by Douglas O’Connor
follow me on Twitter @Ren_Daxt
How to beat the Saints: Stop Drew Brees, don’t turn the ball over, run the ball effectively, and eat up the clock.
Here are three not so obvious keys to the game to look for on Sunday that could insure another Buccaneers victory.
Pressure Up The Middle: Let us face facts, stopping New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is tougher than herding cats and almost as impossible. For example, Brees had 34 passing yards with just over 2 minutes left in the 1st half of last weeks game against the Lions and then came roaring back and finished with a total of 319 yards. One of countless passing feats Brees as pulled of in his career.
One of his many strengths is moving up in the pocket and delivering a strike downfield. This is why the Bucs interior defensive lineman need to keep in their rushing lanes and push the pocket into Brees lap. Effectively taking away his ability to extend the play and find receivers deeper down the field. Ideally, hindering his ability to step into throws and giving him the general feeling standing in front of a pile of tumbling luggage all afternoon long,
Open Field Tackling: Drew Brees is very decisive with the football. He progresses through his reads is as fast as any quarterback in the league. Often he settles on the check down route just before the pocket collapses around him. A back or tight end that has leaked out from the pass protection scheme and settles into space. Waiting in the wings to make a reception and pickup some positive yardage.
Closing the yardage gap and making immediate stops can turn a possible 7-12 yard gain into a 0-5 yard gain. These extra yards nearly always make the difference between a fresh set of downs or getting the Bucs offense back on to the field. This responsibility is going to fall squarely on the shoulders of linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. The duo, as of late, seem to of shaken of the overall slow start and have begun to replicate their play from last season. The Buccaneers ability to limit the Saints short passing game could hinge on these two players tackling ability on Sunday.
Injuries: Normally I would not use this as a factor, with the release of Fridays injury report you know who is in and who is out. Football is the ultimate next man up sport so there is no crying about how the game would of been different if so and so would of played. I’m looking at you Seattle fan. But the the injury report out of New Orleans is so interesting, and could play a big role in the Bucs game plan on both sides of the ball.
Early in the week it was big news that on Thursday, leading rusher Mark Ingram and leading pass catcher Michael Thomas were both held out of practice. The pair were limited on Friday but their health arrow is trending up and I expect them to start Sunday.
However starting center and 2 time Pro Bowler Max Unger didn’t practice all week and is listed as questionable, same for leading tackler, linebacker Craig Robertson. The Saints don’t have an official backup center listed on their depth cart but whomever it may be if, Unger can’t go, will have almost zero experience and will be lined up in front of All Pro Gerald McCoy for most of the day. Robertson who has exactly 100 tackles on the season would be replaced by newly acquired Sam Barrington who only has 56 tackles in his 3 year career, 53 of which were recorded 2 years ago while playing for the Green Bay Packers. If either of these two players can’t go on Sunday it will be a huge downgrade in talent and a beacon of weakness that the Buccaneers can exploit on both sides of the ball.
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as always thanks for reading and GO BUCS!