The Bucs defensive line brings down the Saints RB – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Mixed between smiles and laughs as Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston fielded questions following the Bucs’ 16-11 win over the New Orleans Saints, one statement epitomized the win.
“Thank God for our defense.”
After being held to a field goal in the second half after scoring 13 points in the first, Tampa Bay turned to its defense to make a stand late in the game to seal the win.
With 2:00 remaining and one timeout, 99 yards stood between Saints quarterback Drew Brees and another comeback victory in Raymond James Stadium — something Brees has proven exceptionally capable of during his career.
Despite two long completions, the defense held.
Safety Keith Tandy jumped the route and intercepted Brees, sealing the game.
“We got that Mariano Rivera Mindset,” defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. said. “We wanna go out there and close every game out. We want it to be that the offense has to score to win the game and we have to get a stop. I love that moment … That’s a great situation to be in.”
Bucs S Keith Tandy – Photo by: Getty Images
Tandy has not shied away from the spotlight since being inserted into the lineup. Thrown into a similar situation last week against the San Diego Chargers with the game on the line, Tandy intercepted a pass in the endzone to end the game.
Coming off the bench in both games, he’s caught the attention of nearly every player on the defense.
“He’s been playing all season, like he’s been in the games so he has a feel for this,” veteran cornerback Brent Grimes said. “We all know he can play so nobody is doubting him when he’s out there. He’s just out there knowing what he needs to do, flying around making plays.
“That’s the key for defense in the NFL.”
Tandy grabbed one of three interceptions that helped salvage a poor second half by the offense.
Rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves intercepted his first career pass off a tip drill by linebacker Kwon Alexander and Grimes stole another soon after.
It’s become somewhat of a trend for the Bucs: offense turns sluggish and the defense takes over.
In Week 12, the Bucs jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead over the Seattle Seahawks, but failed to score another point in the game.
Sunday’s game had a similar feel.
“This defense,” said tight end Cameron Brate, who was held to just one catch in the second half. “They came up with just a bunch of key stops in the second half [when the] offense was struggling. You can’t say enough about what they did.”
The biggest gut checks came with the Bucs defense sitting with their backs against their own endzone and the Saints garnering first-and-goal scenarios from the one and two yard lines.
The defense held New Orleans to field goals in both scenarios, wiping key points off the board.
“Every game is different,” Grimes said. “These games require us to get big stops at the end of the game … This week we stopped them on defense, maybe another week we’re gonna need the offense to pick up the slack.”
Bucs CB Brent Grimes and head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
This week it was the defense. A defense that over five straight wins has given up a league-best 11 points per game with 14 forced turnovers.
It’s a revitalized defense as of late, one that’s trending upward with three games remaining and a playoff spot in its grasp.
All that matters now is winning.
“We wanna keep this going, man,” Ayer Jr. said. “We’re hungry, man. We wanna keep winning, we don’t believe in losing. We think we’re gonna win every game, that’s the mindset. Whatever team we face, we expect to win.”
Yes Tandy should remain the starter; he has earned it.
Yes I agree, Tandy has deserved to start. Still it will be great to get Conte back.
The often overlooked and sometimes maligned Tandy has been a good player for us. Maybe he’s not a starter but he’s solid depth who will not cause a massive meltdown if he comes in. He seems to be getting better with age also.
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