The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs.

This week’s topic: What Has To Happen For The Bucs To Beat The Saints?

Scott Reynolds: Brady Must Be Protected And Play Flawlessly

One of the biggest common denominators in Tampa Bay’s two losses to New Orleans earlier this year was the sub-par play of quarterback Tom Brady. Of course Brady doesn’t deserve all the blame for the Bucs’ two losses to the Saints this year, as Tampa Bay’s defense has only surrendered 30 points twice this year. Can you guess which games? If you said both Saints games you would be correct. Technically, Tampa Bay’s defense didn’t allow 34 points in Week 1 at New Orleans. Brady threw a pick-six in that game, and therein lies the problem for the Bucs.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and LT Donovan Smith
Bucs QB Tom Brady and LT Donovan Smith – Photo by: USA Today

Brady has been sacked only 21 times this year, but the Saints got him on the ground six times in two games. Brady only threw 12 interceptions in his first year in Tampa Bay, but nearly half of them (five) came in two games against the Saints. In order for the Bucs to rise up and beat the Saints Brady must be well protected and given time to throw. That means left tackle Donovan Smith, who played one of the best games of his life against Washington defensive end Chase Young, must play better than he’s played against New Orleans pass rushers like Trey Hendrickson, Marcus Davenport and Carl Granderson, and Aaron Stinnie must step up and play well for the injured Alex Cappa at right guard against defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata.

Whether Brady is pressured or not he must avoid the errant throws and interceptions he had against the Saints in both meetings. New Orleans won the turnover battle in each game and Brady must ensure that doesn’t happen again in the third game this year. Brady was still learning the plays and his teammates when he first battled the Saints in Week 1. In the rematch on November 8, Brady was still getting used to throwing the ball to Antonio Brown, who was playing in his first game as a Buccaneer, and he didn’t have left guard Ali Marpet, Tampa Bay’s best offensive lineman, protecting him. Brady and Brown have really connected over the last month, evidenced by Brown’s five touchdowns in the last four games. In order for the Bucs to finally beat the Saints, Brady needs to continue his stellar play since the bye week, as he’s thrown 14 TDs and just one interception, by having a flawless performance in New Orleans.

Mark Cook: Protect Brady, Match Saints Score For Score

I would love to see the Bucs defense come up with an unbelievable game plan, execute it to perfection, and hold the Saints to 21 points or less. I would also love to hit the MegaMillions jackpot this week then seeing my Seminoles beat Alabama in the College Football Playoffs championship game next year with me in the stands next to my new girlfriend Margot Robbie. And since none of those three are happening, let’s hope the Bucs can keep quarterback Tom Brady upright to enable him and the offense to match the Saints score for score.

I like the Buccaneers’ chances of beating the Saints on Sunday a lot better than I did a month ago. Tampa Bay’s offensive line has been outstanding as of late and has figured out ways to keep the pocket clean for Brady. And with time to throw, Brady is just as deadly as Saints’ QB Drew Brees – if not more so – with the plethora of weapons he has at his disposal. Donovan Smith accepted the Chase Young challenge last Saturday, and needs to have just as good of a game against the Saints’ pass rush this week.

The Buccaneers may have to just match the Saints and score on nearly every possession – and with touchdowns, not field goals. If Ryan Succop leads the Buccaneers in scoring this week, and Bradley Pinion has to punt more than a couple times, Tampa Bay’s season likely ends in New Orleans on Sunday. Go shock the world, Buccaneers. And in the meantime I will be checking my lotto tickets, following FSU on the recruiting trail and sending Robbie a couple DMs. Just in case.

Jon Ledyard: Press Man Coverage Or Die

I had already assumed this to be true, but seeing the data on it from ESPN’s Jenna Laine’s account was even more convincing. The last time the Bucs and Saints met, Tampa Bay spent the vast majority of the game in zone coverage, which flies in the face of the biggest strengths in its cornerback room. Spot-drop Cover 3 against Drew Brees is probably the worst thing you could do as a defense, and Todd Bowles did it all game.

