Once again, the Bucs are outnumbered by Brees

by Gary Shelton on November 2, 2017 · 2 comments

in general

Brees has beaten the Bucs 15 times in his career./JEFFREY S. KING

Brees has beaten the Bucs 15 times in his career./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 3 a.m.

Someday, he's going to get old. Isn't he?

Someday, Drew Brees will drop back into the pocket, and he won't have minutes to find a receiver. Someday, he won't pick his opponent — particularly the Bucs – apart. Someday, he will be mortal.

But not yet.

Brees remains one of the more amazing performers in the NFL. He doesn't always throw darts. Still, it seems as if he always throws touchdowns.

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Brees is nearing 40, but he's still elite./JEFFREY S. KING

Brees is nearing 40, but he's still elite./JEFFREY S. KING

Through the years, he has been the quarterback who has baffled the Bucs the most. Oh, he is 15-8 against them, the same record that Brett Favre had. But he's completed more passes, with more touchdowns, with fewer interceptions and with a higher rating than Favre ever had. He remains the largest source of torture that the Bucs have.

And these days, the Saints have a running game to boot.

"Drew Brees is obviously one of the best to ever play the position, but New Orleans is definitely running the ball more,” Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter said. “They’ve got the two real good backs. If you don’t go in there to stop the run, they’re going to keep running it at you. In the game where they beat us at their place last year, they ran it at us hard and we didn’t do a good enough job stopping it. Every offense in the NFL would love to be able to run it when they wanted to and pass it when they wanted to. If you’re a defensive team, you’ve got to stop something and it’s always easier if you can stop the run first.”

This week, Brees can set the record for the most victories ever against the Bucs with 16. He's beaten the last five Bucs' coaches. He's been torturing the Bucs for a while.

"He has definitely had a Hall of Fame career,” said Bucs' defensive coordinator Mike Smith. “He is in our division. I’ve had to play him as a division foe twice a year. I can’t say enough about his skill set — not only physically, but mentally too. He is a guy that can get them into the right plays, he has seen it all, there is not anything new that you’re going to show him and he’s a heck of a player. He is having another great season. I think he’s doing it a little bit differently this year than he has in the past.”

Smith says Brees' best attribute is the way he stands in the pocket.

"I think it’s his toughness in the pocket,” Smith said. “I think people don’t realize how tough of a football player he is. He will sit in the pocket and wait until the last minute before he gets the ball out. When you have a guy who will do that, it really puts stress on your entire defense.

"I think anytime you’re playing a really good quarterback and he is able to stay in rhythm, it’s going to be a tough out for you. It’s going to be imperative that we try to get him flustered a little bit whether it’s by changing up the coverage, whether it’s by adding extra rushers – there are different ways you can do it, but you don’t want him to have a comfort level in the pocket. If he does, he will get it to the right guy.”

Remember 2013, when Brees threw for four touchdowns against the Bucs in a 42-17 win? Brees had an eye-popping rating of 157.4 that day. Seven times, he's thrown for three or more touchdowns against Tampa Bay. Once, he beat the Bucs seven straight games.

Yeah, he's pretty good.

"They’re playing well and they are moving the ball both by throwing it and by passing it,” Smith said. “I still think that’s it’s going to go through Drew [Brees]. Drew is the guy that leads that machine and drives that machine. He is a guy that, as mentioned, you’ve got to get to him, get him off his spot, give him something that he thinks is one thing and then give him something else.”

For the Bucs, that's going to put a lot of pressure on the defense. As usual. In 23 career games, the Bucs have sacked Brees only 30 times. In 14 games, the Bucs have sacked him one time or fewer.

"We’ve just got to go and play consistent football defensively,” Smith said. “We have not done that. We have not done it well enough this first half of the season, especially on the road. We have not played very good defense on the road. We’ve got to change that this week in terms of how we approach it and how we go out and perform. We’ve not been a very good defensive football team on the road.

"We’re a very inconsistent group and we’ve got to get that figured out. I was impressed with some individuals in terms of how they performed in the game against Carolina. But as a group, we’ve been very inconsistent. We were inconsistent in that game last week. They take the ball on that first drive and we are three-and-out and then they run it 19 plays before we get them stopped. There’s a lack of consistency. In this league, if you’re not consistent, it’s going to come back and bite you in the butt. That’s what we’ve really been dealing with is a lack of consistency across the board.”

The game begins at 1 p.m. (Eastern) in the Superdome.

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