Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
A particular stat explains just how dominant the Bucs defense was Sunday against the Saints No. 1 offense: third down.
Entering the game, New Orleans owned the best third-down offense in the NFL, converting 50 percent of its attempts (82 of 165) this season. On Sunday the Bucs defense held Drew Brees and company to just four of 13 conversions, including twice inside the red zone to force a field goal. The other seven stops, though not an automatic four-point swing, can be seen a different way.
“That’s essentially a turnover,” said cornerback Brent Grimes, who recorded an interception on third-and-1 early in the fourth quarter. “They get to punt it, but that’s essentially a turnover. You get off the field, you get to rest, and your offense gets to do something. When you get three-and-outs it’s good for field position. We’re doing well on third down and we just have to keep that up.”
Of course, the Bucs success on third-down was just a product of their rush and coverage. While Tampa Bay only sacked Brees once – another four-point play, as defensive end Robert Ayers forced the Saints into a field goal before half – the front seven moved him off his mark throughout the game and caused a few errant throws.
Some of those throws were contested at the line of scrimmage, a result of linemen getting their hands up.
“Brees is a short guy, so when he can’t see, he can’t make his throws on time and he can’t put the ball where it needs to be,” said defensive tackle Akeem Spence. “And that’s what we’re doing. Our secondary did a great job disguising looks, confusing him and that helped us up front, bought us more time.”
The Bucs defense played complimentary football once again, keeping a normally prolific offense to 257 yards passing and no touchdowns, a first for New Orleans this season. In fact, Sunday was just the second time since 2006 that the Saints have been held without a touchdown.
During the five-game win streak, Tampa Bay has held opponents to an average of 12.3 points. It’s no wonder the team felt comfortable putting the game in the hands of the defense Sunday.
“I do realize what a heck of a job our defense did,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said to open his post-game press conference. “Three to zero in turnovers. Vernon Hargreaves getting his first career interception. Brent Grimes getting an interception. Keith Tandy, two weeks in a row, what can you say about Keith?
“… Our defense was playing so good,” Koetter said, explaining the move to punt instead of attempt a 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. “I think it would’ve been crazy at that point to not put it on our defense to get it done.”
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.
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The defense was great. I noticed on just about every play, the defense rotated 4 players. I never noticed that at a game before. A couple of times the replacements didn’t line up until right before the snap. Is this so they don’t gas out in the 4th quarter? It is nice that the defense is healthy enough to rotate players in and out.
We just have to stay healthy. This team is finding new and creative ways to win. It was good to see Sims back on the field. Ayers is so important to this team. If we can keep up pressure on opposing Qb’s, and our seconday continues to wow, we have a good chance to be in playoffs
Never would have thought we would have won this game without Martin hitting a 100 yards or Winston throwing over 250 but we did thanks to that ever improving defense.
With that said this offense needs to find a way to score more points.
It is apparent now that the offensive line really misses Logan Mankins as they aren’t getting the push up front needed to make the running game more productive.
Kevin Pamphille looked like a turnstile last night.
A win is a win and I’ll take it everytime. Koetter did the smart thing? He kept the ball away from Drew Brees by eating up the clock. The Bucs are playing with a winning attitude that seriously started 4 games ago. Go Bucs!
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