Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris hates Saints head coach Sean Payton. Sean Payton the coach, that is. Not the person. He quickly clarified that statement while joking with the media this week while discussing Tampa Bay’s upcoming game against the New Orleans Saints.
"He’s a genius. A great football coach. I love the guy, but I hate the coach,” Morris said. “He’s awesome. He’s detailed. He has a lot of answers for a bunch of different things. He gives you a bunch of different challenges with formations and people. He does a great job with his personnel, getting those guys into position to make plays.
“Even when you get a lead, it’s hard to maintain it, hard to hold him off. He’s one of those guys that always just seems to run out of time rather than you beating him and getting out of there with a convincing win.”
Tampa Bay’s head ball coach commented on the various and plentiful amount of playmakers Sean Payton has at his disposal, including star tight end Jimmy Graham. The former basketball star turned tight end is having an outstanding season and burned the Buccaneers for 124 yards on seven reception during Tampa Bay’s 26-20 win three weeks ago. But Morris says you can’t worry with trying to shut down just one member of the Saints' high-powered offense.
“Jimmy Graham has had a good game against everybody (49 receptions for 713 yards and five touchdowns in 2011),” Morris said. “He is having a phenomenal year, a Pro Bowl year. He has been phenomenal in what they ask him to do in the passing game.
“But we have to go out there and play against No. 9. You have to go out there and let technique and opportunity meet. And if he throws you a couple you have to catch them. In order to keep him off the football field you have to run the ball effectively, maintain possession, get completions and pick up first downs. Keep that whole offense off the football field."
“If you go out and focus all your energy on trying to stop Jimmy Graham, then Marques Colston will kill you, or Devery Henderson or Robert Meacham or Chris Ivory coming off the PUP,” Morris continued. “You have to go out there and play the game against No.9 and try to keep the ball out of his hands and keep it in your offense's hands and make a play on special teams.”
Tampa Bay cornerback E.J. Biggers, who recorded his first interception of the season off of Drew Brees back on October 16, says the whole secondary must be on top of its game, including holding onto potential interceptions.
“That's the focus right now in practice this week,” Biggers said. “Finishing plays and cleaning up these missed opportunities that we've been having. When we get all this figured out the sky is the limit for us on defense.”
Tampa Bay’s recent success facing New Orleans (3-1 over the last four games) can be partly attributed to the familiarity of playing their division rivals twice a year.
“They know us just as well as we know them,” Biggers said. “We can play those guys like you are going to practice with them everyday. We just need to execute the game plan and do your job and everything will work out.”
Morris and his young Buccaneers defense looks forward to the challenge of facing Sean Payton and the Saints offense, but the head coach says it comes at a price.
“It puts years on my life. It makes me older,” Morris laughed. “When I got this job I was 32. I’m about 46 now. And it has a lot to do with the Saints."
“He’s a great opponent to go against. We don’t fear him. We love playing against him because of the excitement and the magnitude of the game, but he’s just one of those guys. [They're] one of those teams that keeps bringing in new players and putting guys in different spots. They keep ticking and keep going and keep getting better on offense [and] the defense keeps getting more physical every year, as well.
“They’re just a well-coached football team that’s a great challenge for us and that’s why the NFC South is the way it is now.”