TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Saints owned the NFL’s No. 1 offense entering Week 14, but the Bucs defense shut down New Orleans high-octane attack to earn a 16-11 victory, their fifth straight win and longest streak since the Super Bowl season.
Everyone in the secondary had an interception, except Bradley McDougald, who finished with five tackles. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III recorded the first INT of his career while Keith Tandy, making his second start this season, sealed victory for the second straight Sunday by reading and intercepting Drew Brees on the final drive. Time and again, Tampa Bay’s defense stepped up and delivered, ending with another knockout blow like the Bucs of old.
The offense, meanwhile, didn’t have its best day but luckily it didn’t need to. The unit put just enough points up early on for the defense to finish the job. Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith and staff deserve a great deal of credit, but in keeping continuity, this list will be about the players. See who graded out as the Most Impressive Bucs in this week’s edition.
S KEITH TANDY
Starting with the obvious, Tandy played lights out once again on Sunday. The Bucs 2012 sixth-round pick, who’s spent most of his career as a third safety and special teamer, earned the game ball by recording nine tackles and the clinching interception. He set the tone early, dropping Mark Ingram for a loss of one on the Saints opening drive, and finished strong to seal the eighth win. Tandy’s meticulous studying paid off, as he read a play he’d seen on film and stepped in front the pass. What’s more, Tandy also deflected an interception to Brent Grimes.
CB VERNON HARGREAVES III
As SR predicted last Friday, Hargreaves recorded his first career interception on Sunday, picking off the future Hall of Fame QB early in the second quarter. One this one, Hargreaves was the beneficiary of a tipped pass after getting credited with a couple assists in games prior. Among one of the more overlooked impressive plays involved Hargreaves tackling fullback John Kuhn in open space on third down of the first drive. That’s how you start fast. The former Gator finished with three tackles.
CB BRENT GRIMES
On a day where the secondary held Brees to 25 of 41 completions for 257 yards and no TDs, the secondary stood out. Grimes got the Bucs second interception early in the fourth quarter, capitalizing on Tandy’s deflection near mid-field to keep the Saints from possibly closing the gap or taking the lead. The INT came on third down, an area the Bucs defense held the once 50-percent offense to four of 13 on Sunday. Grimes also covered a third-and-5 in the first quarter, drawing offensive pass interference and still making the play. The 33-year old corner added two tackles.
DE ROBERT AYERS
With nine seconds left before half and the Saints looking to punch it in from the Bucs six-yard line, Ayers sacked Drew Brees and kept the damage to a field goal. Due to two costly special teams errors – muffed kickoff at the one-yard line and punt out of bounds after a safety – Tampa Bay nearly self-destructed at the end of the first half. The defense, however, bailed it out. Though the D-Line had just one sack, their constant pressure moved Brees off his mark throughout the day and forced some errant throws on key downs. Ayers, who had three tackles, played an integral role in that effort.
DT GERALD MCCOY
Likewise, McCoy was a force in the middle while disrupting numerous passes. Two examples include the second-down play at the goal line just before Ayers’ sack, and on third-and-2 in the fourth quarter with the Saints backed up inside their own 10-yard line. McCoy forced Brees out of the pocket and Noah Spence finished by batting the pass down. New Orleans finished with just 46 yards rushing and McCoy added two tackles.
TE CAMERON BRATE
There were a few players on offense who turned in solid outings. Mike Evans converted third downs on three of his four receptions, Doug Martin ran tough for 66 yards and second-effort TD, and the offensive line kept Jameis Winston relatively clean on a turnover-free day. But Brate was the standout, catching four passes for 47 yards. His 12-yard reception on third-and-10 kept the drive alive for a late field goal in the fourth quarter. Brate, who Winston believes should be in the Pro Bowl, caught four of his five targets and led Bucs receivers in yards.
P BRYAN ANGER & COVERAGE
Anger continues to make a strong case for a Pro Bowl nod, pinning the Saints inside their own 5-yard line twice on their final two possessions. It set the Bucs defense up in prime position. Also deserving of credit are Alan Cross, who downed the ball at the 1 with less than seven minutes left, and Ryan Smith and Josh Robinson, who made an acrobatic effort to save a touchback and keep New Orleans at the 3 at the two-minute warning.
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: [email protected]
Small point here, but giving credit where credit is due, It was none other than the lights out substitute safety Keith Tandy that tipped the ball that Brent Grimes pulled in for the interception. Both honors well-deserved!
Been very impressed with Tandy.
I noted Hargreaves’ tackle. Perfect! And some said he couldn’t tackle.
Why is Mike Smith not mentioned here. The defense held Brees to less than 300 yards and no TD’s.. 4 weeks in a row his defense has shut down some very good offenses.
Defense is back!!!
The rest of your list is just as correct as can be.
I think Ryan Smith needs to be singled out for that magnificent punt coverage. That was, to me, a piece of art. That play deserves special consideration for the play of the week. Looks even better in slo-mo.
