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Game Day: Saints at Buccaneers

Posted Sep 15, 2013

The Bucs look to grab a share of first place in the NFC South in their first 2013 division game against New Orleans on Sunday...Prepare for the game with our preview, including injury reports, key matchups, series history, players to watch and more


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play their 2013 home opener – and their first intra-division contest of the year – against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.  The Buccaneers bring an 0-1 record into the game while the Saints are 1-0.

Offensively, the Bucs will focus on getting into a rhythm and sustaining drives better than they did in Week One. Of course, one of the best ways to accomplish such a goal is through a steady, productive running game with Doug Martin at the helm, but Head Coach Greg Schiano says the team must be able to mix things up offensively and take advantage of whatever opportunities the New Orleans defense presents.

“We’ve got to block better, we’ve got to run better, we’ve got to throw better, and catch better, because that all fits together,” Schiano said. “You have to be able make people pay when they are going to try and take away Doug Martin. We did it at times Sunday, but we didn’t do it enough.”

Martin rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, Vincent Jackson caught seven balls for 154 yards, and Mike Williams snagged a touchdown catch as well, but the Bucs know they’ll need to put forth a better, more consistent showing this week in order to keep up with quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints’ high-scoring offensive unit.

“There are several ways you have to do things right in order to beat the Saints,” Schiano said. “One of those things is to try to limit the number of cracks that Drew Brees has at your defense. There’s no doubt about it, he’s a time bomb. What we plan on doing is running our offense. I said it after the game Sunday and I’ll say it now: We need to get into a flow. We’ve got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot and stop making it choppy. We need to just get in a flow and run our stuff and run it efficiently, and I believe we’re going to do that.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs will be looking to improve on a promising Week One performance that saw the unit limit the Jets to just 90 yards rushing, while forcing two turnovers and notching five sacks (four of which came from linebackers).

“It’s encouraging, you build off of it,” said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. “I would like for us, up front, to get them on the ground a little more, but five sacks, in general, is great. Our linebackers ran through free because the linemen are doing their job, which is what we want to do - make it easier on everybody behind us.”

Of course, when preparing for the New Orleans offense, the Bucs’ defense will be primarily concerned with seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees.

Brees was his usual self in the Saints’ Week 1 win over Atlanta, completing 26 of 35 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns, and McCoy said it’s all about pressuring Brees and limiting his chances to make huge plays.

“You scout [top quarterbacks] the best you can, you know what they can do, then you just try to figure out a way to contain them, not really stop them,” McCoy said. “There’s really no way to stop them, but you figure out a way to slow them down.  I think you’ve just got to disrupt him. If you can get in his face, you can slow him down a little bit.”

Despite the obvious challenges an elite quarterback like Brees presents, the Bucs defenders are relishing the chance to compete against one of the best in the league at his position.

“I think playing against a passing attack like this that we’re going to face on Sunday, you’re licking your chops for this type of game,” said cornerback Darrelle Revis. “We know what we’re going to face, and we just have to cover those guys, play tight coverage, and make it difficult for Drew.  We know he’s going to come at us and we’re licking our chops to get some hands on some balls and try to make some plays.”

Defensively, the Saints made a number of moves over the offseason in an effort to improve on this side of the ball – namely by bringing in Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan and his 3-4 scheme. The Saints also used a first round draft pick to bolster their secondary, adding safety Kenny Vaccaro from Texas.

Talk about immediate dividends – Vaccaro led the team with five tackles last week, and also made a crucial deflection on the Falcons’ last-gasp fourth-down pass from the Saints’ three-yard line that was picked off by Roman Harper, sealing the win for New Orleans.

“It’s one game, so we have one body to look at, but they played tough and at the end they make that winning stop on fourth down in the red zone,” Schiano said. “That’s pretty good stuff, and it was a relatively low scoring game for the NFL.

“They made some additions, with the rookie Vaccaro and the kid from Pittsburgh [cornerback Keenan Lewis] who’s a good player. They’ve gotten better for sure.”

**

SERIES HISTORY

New Orleans leads the all-time Bucs-Saints series, 25-17, and has prevailed in the last three meetings and five of the last eight.  Since the two teams became NFC South rivals in 2002, the Saints hold a slim 12-10 edge in the series.  The Saints have won 11 of the 18 meetings in Tampa.

The Saints won both games last season, with New Orleans prevailing in Tampa in Week 7 and at New Orleans in Week 15. The Buccaneers swept both contests in 2005 and 2007 before splitting each series from 2008-10, including a 10-3 victory in 2005 in a road contest played in Baton Rouge and a 27-13 win in the 2005 regular season home finale, a victory that clinched the NFC South title for the Buccaneers.

