The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Pewter Report Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.

Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag.

Question: Will we see press man and blitzes from the Bucs this week? Or will it just be one or the other? Something has to change from past games against the Saints.

Answer: We have no idea at this point what to expect in terms of a game plan against the Saints’ offense on Sunday, but your last statement is very true. Regardless of what the Buccaneers attempt to do, it has to change from the previous two games if Tampa Bay has any hopes to win at New Orleans Sunday night and advance. The Bucs can’t just go into the game thinking the same plan will work. It isn’t like either game was close and there were just a couple mistakes here and there that cost Tampa Bay the win. The Bucs were thoroughly out-played and out-coached, especially in the team’s 38-3 loss at home in early November on Sunday Night Football, so if Tampa Bay hopes to pull off the upset it will need to throw some wrinkles in its game plan that Sean Payton and Drew Brees don’t expect.

Bucs DC Todd Bowles
Bucs DC Todd Bowles – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

As far as pressing more and blitzing at the same time, it is clear to me that Todd Bowles feels the best defense is more of a bend-don’t-break type defense. I am not sure if it is because he doesn’t trust his secondary, or just wants to slow the game down, but we haven’t seen a very aggressive secondary in several weeks. Maybe he is still shaken from the first quarter of the Chiefs game where he saw numerous deep balls connect for touchdowns, but this is the playoffs and playing safe against a savvy veteran QB like Brees and a head coach like Payton will more often than not, get the Bucs beat.

Trying to get into the heads of coaches is nearly impossible unless we were on the inside in team meetings. But I do know this, Bowles is trying to win the football game. He isn’t purposely coaching his players to play bad football or put them in bad positions. And even if fans feel he is clueless, there is a huge defensive coaching staff in Tampa and a head coach that would disagree with his game plan if they felt it wasn’t the best plan to try and win the game. Clearly the scheme and the game plan each week is agreed upon by the staff including Bruce Arians. Coaches spend hours upon hours each week watching film, making notes and coming up with what they feel is the best way to win the game. There is a method to Bowles’ sometimes perceived madness – even if we in the media or the fans don’t understand it. I am not saying that the game plan that Bowles and his staff come up with will be right, but they are considerably more qualified to stop Brees and Payton than we are.

Question: Assuming Bucs defense plays as bad as it did against Washington, how many points will the Saints realistically score on us – 30, 40 or more? In other words, how many points will we likely need on offense to get the win?

Answer: A lot most likely. The Saints offense is dynamic and complex, but there is a path to slowing them down. Just take a look at the game on Sunday with the Bears. The Bears pressured Brees, limited the explosive plays and tackled well. They were also very physical on defense and that held the Saints to 385 yards and only 21 points. So it can be done. I really like the Bucs’ chances if they hold the Saints to 21 points or less. The problem is, Tampa Bay doesn’t have a Khalil Mack or Akiem Hicks on defense right now. And Tampa Bay’s combination of a lack of a pass rush and a secondary that struggles at times isn’t a good recipe when facing Brees.

Saints QB Drew Brees
Saints QB Drew Brees – Photo by: USA Today

Having linebacker Devin White back will be a big boost next Sunday against New Orleans, but he can’t single-handily keep the Saints offense in check. Tampa Bay will need the best games of the year from Shaq Barrett and hope that Jason Pierre-Paul can find a Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid to do the magic hand rub on his banged up knee. Seriously, without a pass rush, the Bucs stand little chance to win.

The one wild card in this game is the Bucs offense, which is humming as of late and playing much better than it did in the previous two match-ups, which resulted in losses. The Bucs can win in a shootout if they can protect  quarterback Tom Brady and establish a running game to keep the Saints defense honest. The Bucs can’t fall behind by a couple touchdowns, so they will need to come out and start fast, something we have seen they do a much better job of as of late.

Question: What’s the plan without Alex Cappa moving forward?

Bucs RG Alex Cappa
Bucs RG Alex Cappa – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Answer: The Ted Larsen experiment didn’t go as well as Arians and offensive line coaches Harold Goodwin and Joe Gilbert would have liked on Saturday in Washington. But Larsen was thrown into a tough situation when Alex Cappa suffered his ankle fracture, and was not expecting to play. And Larsen, who was recently signed to the roster, was likely still not 100 percent up to speed on the playbook. Of course we know he has no chemistry with center Ryan Jensen or tackle Tristan Wirfs outside of a few practice reps.

