Bucs must keep Brees under control in opener

by Gary Shelton on September 6, 2018 · 0 comments

in general

Brees has won 16 times over the Bucs, but only three of the last six./JEFFREY S. KING

Brees has won 16 times over the Bucs, but only three of the last six./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 3 a.m.

The conversation is all about the offense. That is natural.

Everyone wants to know about the points, and about the backup quarterback, and about the sputtering rookie running back, and about the inconsistent offensive line, and about the depth at receiver and tight end.

Everyone wants to know who's calling the plays. And who's calling the ones that work.

It is the way of the world. We talk about offense. We cheer louder for offense. We are most frustrated by offense.

But what about the defense?

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Mike Smith says Brees is going ot Hall of Fame./CARMEN MANDATO

Mike Smith says Brees is going to Hall of Fame./CARMEN MANDATO

How about those guys?

The rebuilt defense of the Bucs take on Drew Brees (yeah, him) and his merry band of marching Saints. For the Bucs have lost 16 of 25 games to New Orleans under Brees. Brees has thrown for 6,998 yards against Tampa Bay and 48 touchdowns.

Of all of the opponents that have haunted the Bucs, you can make a case that Brees has been the toughest on them. As a division opponent, they have to play him twice a year. He's sent a lot of cornerbacks to the unemployment line.

For the Bucs, the key word is control. Tampa Bay has won three of the last six meetings between the two teams. In those games, the Bucs have had decent showings against Brees. Put it this way. Over the last three years, Brees has averaged 398 yards in the Saints wins. He's averaged 346.2 in the losses.

“He's definitely a first ballot Hall-of-Fame quarterback," said Bucs' defensive coordinator Mike Smith. "He knows how to run the offense with Sean Payton.

Pierre-Paul says it's up  to individuals./jEFFREY S. KING

Pierre-Paul says its up to individuals./jEFFREY S. KING

Moves the ball around, gets it in different guys' hands. I don’t think — you watch the tape and you still see a great player.

"When you start talking about great quarterbacks, he’d be in the discussion on the first hand you put up. He’s really good. He understands Sean’s offense, and he knows where to go with the football. I think that shows in last year’s percentage. Completing over 70 percent of your passes in the NFL – it’s never been done before. He’s doing a really good job."

In his career, Brees is hitting 67.3 percent of his passes against the Bucs.  His rating against Tampa Bay is 95.8. He's even beaten the Bucs more than Green Bay's Brett Favre (15).

“He’s a really good player," said Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter. "If there is a drop off, I haven’t seen it. I know there are some people talking about that, but I haven’t seen it.”

It's difficult to sack Brees (33 in 25 Bucs' games). However, in their three wins over the last three years, the Bucs have sacked him seven times.

“I think you just have to disrupt him in other ways," Koetter said. "He works hard based on his height to be able to see where he’s throwing. Just staying in front of him is part of it and not making those lanes, getting your hands up, it’s hard to get to him. The guy — that’s why he’s good as he is and that’s why he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame, because he is so good at that.”

For the Bucs to succeed, Jason Pierre-Paul said it will come down to individuals.

“I think when it’s all said and done, it’s going to come down to who’s going to give the most effort," Pierre-Paul said. "When I say the most effort, I’m talking about individually. Every guy’s got to fight for themselves. At the same time, we’re fighting to get that one goal accomplished. It’s going to come down to who’s going to beat who. Beat your man in front of you and take care of your job. That’s how I’ve always looked at football. No matter what, I’ve always looked at it that way.”

That starts with Pierre-Paul, of course.

“Jason’s got a real drive to be a good football player and he’s got a real drive to understand what we’re trying to do on defense," Smith said. "That’s the thing that’s been most impressive, and then the second thing is the guy doesn’t want to come off the field. He’s a guy that’s played — when’s he’s been healthy — 90-plus percent of the snaps on defense and that is unheard-of a lot of times in the NFL. We’ve gone to rotations up front, he’s a guy that doesn’t want to come off the field.”

The Bucs' own offense got a little better Wednesday when tackle Donovan Smith rejoined the team. But the Bucs have to contend with an improved New Orleans defense.

“I think they’re a lot better and part of it I think is they’ve had the same defensive coordinator," Koetter said. "This will be the sixth time that we’ve played them with Coach (Dennis) Allen as their defensive coordinator. Continuity and they’ve added pieces like we just mentioned in Lattimore. No. 94 (Cameron Jordan) is playing at the peak of his career and is one of the best defensive ends in the game right now. So, they’ve added pieces, they’ve got continuity, they’ve built on their package and they play really hard.”

The Bucs play the Saints at 1 p.m. Eastern  on Sunday in the Superdome..







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