Bucs CB Carlton Davis
Bucs CB Carlton Davis – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Carlton Davis III shut down Michael Thomas in Week 1 playing a healthy amount of press man coverage, and he’ll need to do so again in the divisional playoffs. Thomas caught five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown against the Bears’ stout defense, so it’s clear he’s rounding back into form just in time for New Orleans. The Saints have other weapons in tight end Jared Cook, wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Deonte Harris and running back Alvin Kamara, but in the passing game, it starts with taking away Thomas, and press man coverage is the best way to do it.

The Bucs defense is not going to shut down the Saints offense on every play, but the other thing that more press man coverage might allow you to do is force Brees to hold the ball a tick longer on a handful of plays. This could greatly aid a Bucs pass rush that has had a hard time getting home without blitzing, especially against an elite Saints offensive line. Tampa Bay can’t afford to let Brees get comfortable in the pocket with easy throwing windows underneath. Roll up the corners, keep the linebackers more shallow in their drops and force Brees to throw the ball down the field more frequently, something he hasn’t done all season.

Matt Matera: Brady Needs To Play Like The GOAT

Normally going into the postseason, it’s Tom Brady and his team who are looked at as this enormous, unbeatable foe that needs to be conquered at the end of a story in order to reach your goal. This time around it’s Brady who’s looking to exercise some demons and defeat Drew Brees and the Saints for the first time in three trees. Brady is a player driven by proving others wrong and achieving greatness, which is exactly what he’ll need to be on Sunday.

Bucs QB Tom Brady
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

Since we’re under the assumption that the Bucs’ defense won’t change from playing soft-zone coverage against the Saints, it’s going to be on Brady to carry the Bucs to a victory in this one. Tampa Bay is going to have to match New Orleans score for score and hope that they can make a big play late. It’s going to all on Brady, who’s seeing the Saints’ defense for the third time and will have them well scouted by now with all his playmakers at his behest. They need Brady to be the GOAT, but that’s why they brought him here.

Brady has been pedestrian so far against the Saints this season, throwing for just 448 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions in two games. Coming down the stretch, though, no quarterback has turned it on like Brady has as of late. He’s piled up 10 touchdowns in his last three games along with 1,128 yards to one interception. Brady can continue to play up to that level on Sunday against New Orleans and he’s peaking at the right time to do so.

Taylor Jenkins: Limit The Saints’ Offense And Allow Brady Time To Execute

In the Bucs’ first two meetings against the New Orleans Saints in 2020, Tampa Bay has managed to lose to by a combined 46 points. And despite a 34-23 contest in the season-opener following a pandemic-shortened offseason and no preseason, the Saints managed to come back and with an even more dominant performance in their second meeting, winning 35-3 in Week 9. The Saints have the Bucs’ number, plain and simple. New Orleans has won all four of its meetings in the Bruce Arians era, and the last five games against Tampa Bay dating back to 2018. So when they face the Bucs they don’t just think they can win, they know it.

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

The first thing Tampa Bay will need to do to beat the Saints is get pressure on Drew Brees, play tight man coverage on New Orleans’ receivers and force the Saints’ aging quarterbacks to beat them over the top. Tampa Bay’s pass defense has struggled mightily over the second half of the season and they can’t allow New Orleans to make short completions and move down the field with ease as the Saints are too well-coached, they execute too well, and the Bucs can’t rely on a “bend but don’t break” mentality against the fifth-best red zone offense by scoring percentage in the NFL.

Offensively, the Bucs will have to protect Tom Brady and limit mistakes. The Saints have a solid defense led by defensive ends Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport and Trey Hendrickson up front with a number of talented and versatile defensive backs in Janoris Jenkins, Malcolm Jenkins, Marshon Lattimore and nickel C.J. Gardner-Johnson on the back end that have forced Brady into some uncharacteristic performances this season. In fact, five of Brady’s 12 interceptions in the regular season came in two games against New Orleans. When given time in the pocket, Brady can seemingly shred anything a defense throws at him and the Saints are absolutely not a team that you can give extra possessions to, because they’ll cash in.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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Buc76
8 days ago

There aren’t too many score for score games in the NFL much less the playoffs. That’s not going to happen. They have to play mistake free. Not just Brady all of them. Very few penalties, no critical drops, 1-2 sacks given up at most. No lost fumbles or interceptions. On defense we need 2-3 turnovers. 3-4 sacks. Special teams needs to step up. No mistakes. No missed extra points or field goals. They need to play the game of their lives.