That play was game changing. Those are the types of plays that winning teams make. Types of plays that would’ve not worked for us in years past. Spectacular play right there by Ryan Smith.
Happy to see Brate getting some love. He is stepping up every game. He was going to be the TE that complimented our super star Jenkins, but due to character issues Jenkins is gone and Brate is quietly becoming a force on our offense.
Our much maligned secondary seems to be coming into their own. What once seemed to be a weakness is becoming a strength. And why ? Because we are getting pressure from the front four. Ayers and McCoy and Spence are making life miserable for opposing QB’s.
You do as many others, including Zach here, in overlooking the importance of Clinton MacDonald on the interior line. He is the guy who ensures pressure in the middle when McCoy is getting double-teamed on nearly every play.
Nobody ever notices Clinton, except when he’s not playing. When he was out several games earlier in the season when our defense was among the worst in the league, his absence had a huge impact.
Does Conte start when healthy? I think Tandy deserves to keep starting.
Fox Sports comment:
“Tampa Bay has to be considered not only a serious playoff contender, but a serious threat to take on the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC title.
That’s how good that Buccaneers defense has become in recent weeks.
Now that offense needs to have better games, but if they can round into form in these next three weeks — look out, NFC. ”
I cannot wait for that Cowboys game. This defense is playing at a Super Bowl level. Even though the offense is not playing that well, does anybody doubt Jameis’s ability to lead a last minute scoring drive to win a game? Therefore if you have a Super Bowl caliber defense that will at the minimum keep you in the game, then you can beat anybody.
I am all-in on the Bucs. I think this team is headed to the Super Bowl
If our offense can get going again, after being nearly missing in action for large parts of the last couple games, then we can do a lot of damage in the playoffs with our lights-out defense.
It will require opening up the playbook and airing it out a little more. Only 26 pass attempts against the Saints … we’re a better passing team than that.
Think kwon deserved an honourable mention
I am happy to see Tandy shine.. he has great ball skills, and collected a lot of INT’s in very little playing time. He’s survived multiple regimes which speaks to his versatility (he reminds me of torrie cox). Just wish Schiano hadn’t cut his WVU teammate Naje Goode way back… Gonna be hard to justify starting Conte over Tandy. Hargreaves is a good all-around athlete, seems to be a real ball player and he’s putting the game together quickly. But I think we need to spend a quality draft pick on (S) in the upcoming draft though unless Ryan Smith can tackle like he’s 50lbs heavier than he really is.. Safety seems to be a cornerstone position in Mike Smith’s defense.
Where are all the banks fans are star cb we let go.
Why no mention of the often maligned Roberto Aguayo who was our leading scorer? Also thought Charles Sims contributed.
I was most impressed with the Bucs fans who stayed and cheered on our team until the final INT.
Kind of off topic here. My wife and I went to Baltimore to watch the Army-Navy game to check off an item on our bucket list. What a spectacle to see the cadets and midshipmen march onto the field.
Yes, we were back in time for the Bucs game.
Yup on Aguayo … after all, he scored 10 of our 16 points on Sunday, 100% on his kicks.
Pretty good weekend scubog. Awesome
I’m happy that the over-under for Aguayo’s missed kicks per game has been reduced from 2 to 1…
And scubog, that Army Navy game is amazing. Everyone should see it at least once. Ditto the Kentucky Derby and Indy 500.
I think the thing that’s changed the most for the Bucs during their win streak is the emergence of a pass rush, thanks to Noah Spence, Robert Ayers, and Gerald McCoy. When they were too green or too injured to play at a high level during the losing streak, opposing qbs were playing every down like it was a 7 on 7 drill. Just wait for your receiver to get open and throw it gently to him. No worries. Now they have to worry and throw on the run into smaller windows.
I thought Lavonte David had a great game, too. Tandy’s turned into a great ball hawk and a run stuffer. Thought I noticed that in this preseason and last preseason, too. He just hasn’t gotten many chances to start, perhaps because he’s short for a safety. Would like to see him stick around alongside McDougald for many years to come.
See my reply above re Clinton MacDonald. He anchors the interior line along with Gerald McCoy. When he is not in the lineup, our pass rush goes dormant.
They key to the rest of the season will depend on how Dirk gets the most out of the weapons we do have on offense. We don’t have the full compliment of weapons we would like but there are definitely some intriguing parts when you factor in what Hump can do in the slot, Sims’ ability to create matchup problems and the long speed of Huff if we can develop a package of plays for him. I saw the Patriots line James White up on the outside against LBs on a couple of plays and he was able to take advantage on simple crossing routes. Hopefully we can add a little bit of that to keep teams from double and triple teaming Evans. Im sure Dirk will figure it out, Go Bucs!!
Once Chris Conte comes back I hope Tandy keeps the job. He has made 2 huge game sealing plays the past two weeks and he deserves more playing time. I also couldn’t be happier to see VH3 get that first pick. With another safety and maybe another pass rusher this defense could be something special, go Bucs!
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