Here’s the bottom line: if you can hold the Saints to less than 20 points, you’ve got a very good chance to win the game.
The Bucs D did just that, and yet — for the second week in a row — a less-than-a-minute drive with time expiring lead to the Bucs demise.
When you have a chance to end a team, you do it. The Bucs were faced with a crucial drive inside Saints territory late in the 4th quarter and instead of switching up the play call, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan elected to run the ball three straight times. All this still set up a Rian Lindell 47-yard field goal which he missed, and it was at that moment that you could almost feel all of BucsNation say: “Oh, no…”
With a 1:06 left on the clock, all it took were three passes form Drew Brees to set up the game winning field goal well inside Bucs territory. The kick was up, and it was an easy one for Garrett Hartley .
So what did we learn?
We learned this: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is Top 5 in the NFL. Even though the team gave up two late big-yardage drives that cost them the game, the team held the Saints offense at 5.0 yards-per-play, recorded four sacks and had an interception for a touchdown.
To be specific, Adrian Clayborn looked fierce. He was almost unblockable until his “helmet-to-helmet” sack on Drew Brees — which was ridiculous; he got a little cautious after that, but his motor stayed on overdrive. Lavonte David is one of the best linebackers in the league. On multiple occasions, David audible at the line of scrimmage and made a drive-stopping play, including one that resulted in a sack. Darrelle Revis shut down Marcus Colston to three catches for 32 yards before that last catch to set up the FG.
ESPN’s Ron Jaworski even said “Tampa has one of the best defenses in the NFL”, and they will only get better.
On offense, Doug Martin had himself a splendid day with 29 carries for 144 yards, but Freeman’s stats weren’t as pleasing; Freeman was just 9-for-22 with 125 yards. The offense can’t move through the air, and until they get it figured out, they’re going to be limited to close games.
Penalties plagued Tampa again as they had double-digit penalties for the second week in a row — 13 last week, 10 this week. And the worst may not be over with that, because ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting this morning that S Dashon Goldson may be suspended in Tampa’s next game for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints RB Darren Sproles.
Tampa’s next game is against the Patriots in New England, and it was surprisingly encouraging that Brady struggled against the Jets’ defense because the Bucs’ defense is far superior. However, with no Goldson, Barron might have to play next to Ahmad Black, whose intentions are in question after his blatant helmet-to-helmet hit on Jimmy Graham.
The Bucs need to take notes on how the Seahawks play: intense, fast, strong and physical while still playing within the rules (most of the time). Once Tampa stops beating themselves, they’ll start beating some good teams.