-This will be the second matchup of the season for the Buccaneers and Saints and let's face it – the first one feels like ages ago. The Bucs visiting New Orleans on Halloween, right before their bye week, and were bested by their division foes 33-27. It was a game where nothing seemed to go right for the Bucs, save for maybe that 41-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans where he beat cornerback Marshon Lattimore to the end zone.
The Bucs' committed three turnovers in the game, which has been kind of a theme when playing the New Orleans' defense, that now ranks 11th in the league.
"I think they're a good defense," said Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich. "All good defenses find ways to create [turnovers]. I think some of them we gave to them, but I think they have created some. I think that's what good football teams do, and good defenses do. Obviously, they're a good defense. We just have to do a better job of protecting the ball. We respect what they do. We have a lot of respect on how they play, but protecting the football is really on us. We just have to do a better job of that and we're working on it this week."
The Bucs have been good this season at taking care of the football, overall. They sit tied for fifth in turnover margin at +9 thanks to a takeaway-happy defense and an offense that doesn't give it away often. Plus, they have the added advantage of being at home, where they are a perfect 6-0 this season, with all three losses coming on the road.
"Obviously, we're all happy we're 10-3, but 11-3 is a lot better than 10-3," said quarterback Tom Brady. "We're going to try to get to 11-3 against a team that's obviously given us a lot of problems. Always a tough team to play – for as long as I can remember playing football this is a team that is prepared, they're tough, physical, they've got a lot of threats on the defensive side of the ball, a lot of veteran players. They've got a good rush, great linebackers – Demario Davis is one of the great linebackers in the NFL and it's unbelievable how he plays the game. And in the secondary, Marshon [Lattimore] and Marcus [Williams] and Malcolm [Jenkins], [Bradley] Roby's a phenomenal player, [Paulson] Adebo's a great player – they've got players all over the field. P.J. Williams picked me off there in the last game, that still kind of pisses me off, probably six weeks later."
Oh yeah, Brady doesn't forget. And neither has the rest of the team dating back to last season when the Bucs lost on Sunday Night Football at home to the Saints.
"Last time we played on this stage, they put a whooping on us," said inside linebacker Lavonte David on Wednesday. "Whenever you have the chance to go out there and play again and play for a lot more – it's not just a regular season game. There's a lot more at stake so it should definitely be a fun football game. For us to get his win would be really huge to clinch the division."
All it takes is a win.
-While David is the longest-tenured Buccaneer, he's not the most veteran player on the defense. The Bucs added cornerback (and part-time safety now) Richard Sherman earlier this season and his impact has been felt throughout the secondary, especially, according to his coach, who was asked if Sherman has brought as much value as he expected when the Bucs signed him.
"Probably twice as much," said Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. "He has a lot of valuable experience from a technique standpoint and how to read things and splits and everything else going on for the younger guys in the room. And, teaching them how to watch film with the coaches. He's been invaluable in the meeting room."
And in a year where the secondary has been battered by injuries, having a guy that can pick up and play an entirely different position, if only for a few snaps, is dare I say, invaluable. And even when he's battled through injury this season, his worth and presence is still felt. You can't ask for much more than that from a new addition, who has acclimated himself quickly into the team and community. Sherman and his fellow defensive backs even hosted a holiday party at New Life Village, surprising underserved families with dinner, gear and gifts for the holidays.
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