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Why the Saints Won’t Count the Bucs Out

Typically, division games are tougher than others. Because division rivals face each other twice a year, they become very familiar with each other’s offensive and defensive schemes and are therefore well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of those division opponents.  This reminds me of a conversation Carolina RB DeAngelo Williams had with a reporter during the week of Superbowl XLIV.  Williams was asked who he thought was going to win the Superbowl, the favored Colts or the underdog Saints.  Basically his response was that in his opinion, the Saints weren’t underdogs at all, adding that he (the Panthers) faces them twice a year and that they are a lot tougher than they often get credit for.  He was one of the precious few who predicted (on camera that is) that the Saints would win the Superbowl–all based on his familiarity with them as a division rival.  It is for this very reason that the Saints won’t count the Buccaneers out come Sunday.

In Wednesday’s meeting with the media, Coach Sean Payton and Drew Brees both fielded questions about the upcoming matchup with Tampa Bay (among other things).  This is what Payton had to say when asked why the Bucs are a good team:

At the end of the day, they’re 3-1 because they’ve earned that. They’ve played some very tough games and battled back last week against Cincinnati. To answer your question, number one is that their quarterback is playing well. He’s a guy that’s tough to sack; he’s a guy that can scramble – we’ve seen him make plays with his feet. He’s also a guy that’s a threat to scramble to prolong a play and he’s really dangerous that way. He has real good arm strength; he’s playing with a lot of poise and confidence. They’re taking the ball away on defense. They’re second in the NFL with interceptions. They have very good team speed on defense and you can see that. It’s a young team that is playing with a lot of confidence and you can see that on tape. Raheem (Morris) and his staff have done a very good job with a lot of young players getting them ready for this season and it’s evident. They are playing well. It’s not a result of anything other than that. I think it’s something that they’ve earned and they’ve done a good job to start the year the way they have.”

And let’s not forget that Brees  worked briefly with the Buccaneers’ young quarterback, Josh Freeman, sharing with him his knowledge of the position and of the game as a whole.  When asked what he thinks of Freeman after having worked with him, he said:

He’s a big, talented guy. You don’t find many guys that mobile and athletic for that size. You see him avoid a ton of sacks. He can extend plays with his legs, not only scrambling and throwing, but taking off and running. A young, talented player that has all kind of potential and is playing well at this point.”

All the same, this is a young Buccaneer team that is steadily improving.  Currently 2nd in the NFC South with a 3-1 record, Tampa Bay is definitely a legitimate threat to Saints on any given Sunday.  Their offense is currently ranked 21st in the league, having put up 74 points (18.5 points per game) in their four games played.  More impressively, however, is their 15th ranked defense, which has currently allowed 80 points (20 points per game).  Comparatively, they have the edge over the struggling Saints, be it ever so slight.

As it stands, the Saints are a dismal 3rd in the division and playing far below-average.  The offense is currently ranked a disappointing 18th in the league, having scored 99 points (19.8 points per game) in five games; and the defense sits at 17th, having allowed 102 points (20.4 points per game).  While there is marked improvement defensively, the offense is going in the wrong direction.

Turnover and penalty prone as of late, there’s no question that the Saints offense is in a slump right now (whether Coach Payton admits it or not), and Gregg Williams hasn’t been dialing up many magical turnover-causing/scoring plays so far this year on defense to help it out.  Then just when you think special teams play has finally gotten respectable, it slips up and gets gashed on punt and kickoff returns.  So what’s left is a team that is just average–nothing more, nothing less.  I think how they respond Sunday will be critical to the rest of the season.  If they come out and play to their full potential,  they will.  If they come out going through the motions like they have been for most of this season, they’re less likely to win.  Whatever the case may be, it’s a must-win game this time, even at this early juncture.  Not only is the division title on the line, but so are any hopes of getting into the postseason.  Needless to say, Payton and Williams had better do something to rally their troops and get them back to playing smash-mouth, catch-me-if-you-can football or the Saints will find themselves just another typical, statistical team that won the Superbowl but failed to make the playoffs the following year.  It’s roughly do or die time already.

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4 Responses to “Why the Saints Won’t Count the Bucs Out”

  1. Risha Holmes says:

    They are going to win this one! I just know it!

    • One thing we know and that’s talent wise, the Saints are more than capable of winning. It just all depends on their attitude when they hit the field on Sunday–whether they come out and play with fire in them. Regardless of what anyone says, they are going to have to at some point draw from their successes of last year and go from there.

      Thank so much for your comment, Risha and also for your positive attitude.

  2. Ken says:

    Ms Jones is absolutely right. No one is harder on Drew Brees than Drew Brees. No one with any intelligence would argue that he and a lot of his supporting offensive cast were “off” last week. Drew NEEDS to be kicking his own ass. Don’t remember him ever having 3 int’s in a game. This new Seattle running back will help tremendously. Last week they knew the Saints had little or no running game. This guy from Seattle can run. Don’t know if he will get after it or not right out of the blocks, but with Bush and Thomas down he certainly has an opportunity to become famous if he has that level of discipline.
    Sharper coming back will help tremendously! Mr. Jenkens has done a good job in Sharpers absence, but there isn’t anyone on the team who has seen and read as many offensive sets as Darren Sharper. I think he also has a veteran’s touch of leadership that comes out of him and elevates those around him. The big guys on the D line and the linebackers have to do better. There isn’t anyone who lines up in the box that’s known as a “mean” or “tough” guy. Granted they are good at completing most of the play assignments, but any one of them could elevate just a bit and contribute substantially towards the offense NOT HAVING to score 30 or 40 points for the team to be winning. Mr. Brown is a excellent addition. AND it’s about time we were hearing his name called a bit more often. SOMEBODY in the box needs to decide that they can and will elevate even a little bit. I don’t see any of these men as playing every down at their absolute highest level. Or, maybe they can just clock in, clock out and go to the house and to the bank. Across the board the Saints have as much collective talent as anyone; when they get themselves “up”. Do want to hear more from Alex Brown. This guy is a LONG way from “being done”.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ken. You gave a great summary. You’re right on. Like you, I’m still waiting on the so-called “upgrades” to pan out. Alex Brown was said to be a definite upgrade from Charles Grant. I really don’t get why so many were down on Grant. I thought he and Will Smith were quite a team. And you know, even though the Saints didn’t lose many players (Grant, Bell, and Fujita specifically), it seems right now that they lost all the wrong ones. So many were critical of Mike Bell also, even claiming that the Saints wouldn’t miss him. Well, I beg to differ! The running game has definitely taken on a different identity (and not in a better sense). I just don’t understand the logic sometimes. To think of how they’re having to pay these big-name replacements, they could’ve paid those three guys and kept the team in tact.

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