Talk about massive levels of stress. All the talk this week was about Tom Brady vs Drew Brees part III. Saints own the Bucs, having won five straight. A team looking for a three game sweep of an opponent in one season was 14-7 in the third game. Brees isn’t going to lose in his last game in the Superdome.
Guess what - the Buccaneers are heading to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship.
It wasn’t Tom Brady that carried the team or willed them to victory. Instead, it was the defense. The one that Sean Payton has been able to dominate time and time again. They sent Drew Brees packing to the NBC Studio to the tune of four interceptions.
Let’s pick six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Devin White was a man possessed. Call it the Louisiana voodoo or just call it what it was - an All-Pro (level) player in his first playoff game after missing the last two weeks. Devin White was next level all game long. He led the team with eleven tackles, a fumble recovery, and had a huge interception that resulted in a Tom Brady touchdown to put the Bucs up 30-20. His speed, his awareness, his overall play was a big reason the defense was able to do what it did against the Saints and the fact that he was not only snubbed for the Pro Bowl but the All-Pro team as well was on full display on the biggest stage the Bucs have seen in nearly twenty years.
2.) CAN guard Mike. Oh, good ol’ Slants McGee - also known as Michael Thomas - was as ineffective as they get. He was targeted four times, had zero catches, a drop, and was beat on a play by Sean Murphy-Bunting for the first interception of the game. That would lead to a Mike Evans’ touchdown - his only catch of the game. With a Twitter handle like @CantGuardMike, Thomas may want to reconsider after finishing with eight receptions, 68 yards, and zero scores against the Bucs in 2020-21. Or, maybe defenses have figured out that he only runs a slant or an out and that they can easily shut him down.
3.) Not great, but good enough. Tom Brady was brought here with these games in mind. Now, he’ll have another one in just six days. Brady finished 18-of-33 for 199 yards and two touchdowns while adding another touchdown on the ground. The Saints did a good job of containing the Bucs’ receivers and made things difficult on Brady all night long. However, the Packers don’t have the defense that New Orleans does so I don’t think this will be indicative of his performances moving forward. The top two receivers for the Bucs were Cameron Brate (four receptions, 50 yards) and Leonard Fournette (five receptions, 44 yards, one touchdown). Still, with as back-and-forth as this game was, you always felt the Bucs were in it with number 12 under center.
4.) Speaking of Fournette. This guy has turned it on in the postseason. Fournette accounted for 107 yards of offense and a touchdown in the win over New Orleans while getting the bulk of the load over Ronald Jones who was still nursing a quad injury. RoJo was still contributing, finishing with 62 yards on the ground and nearly five yards per carry. He also had a 41-yard run called back thanks to a holding call but ran hard every time he touched the ball. RoJo continuing to get healthy is key for this duo against a questionable Packers run defense as they will look to get the tough yards and wear the defense down while keeping Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams on the bench.
5.) *Sigh*...officiating. The officials were atrocious and I certainly hope they aren’t going anywhere near the NFC Championship game. For a stretch, I started to wonder if the zebras knew they were allowed to call penalties against the Saints. They missed a blatant facemask, a blatant defensive hold in the end zone, and had the audacity to call defensive holding against the Bucs while the defender had his head pushed so far back by Jared Cook that he could read his own nameplate. It seemed as though every time the defense made a play, the Saints got a free first down thanks to a penalty (by the way, the Saints got five first downs due to calls). Clean it up, NFL. These games are too important for this level of incompetence.
6.) Lesson learned. Past performances are not indicative of future results. That’s what the Bucs need to know. The Saints outscored them 72-26 in two regular season games and lost 30-20 yesterday. In week six, the Bucs beat the Packers 38-10. That absolutely does not mean it’s going to go that way on Sunday. The Bucs will have to play their best game of the season in the worst conditions they’ve faced in order to be the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. They will play in freezing temperatures and likely some snow. Rodgers thrives off of that. And although Brady is used to those kinds of conditions, the rest of the team is not. This is going to be even more stressful than the Divisional Round...
Six Numbers To Consider
4 - Takeaways by the Bucs are the second most in franchise history in a playoff game
7 - Career postseason rushing touchdowns by Brady, one behind Steve Young for most all time
2 - Bucs in franchise history to have interceptions in back-to-back playoff games - Ronde Barber and Sean Murphy-Bunting
14 - Conference championships Tom Brady will have played in when he takes the field Sunday
7 - This will be the seventh time Brady and Rodgers will face off. The team with Brady is 4-2 (1-1 at Lambeau)
6 - Total touchdowns by Leonard Fournette in his playoff career
Six Best Tweets
Cool moment. Brady & Brees when the dust settles. They’ll be teammates in Canton pic.twitter.com/4Hafq92QJe— Scott Smith (@ScottSmithFOX13) January 18, 2021
Hope the Saints enjoyed winning the division. The Bucs are playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl. pic.twitter.com/0Txj3GTDwk— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) January 18, 2021
We Dat!— Jason Licht (@jasonrlicht) January 18, 2021
Hey, @Bucs_Nation. What was that someone said about not having room to talk trash after taking that ‘L’? pic.twitter.com/GoDMpnO1FA— Locked On Bucs (@LockedOnBucs) January 18, 2021
Finish the fight .... #BucsWin— DEVIN WHITE (@DevinWhite__40) January 18, 2021
We just witnessed a 43-year-old win in his 43rd career playoff start in the same building where he won his first Super Bowl as a 24-year-old.— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) January 18, 2021
This is insane.
...And The Six Worst Takes
Taysom Hill is inactive. Bet the HOUSE on the Saints -2.5— YFK. (@YourFriendKyle_) January 17, 2021
me and @RossJacksonNOLA’s picks for the weekend pic.twitter.com/Ry4uh8gYIJ— bills stan account (@DillySanders) January 16, 2021
Oooof...Dylan - that score...
Some buckeneers to eat up.— Jason Graves (@iceman902) January 15, 2021
KC ML✅ Tailed @ezslocks for the Saints to win! Dw guys im not even worries about the Saints game its gonna be a BREES pic.twitter.com/ix6Ho6WUYz— yunglocksmiths (@yunglocksmiths) January 17, 2021
And when Brees sweep him— ig @4pFwhodat 12-4⚜️ (@imisskobeandpop) January 16, 2021
Don’t ever call Brady the again
Saints really gonna sweep Brady that’s crazy— Marcus (@RighteousRodela) January 17, 2021
Six Super Bowl Bets...Minus Two
1.) Kansas City Chiefs - As long as Patrick Mahomes plays, they’re the team to beat.
2.) Green Bay Packers - Home field advantage at Lambeau is a real thing
3.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - If the defense plays like this again, they’re going to the Super Bowl
4.) Buffalo Bills - Tough task taking down the Chiefs at Arrowhead
Six Final Words
One Win From The Super Bowl