Observations of the "Yeah It's a Rivalry" Bucs/Saints 10/01/23 Bayou Beatdown

1) Apparently, there was an argument on social media made by New Orleans Saints people that there wasn't a real rivalry against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, because they didn't view the matchups overall as "competitive" or deserving of that level of animosity.

Historically speaking, the situation with the Saints and Bucs being in the same division where such rivalries build up is relatively new, the NFC South only being in existence for 20 years while the Saints had more time in the NFC West in the old days and the Bucs had a couple decades being the Cousin Oliver in the historic NFC Central (Norris). However, 20 years plus of home-and-away games every year and fighting for divisional dominance is more than enough time to build up a rivalry.

It helps that there are many similarities between the two franchises: Both coping with histories of bad plays, jinxed teams, and more losing seasons than fans should endure. Both are Gulf Coast teams with Caribbean flavor (Creole for the Saints, Cuban for the Bucs). Both have brief moments of glory - and Super Bowl wins - than other more longer-standing franchises (Cards and Lions come to mind) have even dreamed of.

It should also be noted that there is a level of personal animosity - Mike Evans vs. Marshon Lattimore, anyone? - that makes a Saints vs. Bucs matchup something of a blood feud. It also helps that, to be honest, there are few other teams that the Saints and Bucs COULD view as natural rivals (the next closest would be a shared hatred of Atlanta Falcons, as Carolina is still a little too young and uneven in performance).

But the REAL way you can tell that the Bucs have a rivalry with the Saints? When the Bucs beat the Saints in convincing fashion, there is no greater enjoyment for a Bucs fan than to watch the whining Aints fans suffer. Put on those paper bags, Aints.

2) Player of the Game: While the Bucs offense took a serious step up today, the Bucs defense put on a clinic of how to shut the Saints down. Above all, Safety Antoine Winfield Jr being all over the field putting in his resume as the best defensive backfield talent in the whole league. Nine tackles, 1 sack, one forced fumble AND fumble recovery that helped close out the half, 2 Tackles for Loss contributing to a tight run defense. Winfield apparently tied a league record for defensive players recording 5+ tackles with at least a sack and a turnover in multiple games of a season already, and it's just Week Four. There are several reasons why the Saints never saw the end zone, and Winfield is the key one.

2a) That said, QB Baker Mayfield had a more complete game today than the previous winning games. He ended up with 25/32 completions/attempts, 246 passing yards, three TDs. He did try to force a deep throw to Chris Godwin late in the second quarter that turned into an INT, but Winfield got his forced fumble on the next play to make it moot. Mayfield has been playing mostly mistake-free ball, not as reckless as he'd been in previous years with the Browns, showing decent pocket awareness and a better touch on his throws than earlier games with us. And after the first games where he seemed to target Mike Evans too much, in this game he did a better job distributing his targets (even before Evans had to leave with injury).

He's settling into the role we need him to be: The game-manager QB who'll avoid costly mistakes. More Brad Johnson and Tom Brady than Jameis Winston.

2b) WR Deven Thompkins had to step up today when Mike Evans had to leave early with a hamstring issue. As part of Mayfield's improved play, Thompkins got decent looks and made the most of them, including a game-clinching touchdown grab at the goal line that had him leaping like Superman to make the grab and then with enough awareness to get a foot down inside the end zone to make it count. You have to see the video clip. He's a second-year guy but he's got the veteran awareness you need in your receivers.

2c) DT Vita Vea is not a normal linesman, he is a force of nature plugging up the middle of the scrimmage. He led the team today in sacks (2) and forced another fumble that fellow DL Logan Hall scooped up to stop the Saints from rallying late.

2d) The Bucs secondary was called upon to fill a gap with Jamal Dean out with injury, and they rose to the occasion with effective shutdown coverage that gave the Saints passing attack fits all day. You couldn't see it much, but the scouting was celebrating Zyon McCollum's performance all game long, and Dee Delaney snagged his second INT of the season to ensure the Saints would fail all last-minute heroics.

2e) Lavonte David and Devin White were not lighting up the stats, but they were in on most plays all game long and contributed to shutting down a running attack that cut through our defenses in previous years.

2f) Chris Godwin didn't get any TD passes today but when Evans went out leaving Godwin as the primary receiver, he took on that role effectively for much of the game. He ended up with 113 receiving yards including a key 42-yard reception that put the Bucs in scoring position to ice the game.

3) While the 26-9 win was a solid effort by the Bucs on all aspects - offense, defense, special teams - there is some question how bad the Saints were coming into this game. At least on the offensive side of things as Derek Carr was playing with a shoulder injury that seemed to affect him all game long.

Taken as a whole over the first four games, the Bucs are one of the few teams in the league to display a level of consistency and effectiveness at most elements of the game. Passing gets us yards and touchdowns, the rushing offense isn't dominant but it's respectable. The defense had a bad game against the run vs. Philadelphia but otherwise is doing well containing that threat. The defensive QB pressure seems to be working, and it feels like the Bucs are forcing more turnovers than last year, which is how this team thrives.

4) Statistics of the game: Yards per pass (yes, seriously). The Saints generated an average of 3 yards per pass all game long. That's insanely low. Passing games need to be getting further down the field than that. The Bucs by comparison made 7 yards per pass which isn't much better but it gets you closer to first downs at least. That 3 yards per for the Saints points to how Carr wasn't throwing deep all that often - his longest pass play was 20 yards - and the coaches should have pulled him earlier in the game to let Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill throw it deep to the good speedy receivers on their roster (their star receiver Chris Olave had one reception for 6 yards, his worst day as a pro).