A full week of practice knowing he is the starter hopefully helps, but other than that Tampa Bay would be asking a very inexperienced Aaron Stinnie, or a struggling Joe Haeg two fill in. Neither would be ideal replacements at this point going into such an important game.

Question: What’s the biggest question mark for Sunday’s game – the D-line or the secondary?

Answer: While both units will need to play well for Tampa Bay to have a chance of winning in New Orleans, the play of the defensive line will be the biggest factor as to whether the Bucs can slow down the Saints offense. It first starts with limiting running back Alvin Kamara, which Tampa Bay did in both of the previous two games this season.

Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett and Saints QB Drew Brees
Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett and Saints QB Drew Brees – Photo by: USA Today

Yet the Bucs struggled containing Taysom Hill when he came in the game to run the ball, and will need to be ready to see a heavy dose of him on Sunday night. That will be on White and Lavonte David more than the line, but the entire front seven all needs to work together to limit Hill on the ground.

Getting pressure on the quarterback is still the secondary’s best friend. The Bucs could have two Deion Sanders at cornerback and two Ronnie Lotts at safety, but if Brees has all day to scan the field and go from progression to progression it doesn’t matter. He will carve up this Bucs defense and it will be a long evening for Tampa Bay fans if he isn’t pressured in the pocket.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

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 mark@pewterreport.com
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drdneast
10 days ago

I’d love to see the Bucs rush 5 and play press defense on the receivers until the Saints show they can beat it. Rush 6 if you need to. Put Brees on his back and make him start worrying about his ribs.
The DBs need to play real press coverage. Get their hands on the WRs for the first five yards and fight them.

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drdneast
Reply to  drdneast
10 days ago

Bowles is up for a head coaching job. If he wants to move to the top of the list with a bullet a win over the Saints would be a sure fire way to get there.

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Spitfire
10 days ago

If we can get to Brees he’s not gonna hold up very well with what he’s dealt with the last part of the season. I don’t think it does any good for anyone this week to try and predict scores and game picks and all that garbage. This is the playoffs (playoffs?!) and its do or die, all or nothing. Yes, we are the underdogs based on previous matchups the past season or two, but we know what both sides of the ball for us is capable of both up or down. All we can do is support our guys… Read more »

Spitfire
Reply to  Spitfire
10 days ago

No matter what, win or lose, I’m proud to be a Bucs Fan. I’m proud of how hard every single player has fought this season through down games and injuries. I have enjoyed this season more than any one since 2002 and know there’s even better things ahead for us. Why count us out before the game has even been played? This is for all the marbles each week. I know they can win this game and that’s what I’m rooting for… Go Bucs!!!

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SenileSenior
Reply to  Spitfire
9 days ago

Yes! Yes! Yes!

We can beat the Saints without a doubt. The best game plan with a few new wrinkles plus a couple of true surprises would go a long way. Great execution and no game changing penalties will mean a lot. 

The bottom line is relentless but disciplined intensity. If we want it more we will prevail!
______________
Go Bucs!!!

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ScottC543
Reply to  SenileSenior
9 days ago

AB was a non-factor in each of the first two games. He and TB12 are on a roll now. If TB12 has enough time to throw we easily have the weapons to beat the Aints.

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Dave
Reply to  ScottC543
9 days ago

Well he wasn’t on the team for the first matchup, and was making his season debut( and first NFL game in 14 months) for the 2nd match. It’s totally different now. He’s been on the team for 2 months, and is starting to look like the old AB. His route running, and ability to find the soft spot in the coverage, is still the best in NFL history. If Brady had the time, and wanted to get AB 15 rec for 200 yards every game, he could. All he’d have to do is just sit in the pocket and wait… Read more »

awwdembucs
10 days ago

So far this year the Nola coaching staff has out coached us. Bucs need alot of pressure on the QB.

