The Buccaneers defense forced three takeaways on Sunday, while holding Drew Brees to 255 yards passing and shutting down the run early. It was an all-around rebounding performance from last Sunday. The defensive line set the tone, linebackers were hitting gaps, safeties were providing great run support and corners were giving enough time to pressure the quarterback. Find out how each defensive unit, and special teams, graded out according to PewterReport.com and share your thoughts.
The defensive line set the tone early on Sunday, both in stopping the run and applying steady pressure in the first half. Tampa Bay talked all last week about improving their run defense and making the Saints one dimensional and that was exactly the case. The Bucs held Mark Ingram to 19 yards on 10 carries in the first half and looked dominant in the process. Gerald McCoy beat anyone in front of him. Whether it was on the left side against Tim Lelito or on the right against Jahri Evans, neither Saints guard had an answer; even with help from center Max Unger, McCoy would routinely split the blockers and force his way into the backfield. Clinton McDonald was also immovable in the run game, and had a couple impressive tackles while falling back in the second half on Ingram and Khiry Robinson that saved big gains. Equally as impressive as the interior guys was Jacquies Smith on the end. Unlike last week, the secondary gave Smith time to get around the edge and he did not disappoint. Three sacks, two forced fumbles and constant containment showed why the Bucs have high hopes for the former undrafted player. Smith’s one critical mistake was a helmet-to-helmet call on Brees in the fourth quarter. Overall, while Robinson was able to give the Saints life in the second half – 5 caries for 48 yards – the defense held strong, and that’s credit to the D Line for setting the tone. McCoy, McDonald, Smith, Will Gholston (who also blocked an extra point) and Tony McDaniel all turned in good performances.
After an especially weak performance by all three linebackers last Sunday, Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Danny Lansanah redeemed themselves in New Orleans. The Bucs allowed too many routine crosses for huge gains against Tennessee and it was clearly a point of emphasis to limit that this week. Receivers Brandin Cooks, Brandon Coleman and Willie Snead were hit immediately after nearly every reception. David could also be seen a few times anticipating a swing pass, reading the throw and chasing Ingram to the sideline to make a play. One time in particular was during the first quarter when he saved a first down catch. David and Alexander were on point in run support as well, with the latter making a couple open field tackles against the run and a couple on tight ends after they caught quick outs. It’s a great day for the middle and weakside linebackers when their worst play was a near interception – David’s in second quarter and Alexander’s in the third – after reading a throw over the middle perfectly. Linebackers were bursting through gaps against the run, showing how the defensive line can make life easier for the guys in the back.
It was a quiet day for Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks, which is always a good sign. Sterling Moore and Tim Jennings were each beat a few times from the nickel spot by Coleman and Colston on shallow crosses, but both were physical against the run and after the catch. Jennings made a particularly good read on a throw to TE Josh Hill in the second quarter, shifting direction to make the stop. As for Moore, the former Cowboy made arguably the play of the game when he forced a fumble in the third quarter that could’ve been game saving. After Snead beat him on a cross and cut up the field, Moore chased him from behind and capitalized on an opportunity to knock the ball out and give possession back to the offense after D.J. Swearinger recovered. The Bucs preach takeaways, not limited to interceptions, and Moore showed spectacular commitment and awareness to make a heads up play. Regarding safeties, Chris Conte was perhaps the unsung hero on defense. The former Bear, who was fierce against the run, intercepted an underthrown ball and later recognized a screen to close in and force a fumble in the fourth quarter to all but seal the Bucs victory. His INT was an example of rush and coverage working to perfection, as Jacquies Smith’s pressure forced Brees to throw a wobbly, off-target pass on the run. While Conte was often in single high, Bradley McDougald played most of the game in the box and was impressive in run support. The starting safety duo had great coverage on one particular play in the third quarter, after the Saints tried a flea flicker that was defended from Snead by Conte and McDougald.
With the exception of one miss from 52, Kyle Brindza had an otherwise good outing. After drilling a 55-yarder for his first kick, the rookie showed resilience after his miss, coming back with field goals from 22 and 30 yards to pad the Bucs lead. New punter Jacob Schum is still yet to have a bad game, as he followed his solid Week 1 outing with an even better performance Sunday. And in the return game, Bobby Rainey was solid again, taking his only kickoff back for 37 yards and averaging 11 yards on three punt returns. The best plays on special teams, however, came in the fourth quarter when Johnthan Banks made an open field tackle at the goal line to stop a 2-point conversion and Will Gholston followed up on the Saints next score with a blocked PAT. As for kick coverage, the unit held up very well, limiting the Saints returners on two opportunities. One promising overlooked aspect on special teams was no penalties.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d say the DLine was a B+ except for the fact that George Johnson was on the line, he brought the grade down all by himself.
Again, great game all around. D-line definitely set the tone. The only non-impact player was G Johnson. LBs performed up to the high expectations we’ve all had for them since the off season. Secondary rebounded very nicely after a bad game last week. Special teams Brindza, Schum, and Rainey all with great games. Go Bucs!
Very pleased with the effort. They did not play their best football. But, they still got a division road win. I am very encouraged by that. Go Bucs!!
Well Zach – I think you have some high standards for ST…not sure we’ll get a much better all around effort than that on ST…I understand we got no TDs (so perhaps that knocks us down a notch) but only B…tough judge!
We also blocked a kick!…I mean the only thing short of a perfect ST day would have been if Brindza had hit the 52 yarder and if we’d run back some kick for a TD…it just doesn’t get much better than Sunday for ST…37 yard kick return average is the 3rd longest in the league this year (and the 37 average would lead the league), while 11 per punt is top-10 easily…this might well end up being our best ST performance this year…
Tough grades….the BUCS did win didn’t they?
D line stuffed the run all day, 2 fumbles, and 4 sacks, and get a B? A or A- is my grade. Johnson did not have a sack, but he had a tackle behind the line. Glad you recognized Conte as he was a beast all day. You haters will have to leave him alone this week.
Agreed with you yesterday 78Buc about Conte and will do so again today.
The guy was in perfect position for his INT and showed why the Tampa 2 can be so effective.
He actually gave up his body on one running play to stop a long run. The guy had a monster game.
Surprising why our two high priced safeties from last year couldn’t ever grasp the concept of Cover 2.
I think the grades our fair and lets lay off George Johnson. He’s hardly breaking the bank and no one said he was going to be the next Simeon Rice.
As long as he is giving effort, then the sack will come. it’s a 1 game season and we don’t need a scapegoat on this board like they do on another catty blog.
BTW, I love that pic of the Buc defense after Brees. it looks like they are trying to get him by the throat and choke the life out of him. That’s the kind of attitude we need.
Also, reports out of New Orleans might have Brees out with a rotator cuff injury. Wonder if we can get a No. 2 for Mike Glennon who Sean Payton supposedly loves.
When you stop the run with speedy linebackers and stop the pass with an effective 4-man rush, Lovie’s mostly cover 2 zone scheme works brilliantly. Perhaps the once powerful Saints offense is not what it used to be. I knew the Bucs had the brains and talent to succeed and I was depressed about how a few mistakes against Tennessee led many to conclude they might be hopelessly incompetent. Not so. This group can win, and it will do it some more soon. These new rookies are getting the hang of it!
Overall the D played well, but this is not the Saints offense of old. Brees still doesn’t have the chemistry that he did with Graham and the wideouts. That being said, the D got after him all day and that can only bode well coming into the Houston game against the statue known as Mallett.
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