Prior to joining the NFC South, Tampa Bay had claimed three of the previous four meetings, including wins in both 1999 and 2001. The Bucs won the first game between the two clubs, a 33-14 triumph at the Superdome in 1977. Tampa Bay tied an NFL record, which has since been broken, by returning three interceptions for touchdowns. The victory marked the Bucs’ first regular-season win after 26 consecutive losses. More than 8,000 fans greeted the team upon its return to One Buccaneer Place. Tampa Bay and New Orleans split the next four meetings, each winning two straight on the other team’s turf before the Saints assembled a six-game winning streak.

**

INJURY REPORT

Below are the official injury reports submitted by both teams on Friday afternoon.  There are the official definitions of the game status designations, as provided by the NFL: Players marked as "Out" definitely will not play; for a player marked as "Doubtful," there is a 75% chance he will not play; for a player marked as "Questionable," there is a 50/50 chance he will not play; for a player marked as "Probable," it is a virtual certainly that he will be available for normal duty.

Buccaneers

Player

Injury

Practice Status

Game Status

CB Michael Adams

Knee

Out

Out

DE Adrian Clayborn

Hip

Limited Participation

Probable

TE Tom Crabtree

Ankle

Did Not Participate

Out

FB Erik Lorig

Calf

Full Participation

Probable

CB Rashaan Melvin

Hamstring

Limited Participation

Questionable

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Limited Participation

Questionable

 Jets

Player

Injury

Practice Status

Game Status

S Isa Abdul-Quddus

Ankle

Did Not Participate

Out

NT Brodrick Bunkley

Calf

Did Not Participate

Out

WR Marques Colston

Foot

Full Participation

Probable

G Jahri Evans

Back

Full Participation

Probable

DE Glenn Foster

Ankle

Did Not Participate

Questionable

LB Junior Galette

Hamstring

Full Participation

Probable

CB Jabari Greer

Back

Limited Participation

Questionable

S Roman Harper

Knee

Did Not Participate

Questionable

DE Akiem Hicks

Knee

Limited Participation

Questionable

DE Tom Johnson

Foot

Limited Participation

Questionable

LB Curtis Lofton

Knee

Limited Participation

Probable

CB Patrick Robinson

Foot

Limited Participation

Questionable

T Zach Strief

Neck

Full Participation

Probable

DE Tyrunn Walker

Knee

Did Not Participate

Out

CB Corey White

Illness

Limited Participation

Questionable

LB Martez Wilson

Elbow

Full Participation

Probable

 **

BUCCANEER PLAYER TO WATCH: LB MASON FOSTER

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense tallied five sacks in the Week One contest against the Jets, with four of those quarterback takedowns coming from linebackers, interestingly enough.

Of those four sacks by Bucs ‘backers, two were notched by third-year pro Mason Foster – a tally that after just one game has already equaled his career high for a full season.

“It was about great calls from [Defensive Coordinator Bill] Sheridan and [Head] Coach [Greg] Schiano and just playing hard,” Foster cited as the factors behind his big day. “As a group, our linebackers, we tell each other to play with a lot of effort and do whatever we can to help the team win, if it’s special teams, rushing the passer, making tackles, anything. We were just happy we could play a part in making plays.”

Of course, with quarterback Drew Brees and the high-powered New Orleans Saints offense coming to town Sunday, Foster and the rest of the Bucs defenders know the onus will be on them even more to come up with game-changing plays.

“They’re a great all-around team,” Foster said. “Great quarterback, a lot of weapons on offense. So it’s going to be tough. We’ve just got to come in and be prepared for everything.

“They’ve got a great quarterback. He’s good at finding mismatches and taking advantage of any little mistake you make. Honestly, nothing really affects him too much. He’s been in the league a lot and he’s seen it all. It’s tough sitting here and saying, ‘If you do this, you’ll stop Drew Brees.’ We’ve got to go out there and play hard, contain him, and try to stop him a little bit.”

Although emotions will surely be running high as the Bucs prepare for their home opener against a division rival, Foster was asked if there would be any lingering effects from the team’s heartbreaking Week 1 loss in New York.

“Any time you lose, it’s always tough, especially a tight game like that where you’re in it the whole time,” Foster said. “You’ve got to keep fighting. We’ve got a great group of guys and we had a great practice [Wednesday] and I feel like we’re going to bounce back. You can’t harp too much on it. We watched the film, and now it’s on to the next. It’s a long season, so you’ve got to continue to get better and keep working.”