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drdneast
Reply to  Buc76
8 days ago

They don’t have to play mistake free but they do have to win the TO battle. Agree with the penalties. Listen, the Saints aren’t some uber invincible team they just got really out coached the last time they played and BA knows it.

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Lawdy
8 days ago

wow Cameron Jordan really is a piece of shit

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TBChucky
Reply to  Lawdy
8 days ago

Yup..

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Spitfire
Reply to  Lawdy
8 days ago

What happened?

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bucscriv
8 days ago

The Bucs can beat the Saints as long as the offensive line can give Brady time to drop back and make at least one read, and whoever the running back is doesn’t have to have a 100 yd game, but good enough to hold the Saints linebackers honest on play action. If the defense can hold Brees and the Saints to a couple of three and outs…Brady and the Bucs offense has enough weapons to win.

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Dave
8 days ago

A few things. Unfortunately, it’ll take more than 1 thing to win this game. 1) completely scrap the defensive gameplan they used the last time they played the Saints. Sit on the underneath stuff, and be physical with their WR’s. Brees CANNOT beat you deep. Period. So make him have to do it 2) sound tackling. Especially on Kamara. When he catches a dump off, gang tackle him immediately. Missed tackles on Kamara dump offs will kill us. Did in the first matchup 3) do NOT abandon the run. We have to be effective running the ball. At the very… Read more »

Last edited 8 days ago by Dave
mdarby215
8 days ago

The question is “what has to happen for the Bucs to beat the Saints?” The answer is simple; they have to score more points than the Saints. Whatever team scores the most pints wins. Pretty easy concept.

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Pete Wood
8 days ago

Bucs will beat the Saints. It’ll be close, but they’ll win. Then it’s a home victory against the Rams and a Super bowl matchup against the Bills.
Count on it.

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TBChucky
Reply to  Pete Wood
8 days ago

I like the way you think!

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drdneast
8 days ago

Bears got beat because they lost their best WR to a stupid penalty, poor coaching and a subpar QB. They held NO to 21 points and I believe Breres, who I respect nd admire deeply, only threw one pass of 20 yards. Other than that it was dink and dunk down the field. Quick, crisp sharp fast throws that also make it difficult for DL to sack him. And make no mistake about it, the best place to pressure Brady is right up the middle which is why we missed Vea so much in the second game. Bowles has to… Read more »

Dude
Reply to  drdneast
8 days ago

“And make no mistake about it, the best place to pressure Brady is right up the middle which is why we missed Vea so much in the second game.”
Huh?

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Spitfire
8 days ago

Obviously we are the underdogs going into this game, which I actually think benefits us because we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Obviously anything can happen, but we are just now getting into a groove offensively. If we continue the style of play that we have over the past 4 and a half games we will do much better against the Saints. The difference will be the Defense. If we play them more the way we did Week 1 along with White and David being let lose like they did against the Packers and they play like… Read more »

Dave
Reply to  Spitfire
8 days ago

Oh 100% dude! All the pressure is on the Saints. We’re playing with house money. We put together this team 10 months ago, with zero OTA’s, next to no training camp, and ZERO preseason games. The Saints are now on their 4th year in a row of having the best roster/HC+QB combo in the league. And yet they’ve choked in the playoffs 3 straight years. If this loaded team again goes out and chokes in the playoffs, to a team that was essentially built less than a year ago, that’s an embarrassment. In a covid season where continuity was supposed… Read more »

Last edited 8 days ago by Dave
plopes808
8 days ago

Offense is already playing well enough to win this game, especially in the last 4 weeks. Defensively, we played well enough in game 1 to beat NO. If we go back to that game plan defensively and continue playing offense the way we have been, we win.

