The New Orleans Saints were one of three teams the Buccaneers put away in the playoffs on their way to what became a Super Bowl LV win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Tampa Bay’s defense smothered the New Orleans offense, forcing four turnovers and catapulting them to a 30-20 win inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
During the regular season, the Saints had the Buccaneers number beating them in both games during 2020. However, as the Bucs progressed throughout the latter part of the season, their play on the field got progressively better.
But for Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Tampa Bay still wasn’t the better team when they faced each other during the Divisional Round despite the Buccaneers’ victory.
“We gave up 21 points off of 66 yards of Tampa Bay offense. It’s not like they were stellar during our game, but they did enough to win,” Jordan said on Morten Andersen’s Great Dane Podcast. “What we did was give a team we knew weren’t better than us confidence.”
Tampa Bay was in fact more confident. They quickly made adjustments halfway through the first quarter unlike the previous matchups and made the Saints’ offense and their defense uncomfortable which forced them into making several errors throughout the game — which Jordan admits to.
What the Saints veteran fails to share, however, is that those 21 points off of (actually) 63 yards of Bucs offense were off of turnovers Tampa Bay’s defense forced. The first touchdown came off of cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting’s interception which set the offense up at the New Orleans three yard line. The second touchdown came off of a fumble recovery by linebacker Devin White which set the Bucs up at the New Orleans 40 yard line. And the third touchdown came off of an interception by White that put the ball at the Saints 20 yard line.
Unfortunately for the Saints, their defense couldn’t keep the Bucs out of the end zone and quarterback Tom Brady operated Tampa Bay’s short-field offense.
Still, when asked if they were just overly confident heading into the game, Jordan responded in the only way the veteran defensive end knows how — overly confident.
“No, not at all. We knew who exactly who they were,” said Jordan. “But the difference in the two games [of the regular season] is the first game they average 2.5 yards per carry, the second game (scoffs) they might have been negative [eight yards total on five carries], and the third game was a difference changer. They averaged 3.5 yards per carry. And that’s something we were aware of. In fact, in the first half I think they were averaging 4.2 yards per carry. It was something extremely high, something we hadn’t had since the Philadelphia game and you saw what happened then.”
The Bucs did in fact run much better in the Divisional Round matchup to a tune of 3.6 yards per carry and had only two punts the rest of the game after their first two possessions were three-and-out. Committing to the run allowed Brady and the rest of the offense to operate more efficiently compared to the previous matchups.
Jordan still wasn’t impressed with any of it and downplayed Brady’s performance as well as the offensive line.
“If you limit them to the air it’s not like they’re really going to beat you. Tom Brady does such a phenomenal job getting the ball out hot. You know, they talk about how vaunted their offensive line has been this past year, you just looked at who they’ve been guarding. When you’re releasing the ball at 2.5 seconds, it doesn’t matter what offensive line is in front of him. Tom Brady is Tom Brady for a reason because he’s able to release the ball as fast as he does. He’s able to dissect defenses as fast as he does. He lives for the next down.
“At the end of the game, he had 199 yards. That shouldn’t be able to beat you.”
It did. And those yards were a result of Tampa Bay’s defense setting up the offense to work often with a shorter field. The Bucs had three possessions on New Orleans’ side of the ball. The Saints had nine of their 10 possessions start inside their own 30 yard line — after their very first drive began at Tampa Bay’s 21 following a punt return.
But the Buccaneers defense held them to a field goal — something New Orleans defense couldn’t do when their backs were up against their own end zone.
You can listen to Jordan’s remarks on the game in its entirety below which begins at the 18:56 mark.