game.
The offensive line
While we can sometimes complain about individual players on the line (*cough* Gosder Cherilus *cough*), the overall performance has been pretty good in recent weeks, especially in pass protection. So too this week, if we can believe Pro Football Focus, who say the Bucs gave up just eight pressures all game. Overall, the line did struggle to create push in the running game (most obviously on the safety) and it’s not one of the best lines in the league, but the linemen are certainly doing their job, and doing it well enough to help the team win games.
Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator
Dirk Koetter, head coach, has been outstanding over the past five weeks. The Bucs have won five straight game, they’re in playoff contention, and their defense is shutting everything down. Not so Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator, who’s struggled to put points on the board.
That was particularly absurd against the Saints, with the Bucs offense scoring just 16 points despite being gifted two turnovers. The Saints defense has given up more points than all but two NFL teams this season, and the 16 points the Bucs scored are tied for the fewest they’ve allowed this entire season. In other words: the Bucs’ offense massively underperformed against a very weak defense.
The same thing happened last year, when the Bucs scored just 17 and 26 points against the Saints, who had one of the worst defenses in the league that season, too. While the Bucs are in playoff contention, they need more production out of their offense to actually do some damage.
WR Josh Huff
Two targets, one catch for 17 yards, one drop, and the single most bone-headed play I’ve seen out of a Tampa Bay player this season. Huff managed to turn what should have been a routine touchback on a kickoff into the Bucs getting pinned at the one-yard line by letting the kickoff bounce off his facemask and out of bounds at the one.
That single screw-up gave the Saints an easy safety, and when Bryan Anger messed up the ensuing free kick, the Saints had a short field to add a field goal. All of that could easily have been avoided had Huff not screwed up so conspicuously.