Reviewing the Saints’ last four games:
Mia 0, NO 20 W
Det 38, NO 52 W
NO 26, GB 17 W
Chi 12, NO 20 W
Although how the Saints won their games varies, there is a common theme in all their wins – complementary football. This is what the Bucs were trying to implement. If the defense is porous, then the offense steps it up. If the offense is struggling to put points, the defense takes care of business.
When the Saints defense has held the opposing offense to 20 points or less, they came up with victories in all four events this year. When their defense has held opposing offenses to 20 points or less, the Bucs have only come away with one win out of three opportunities.
The Saints’ defense does give up yards in passing and rushing, but they do not give up points. This means the Saints defense is playing bend, but do not break football. They won five consecutive games and they have confidence to shut teams down when it counts.
An interesting stat is that the Saints defense ranks 29th in defensive 3rd down defense, rating at 46.8%. Unfortunately, the Bucs offense is averaging 37.8% in 3rd down success rate. A quarterback defines who they are on their third down production. The more successful on third down an offense is, the more long drives are created. If more long drives are created, then there is a higher possibility to score more points.
What to watch:
Will the offense use the run game more? I wrote an article recently revealing how Koetter has transformed this Bucs offense to resemble that of his 2012 – 2014 Atlanta offense, where the offense was passing 60% of the pass plays by design. After seven games into the season, Koetter has done exactly that, but the results have been very disappointing. Koetter has abandoned the run, but the run blocking and run game have been effective.
The Bucs offense is not a balanced team. When the run game is gaining close to 4 yards per carry, the run game is not utilized enough. Even against the Panthers’ stout run defense, the run game averaged nearly 4 yards per carry on a measly total of 22 rush attempts.
With the Saints defense allowing 120.3 yards per game, will Dirk Koetter continue to neglect the run game while insisting that Winston is the man for this Atlanta play-calling offense?
New Orleans’ offense is not the same vertical offense they used to be. They are a short to intermediate passing team that takes a few chances down the field when available. The Saints’ running backs account for 32% of the total receiving targets for a sum of 447 yards. Last year, the running backs accounted for 12.3% of the total receiving targets.
Fortunately, the Bucs have their starting linebackers healthy and in football game shape in Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander to keep tabs on the Saints’ running backs.
Unfortunately, the Bucs still are lacking a pass rush. Giving QB Drew Brees time to pick apart any defense is never a good strategy.
The last three teams the Bucs faced were teams ranked 22nd or below as a scoring offense. New Orleans presents a much different beast. Tampa’s defense did resurface last week, holding Carolina to only 17 points. There is one caveat in that production, the Panthers were missing their starting center. Without their starting center, the Bucs still were lacking at pass rushing.
Offensively, if the Bucs stay true to being a 63%+ passing play-calling team, then the team will more than likely not score often and probably produce some turnovers. Defensively, if the Bucs do not get to Drew Brees, then it might be a long day.
Is there a way to win this game? Yes. Learn from the New England game. When you discover your running game works, then do not stray away from it. The game is simple. Play keep away from Drew Brees. Connect on more 3rd downs to keep drives alive and keep Drew Brees on the sidelines.
Although the Bucs chances look bleak, the team they are playing has won five games in a row playing complementary football. Do the Bucs have resiliency left in them? If the Saints can win five in a row, then why can’t the Bucs? (That is me being rhetorically optimistic.)
Bucs 24, New Orleans 20
What’s your prediction for the game?
This poll is closed
Offense wins the game
Defense wins the game
Complementary loss (we suck on both sides)
Offense loses the game
Defense loses the game