Behind Enemy Lines is a look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every week. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals, shall we?
• The Falcons were the first team to face the Taysom Hill “experiment” and the quarterback who has been described as Tim Tebow 2.0 took down the Falcons on Sunday by a score of 24-9. Hill was efficient, made some ugly throws that ended up being completed, but most importantly he got the win for New Orleans in Drew Brees’ absence. Hill was 18-of-23 for 233 yards, while also leading the team in rushing with 10 carries for 51 yards and two touchdowns.
Falcons head coach Raheem Morris talked about what Hill was able to do successfully to beat Atlanta on Sunday.
“Taysom came out and we really had him under control in that first half, he was able to get off some play-action passes,” Morris said. “He was able to get his run game going with his legs and that really got them going. Once he got the run game going we had to sacrifice some people to do those things and he was able to get some completions down the field and play-action passes that we have to make plays on.”
• The Saints face the Raiders this weekend but their task of winning might be a little tougher if wide receiver Julio Jones is unable to go. Jones has a hamstring injury and Morris told the media on Sunday it could be a game-time decision.
“We’ve got to get Julio in the building; he was in today getting treatment, doing all of the things he needs to do.When we get a chance to take him through Wednesday, through Thursday,” Morris said. “Obviously, we’ll take Julio to a game-time decision and give him the best opportunity in order to go out there and be able to compete, as long as he’s healthy.”
• Panthers defensive end Brian Burns has been the best pass rusher for the Panthers all season and this week he was finally recognized, earning the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award. Burns notched two sacks and four hits on Lions’ quarterback Matt Safford in Carolina’s 20-0 shutout win over the Lions.
In his young career, Burns already has 13.5 sacks.
• Teddy Bridgewater who was injured late in the loss to the Buccaneers and missed last week’s game against the Lions is set to practice on Wednesday and barring any new issues, should start this week. Christian McCaffrey may also practice this week, but the team isn’t as optimistic that he will suit up on Sunday against the Vikings. The Panthers have their bye during the following week, and giving McCaffrey an extra week for his shoulder to heal seems to make the most sense at this point.
• The NFL loves a feel-good story and they got one on Sunday when former XFL QB P.J. Walker filled in for Bridgewater and picked up the win, going 24-of-34 for 258 yards and a touchdown in the victory.
“I spoke with my mom about the whole situation, and she told me to go be me, go play the game,” Walker said, via Darin Gantt of the team’s website. “This is something I’ve been dreaming about my whole life. So for her to just give me some words of encouragement, to go out there and not think the moment’s too big. Just do what you do. You belong here. That’s something she always told me, that you belong in this place, and go make the best of it.”
New Orleans Saints
• Saints backup Taysom Hill is no Drew Brees, and some might even argue he is no Jameis Winston, but you can’t say he isn’t a winner – at least after his first NFL start. Someone who was impressed with Hill’s play was Brees who commented on it this week.
“Listen, I thought he played great,” Brees told Mike Nabors. “I thought he managed everything about this week, about the preparation and then obviously just the way he played. I thought it was magnificent. Obviously, we know the role that Taysom has played up to this point, as a guy who comes in, as a physical runner. Obviously, he has caught a bunch of passes. He’s blocked for a bunch of guys. He’s done so many things. Yet, I felt like [Sunday] was an opportunity for him to showcase so many of his other talents, really his ability to play the quarterback position all the way around. I felt like he was great in and out of the huddle, great with the tempo. Made some really nice throws down the field, avoiding pressure, some great scrambles. All in all, I felt like our offense had great tempo, great rhythm and obviously that starts at the quarterback position.”
Brees went on to tell Nabors how Hill has evolved into a credible NFL quarterback.
“[He has matured] a ton,” Brees said. “The more experience you get, the more reps you get, the more time on task, the better you’re going to get. Taysom in college was an electric football player. He got this reputation obviously for being very much a runner, but you watch at the plays that he made in the passing game, it was so impressive. Listen, the thing that caught coach [Sean] Payton’s eye initially with Taysom Hill — I don’t know if he’s ever told the story — but he was watching Green Bay film not looking at Taysom Hill. He was looking at a receiver. This was right at the end of the 2017 training camp and it just happened to be it was Taysom Hill throwing this receiver all these balls in the preseason. It was like every time something would break down, this guy would take off and run and make a really bad play turn into something good. I think Sean immediately saw his talent and his knack for just making good things happen and making good decisions. Obviously, he’s been in so many different roles on our team here over the last three or four years, but all the while continuing to prep and prepare for the opportunity to at some point start at quarterback.”
• While much of the hype has been surrounding the play of Hill, the biggest reason the Saints won on Sunday came from the other side of the ball – 248 yards allowed, eight sacks, seven tackles for loss, two interceptions, 11 quarterback hits and 11 passes defended – it doesn’t get much more dominant than that. And this was against a very good Falcons offense. While everyone is focused on the play of the quarterback, the reason the Saints likely keep the NFC South Championship Trophy in New Orleans will be because of how good their defense is and plays down the stretch.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com
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