Overall, the key to bouncing back from the Jets game, continuing to come up with sacks and other splash plays, and beating a hated rival in front of the home fans this week is to keep playing the Bucs’ patented brand of hard-nosed football, Foster says.

“I think we definitely are a physical team, and we feed off each other,” Foster said. “If Lavonte [David] makes a big hit, I feel like I’ve got to make a big hit. If I make a big hit, Dashon [Goldson] feels like he’s got to make a big hit. It goes across the board, and I love it. I love that type of football, and I’m excited to go out there on Sunday and get to hit somebody else.

“It’s a new season, it’s a new team, we’ve got a bunch of new guys, so we’re going to go out there and play as hard as we can. Saints-Bucs is always a dogfight, so I’m excited.”

**

KEY MATCHUP: BUCCANEERS RDE ADRIAN CLAYBORN VS. SAINTS LT CHARLES BROWN

Adrian Clayborn is in his third season with the Buccaneers and Charles Brown is in his fourth with the Saints, but this is a matchup that has rarely been contested.  Brown is stepping in as an opening-day starter for the first time after the departure of Jermon Bushrod to the Chicago Bears, and Clayborn is just getting back into the groove after missing most of last season with a knee injury.

Clayborn and Brown did square off once in 2011, Clayborn’s rookie season, and the Buccaneer end had two tackles and a quarterback pressure in Tampa Bay’s 26-20 win on October 16.  This time around, the Buccaneers hope that Clayborn and his pass-rushing pals do more to affect the timing of QB Drew Brees.

Tampa Bay’s defensive front came up with five sacks in the season opener at New York, and while four of those belonged to linebackers, all involved agreed that it was the strong work of the defensive line that led to the sack opportunities.  Clayborn, who had 7.5 sacks as a rookie before his lost follow-up campaign, figures to be one of the team’s primary sources of pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year.  Brees is one of the league’s toughest quarterbacks to sack, going down roughly 1.2 times per game throughout his career, but his record in games in which he does get sacked at least three times is well below the overall baseline he has established.

**

TEAM RANKINGS

Neither the Buccaneers nor the Saints will be defined by where their offensive and defensive rankings stand after just one game.  Still, there are some familiar numbers in the chart below, such as New Orleans ranking in the top five in passing yards per game and Tampa Bay’s defense putting up good numbers in most categories.

There are some unfamiliar notes, as well, including the Saints ranking in the top 10 in points allowed and the Buccaneers coming in third in sacks by the defense.  Here is how the team’s compare in the league rankings after just one week:

OFFENSE

BUCS RANK

SAINTS RANK

Points Per Game

24t

17t

Yards Per Game

29

8

Rushing Yards Per Game

24t

19

Average Per Rush

30

27

Passing Yards Per Game

23

5

Sacks Allowed

18t

10t

Interceptions Thrown

10t

10t

Third-Down Efficiency

20

11t

Punt Return Average

7

25

Kickoff Return Average

3

12

 

DEFENSE

BUCS RANK

SAINTS RANK

Points Per Game

10

7

Yards Per Game

12

18

Rushing Yards Per Game

20t

19

Average Per Rush

14

32

Passing Yards Per Game

12

20

Sacks

3t

9t

Interceptions

9t

9t

Third-Down Efficiency

14

5

Punt Return Average

19

21t

Kickoff Return Average

18t

1t

 

OTHER

BUCS RANK

SAINTS RANK

Turnover Differential

13t

9t

Gross Punting Average

14

6

Net Punting Average

4

10t

Field Goal Percentage

1t

1t

 

**

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • RB Doug Martin has 12 career rushing touchdowns and needs only two more to pass LeGarrette Blount (13 from 2010-12), and Doug Williams (13 from 1978-82) for 10th most in franchise history.
  • QB Josh Freeman has 1,116 career passing completions and needs two more to surpass Trent Dilfer (1,117 from 1994-99) for second-most and 11 more to pass Vinny Testaverde (1,126 from 1987-82) for the most completions in team history.
  • Freeman has 902 career rushing yards and needs four more yards to pass Vinny Testeverde (905 rushing yards from 1987-92) for first in franchise history for rushing yards by a quarterback.
  • WR Mike Williams has 24 career touchdown catches and with one more he will surpass Dave Moore (24 touchdown catches from 1992-2001, 2004-06) for fifth-most in franchise history.
  • Williams has 2,783 career receiving yards and needs 60 more to crack the top 10 in franchise history by passing Lawrence Dawsey (2,842 receiving yards from 1991-95).

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