4a) Red-zone offense: The Bucs finally improved their performance inside the 20 with 3-out-of-4 TDs, compared to the Saints who suffered zero-out-of-two trips.

4b) PENALTIES WILL BE THE DEATH OF US, well not really, even though the Bucs were sloppy today with 11 penalties for 91 yards and giving the Saints three first downs. The good news is that the Saints were falling apart on offense to where they couldn't take advantage of this.

4c) Turnovers matter, Bucs winning that part of the game snagging 3 turnovers while coughing up only 1.

4d) Bucs defense gave up only 197 total yards to the Saints offense. Again, how much of that was a dominant Bucs D or a wobbly Saints offense remains a question.

5) With the Falcons and Panthers losing today, the Bucs move to sole possession of the NFC South lead, which is still up for grabs this early in the season. However, the Bucs are well positioned to contend for the division and win it. This is definitely a better situation than many of the pundits were predicting before the season began.


6a) I had David Montgomery on the bench at RB and started Tony Pollard instead. WHAT WAS I THINKING?! WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?! NOOOOOOOO.

6b) Seriously, the Dallas Cowboys may be a scary legit team on defense but their offense is struggling. I think the 'Boys have scored more points on defense with Pick Sixes than the offense has.

6c) The Denver Broncos recovered from the humiliation they suffered last week by beat a team in the Chicago Bears that are at this moment the worst team in the entire league.

The Bears fans have to console themselves with the reality that they're currently holding the top two draft picks of the 2024 season. But what the hell are they going to be tanking for if they're this bad across the board?

6d) Miami came crashing to earth playing against a hungrier more punishing Buffalo team. The Bills are playing angry after that embarrassing season opener.

6e) The bills have finally come due to the Patriots. Years of dominance have given way - thanks to diminished returns from a salary cap and lower-value drafts - to a poorly-built offense that is relying on a half-decent QB who has no Running Back to hand off to and no Wide Receivers trustworthy enough to make big plays.

6f) The Bengals need to start writing this year off as an injury year, and spend the next offseason rebuilding that O-Line and drafting best-available Left Tackle to keep Joe Burrow from dying out there.

6g) That last quarter of the game between Philly and Washington was one of the craziest endings I'd seen to a regular season game in years.

7) In professional college football news: DAMMIT FLORIDA YOU HAD ONE JOB. You're not supposed to lose to Kentucky. You'd been beating the 'Cats like a piñata for decades. Now? This is what the third straight loss to them?

7a) The much-awaited showdown between Caleb Williams' USC vs. Shedeur Sanders' surprising Colorado did not disappoint in the offensive numbers. Williams threw for 6 TDs, solidifying his Heisman resume, while Sanders' threw for 4 and ran for 1, putting himself on the Heisman shortlist considering how impressive his early season performance has been.

Yes, Colorado lost two in a row. But this is a vast improvement over the wasteland that had been their team the past few years, and this is still a team to watch for the year.

7b) The South Florida Bulls pulled off something of a stunner by making it a two-game win streak beating Navy, as well as beating a Navy squad that had given them fits in previous years. It's looking like USF has an offense with both decent RBs AND WRs to make things interesting. They've at least earned a top spot in an American Conference that they've rarely held. Now if they can do SOMETHING about that defense to stop giving up so many big plays to teams...

8) In professional baseball news, the regular season is done. Orioles clinched the AL East early last week, leaving the Tampa Bay Rays to play for top wild-card spot that gives them at least one series at home versus (checks notes) the Texas Rangers. Postseasons aren't easy, and the Rangers are a high-scoring team. But the Rays are more seasoned at postseason now, and our roster should be returning healthy players.

The Rays have an honest shot - compared to the likes of the Twins, Rangers, and Jays - of making the ALCS and even the World Series. It's the Astros and the O's that are scary opponents this October.

8a) If the baseball owners had their way, they're praying for the big market teams like the Dodgers and the Astros to make it to the World Series. But if the sport fans had their wishes, these would be the better matchups:

Atlanta Braves - Baltimore Orioles: Both the top-seeded teams with respectable pedigrees. Braves looking to build on a recent WS win to forge a dynasty, with the O's making an appearance for the title since 1983. With Baltimore able to show off the legendary Camden Yards, one of the more beloved ballparks of the recent era.

Braves - Minnesota Twins: It's unlikely, but it would be a rematch of one of the most revered Series of all time, the 1991 7-game slugfest of arguably the two most evenly matched teams that had enough close games to where it could have gone either way.

As a Rays fan, I am hoping for either a Rays - LA Dodgers matchup as a revenge game from the last Series visit (damn you coach for pulling Snell too early) or a Rays - Braves. Yes, Atlanta is looking scary good as a juggernaut right now, but you WANT to play the best in the World Series.

8b) I still think St. Pete and Pinellas County need to get a light rail transit system in place to make it easier to get to games, dammit.

8c) ADDENDUM: I found out this morning that Yandy Diaz won the Batting Title for the American League, the first Rays player to ever earn that honor. Diaz finished with a .330 batting average. Kudos to Yandy!

9) In professional hockey news: I'm a bit worried about the Tampa Bay Lightning's defense, we're giving up way too many goals in preseason.

10) Next up for the Bucs: A Bye week, relatively early for the team but a needed one to help some of our battered talents to heal up and get back on the field. We're still waiting on DL Kancey to even suit up and play.

COMMENT BELOW, because I don't see enough of you people on Gameday threads dammit. And seriously, there's a Discord chat out there? Can I get an invite?

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