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The Wall
10 days ago

A big reason the offense is really clicking right now is the play calling. For a while it didn’t look like we were willing to change. Kudos to BL and BA! I hope Bowles isn’t outcoached this weekend. If we’re outplayed, so be it; just don’t want to be outcoached. Go Bucs!

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BigSombrero
10 days ago

MJ Stewart had a great night at starting CB in Cleveland’s win against Shitsburgh. Matt Gay was clutch kicking against Seattle.

Did Arians cut those guys too quick?

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drdneast
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 days ago

Neither were playing very well here. Kickers are especially prone to swings in performance. Sometime they can’t get it in between the posts to save their hostage mothers. Other times they can do it blindfold. I compare kickers very much to a haunted golfer with an erratic swing. Like myself.

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SenileSenior
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 days ago

I will always contend that Koetter’s failure to bring in competion for Aguayo was the failure not Licht’s draft decision. Psychology or mindset is everything for kickers.
Water under the bridge now, we have the clutch kicker in Succop now!

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gcolerick
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 days ago

Water under the bridge

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Dave
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 days ago

No.I’ll take Succop 100 times out of 100. And as far as MJ Stewart…even a broken watch is right twice a day. He’s sucked all season. He had 2 decent games. Wippee. He was borderline atrocious in pass coverage all season. Like extreme liability bad. Hence the reason why he never started a game in the regular season. Even with injuries all over the secondary. His best quality is on ST’s. Other than that, he’s a backup in this league

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Last edited 9 days ago by Dave
buddah
9 days ago

Only Tampa fans can turn victory into a feeling of defeat. The other team gets paid too and they had a lot to play for because the whole country pegged Washington as losers who didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs. How about some serious credit to our offensive line that made Washington’s defensive line, recognized as the best in the NFL, look very ordinary. Going up against New Orleans that ought to make others take notice. All this bashing of Bowles who just coached us to the best defense against the rush in the league FOR THE SECOND YEAR… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  buddah
9 days ago

You’re right about that Buddah. I suppose our somewhat emotionally reserved fan base isn’t much different than those in other locales whose teams have been mostly disappointing. I’m pretty sure those Cleveland fans had some angst before the Sunday night game in my hometown Pittsburgh, where the Steelers have had their number for a very long time. But, as the saying goes, “the sun don’t shine on one dog’s ass forever”. Time for those cocky ass Saints and their smug ass, pompous coach to put their tail between their legs.

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BucNnole
Reply to  buddah
8 days ago

I agree we need to be a little more optimistic. But bragging about our run defense is silly. This is not the old NFL, it’s a passing league now. It doesn’t matter if you stop the run when they go throw on you for 400 yards a game.

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revfish
9 days ago

I have to respectfully disagree with Marc on the defensive plan. Our defense did a pretty good job against the Saints in week one. Tom Brady threw an interception for a touchdown which he is not doing anymore. There was also a fluke pooch cake that we fumbled. Take that away and suddenly it’s anybody’s game. Play the defense you did in week one, and our office is now on a much different I have to respectfully disagree with Mark on the defensive plan. Our defense did a pretty good job against the Saints in week one. Tom Brady threw… Read more »

Darin
9 days ago

Drdneast I agree. Brees has no deep ball arm strength. Most of his passes have been 10 yards or less. If they dont play more press man it’s gona be a long one. Put the pressure on and if he beats you long take it n move on. Brees history says the bigger the game the bigger the choke job. Brady as we know is the opposite. Luckily Shaq always shows up against the saints. Cmon Bowles you can press and still not break. We need to see the olbs dropping into coverage more too because brees loves his little… Read more »

JJ
JJ
9 days ago

Go bucs….hey Bowles, get your head out of yer arse!

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Last edited 9 days ago by JJ
surferdudes
9 days ago

So who was the back up RG all this time before we signed Larson? Coaching, and personal failure. Stinnie is now going to start Sunday, so who’s bright idea was it to throw an old broke down waste of a lineman in? It doesn’t make sense unless you believed Stinnie would be worse. Either way, doesn’t leave me confident.

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ScottC543
9 days ago

If we beat the Aints and the Rams beat the Packers, the NFC Championship game is in Tampa, right?

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scubog
Reply to  ScottC543
8 days ago

Yes, and I already have my tickets.

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