Brady, Bucs face big challenge in Saints

by Gary Shelton on October 29, 2021

in general

Brady has to play well for the Bucs to succeed./(Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers via AP)

Friday, 4 a.m.

Somewhere, the complete game awaits. Sometime, the Tampa Bay Bucs will play for the full sixty.

Won't they?

Almost half of a season has gone, and still, we wait. The Bucs have won with great starts (Chicago) and great finishes (Miami). They've won with game-winning drives (Dallas, New England).

Always, however, it seems that the Bucs squander opportunities. There are games when they go through several drives with nothing to show for it, as if they are barely interested in their assignments. They are 6-1, the best-ever start for this franchise, but still run like a car that is out of tune.

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This week, the winning-while-unfocused gameplay should end. IF the Bucs don't have a good focus against a New Orleans team in the Superdome, they won't win.

First of all, the Dome is a tough place to play. Second of all, the Saints have a good defense and an offense with a lot of weapons.

"They are very difficult in terms of making big plays," said quarterback Tom Brady. "They do a good job of kind of protecting the deep part of the field. I think they make it very difficult on you to continue to move the ball effectively and efficiently. They have a lot of continuity in their secondary. Their linebackers are very athletic; they draft very athletic linebackers, they sign very athletic linebackers. They have a very big defensive line. And they have, obviously, really good coaches, a really good coordinator, so everything is a challenge.

"They have a lot of veteran players. Sometimes you feel like when you play less-experienced guys there are things you can get away with, but not these guys. You really have to be on everything. They have some very challenging packages on third downs, especially. So, we just study everything and try to be prepared for everything and understand there will probably be a few new things. We've got to just go play a really sound football game. B.A. (Bruce Arians) said earlier in the week, obviously we turned the ball over a lot the first couple games we played them and we didn't score touchdowns in the red area. In the playoff game, we did a better job in the red area. We got turnovers. But it's going to be a tough game. This is a good football team. They've been playing well for a long time; they're having a great season this year. They had a great season last year and a good season the year before. They're one of the best football teams in the NFL, so we're going to have to go out there and play really great, top to bottom."

Oh, Brady is (slightly) ahead of last year in yardage, touchdowns, interceptions and rating. But if he wants to remember a bad day, he can think back to last Nov. 8 when the Saints squashed the Bucs 38-3. Brady threw three interceptions that day and had a rating of 40.4. Granted, the Bucs came back and beat New Orleans 30-20 in the playoffs, but the sting remains. New Orleans has some talented players, especially in the secondary.

"First of all, their physical attributes – they're all big, they're tough, physically they're very stout," Brady said. "They play the run game well. It's a big D-Line. Like I said, very athletic linebackers that are physical. Demario Davis is one of the best linebackers in the NFL. And then secondary-wise, a lot of guys can do different things. They can blitz, they can cover. They've got great cover players. Marcus Williams is a really good safety. So, in the end, they're really deep in the secondary, they're really deep at linebacker and they're really deep at the D-Line. That makes for a good defense. Again, their coach does a good job putting those guys in positions to be successful and they do a great job. They are one of the best defenses in the NFL right now.

"They held Seattle to 10 points last game at home – that's tough to do. One of them was like an 85-yard touchdown. So, they just don't give up a lot of points, they're very good in the red area, they have a good third-down package. I've played them now three times in however many games, so I feel like I'm pretty familiar with them, but ultimately we're going to have to go play great football to beat them."

The pass rush is good, too, said Brady.

"I think they have a lot of guys who can do different things, certainly guys that can win with speed, certainly a lot of guys that can win with power, guys that win with effort," Brady said. "It's a collective group. The linebackers blitz a lot, the safeties can blitz. They tried a corner blitz on us last year. So, they have a good scheme that kind of always keeps you guessing. Anytime you have a team like that, we've got to make sure we're communicating about what we see and how we're going to deal with it, understanding they do a good job at what they do."

With the Bucs, that starts with Brady.

“I think he is throwing it as [well] as he has thrown it since he has been here," said offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. "I think he has a great awareness and I think the guys know each other now. We have some continuity; we have awareness of each other. We can read each other’s body language now. Early last year it was just tough because we didn’t really know each other. Now I think the guys know each other.

"Tom does a better job of telling guys, ‘Hey do this, and do that.’ He knows what he is doing now. Everybody has a good idea of what we’re trying to get accomplished on every play. Now that’s what I think you see more. I think we’re more consistent than we were last year. It really means nothing though going into this game. We’ve got to make sure we go out here and execute on Sunday.”

Of course, former Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston is now the Saints' quarterback.

“It’s a different system," said Bucs' defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. "The biggest thing for us is we’re not just playing Jameis. He has 10 other guys that play damn good football over there that we have to prepare for. If you just prepare for one guy, you’re going to lose right off the top. They have a great offensive line. Their receivers are very good. We just talked about the running back and they have very good tight ends.

"Sean [Payton] is a heck of a play caller. We have to get ready for the Saints. Jameis is a sidebar for the people that’ve been here and everything else. He’s a great guy. I love him off the field, but we have to get ready for the Saints, not just Jameis.”

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