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scubog
8 days ago

I’m glad to read a little more positivity, albeit somewhat tempered, instead of the bleak outlook that has been so prevalent when forecasting the Saints game. This game is about the mentality more than it is physical prowas. Let’s hope the Saints enter the contest thinking they are invincible and the Bucs throw caution to the Brees (wind) and take on Popeye’s ” I took all I can stand and I can’t stand no more” attitude when he’s had enough of Bluto beating up on him and opens a “can of whoopass” (spinach) on him. Someone please knock that smirk… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
8 days ago

Payton is doing a helluva job coaching the Saints this season given all the challenges with injuries he’s had to deal with. It isn’t personal, scu. It’s just sports. Remember that millions, perhaps tens of millions of sports fans absolutely hated with a supreme passion our Tom Brady for decades. Many still do. All because he was successful and beat their teams routinely. If TB-12 and our Bucs and our coaches defeat the Saints this weekend, millions of Louisianans are going to hate our guys just as vehemently as their counterparts did in New York, Indianapolis, Pittsburg, Miami, etc. etc.… Read more »

Mark Alsott
Reply to  scubog
8 days ago

prow·ess
/ˈprouəs/
noun
1. skill or expertise in a particular activity or field.
“his prowess as a fisherman”

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scubog
Reply to  Mark Alsott
7 days ago

Thank you Mrs Ammons.

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Spruce
8 days ago

Wow a couple things are obvious. Bucs nation has a massive inferiority complex when it comes to the Saints. It shouldn’t be based on the relative talent. The Bucs are loaded with weapons and the defense has the potential to be great at times. What it really boils down to is coaching. Bucs nation has very little faith that Arians and his staff can scheme up with the Saints and coach up the team to play at an intense playoff level for a full game. So the next logical step is to put it mostly on Brady which they have… Read more »

Naplesfan
8 days ago

The Bucs need to play better than the Saints.
Next question?

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fredster
8 days ago

It’s hard to beat a team 3 times unless coaches are total morons. Lol. Ask the Titans about that. The biggest issue in the two losses this year was Brady had no time. Period. TO’s came because of pressure. It’s hard to run on Saints. So if your going to try to drop back and chuck it deep too often your going to lose. Arians isn’t stupid but I guess he over estimated this O line? With Marpet out not smart. Anyways still for life of me can’t understand why they wouldn’t just use some slants etc to move chains… Read more »

Last edited 8 days ago by fredster
Dude
8 days ago

One thing the Bucs need to do to win this game is hit Brees over and over again. Make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket, and get him worrying about his ribs. Don’t think that every time he steps out on the field it doesn’t cross his mind. You can bet he still has some tenderness there and is always aware of it. Which is why we see the Saints doing more dink and dunk, quick release style of offense. We get Brees rattled and he’ll start trying to get rid of the ball even quicker, making a few more… Read more »

Dave
Reply to  Dude
8 days ago

100% agree on needing to hit Brees more. We also need to play tighter coverage on the WR’s. Playing 10 yards off against this offense, while also not getting any pressure on Brees, Is just begging to lose. They will absolutely, positively 100% lose, if they play that way on Sunday. In the 2 games against the Saints, we have a combined 2 sacks, 6 QB hits, and 5 pass deflections. That, flat out, won’t cut it. Brees was way too comfortable in the pocket, and the WR’s were making way too many easy uncontested catches. It was like a… Read more »

Dave
8 days ago

Anyone that’s putting any stock into the last matchup, don’t even waste your time. Throw that game out. A ton of what happened in that game was fluky, and won’t happen again. Same as you can throw away a lot of what happened in the first matchup because the offense barely knew each other at that point. I was fully expecting a rough, ugly, offensive performance, and Brady not being on the same page as his WR’s. If he doesn’t throw that pick six, that ends up being a game that goes down to the wire. So I actually think… Read more »

Last edited 8 days ago by Dave
a-bomb
8 days ago

One of the things that has flown a bit under the radar the past 5 weeks is that, with the emergence of Antonio Brown, the offense does not need to rely as much on Gronk’s receiving skills. This has allowed Gronk to stay in and block much more frequently. I expect Cam Jordan to get a healthy dose of number 87. Ask Chase Young how that feels!

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Naplesfan
Reply to  a-bomb
7 days ago

Very good point.
Gronk is as big as most defensive ends, but more athletic than most of them. He loves to block too!

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Eddie
7 days ago

Brady and Gronk of old loved the bright lights; larger the stage the better they will perform. Go with their favorite plays instead of micromanaging them. Let Tom release the ball in less than 2.5 sec as against Washington they will be fine. Tom were able to release the ball in under 2 sec the retire game and won once when the New England OL was decimated with injuries.

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