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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady: Saints Make You Earn Everything

The Buccaneers will try to reverse their recent fortunes in the head-to-head series with New Orleans on Sunday, and it will take a full-team effort against a team that has had their number in recent seasons

Tom Brady has now started 40 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, postseason included, and his team has won 30 of them. Thirty-five of those 40 games have been played against teams that do not call Louisiana home, and the Buccaneers are 29-6 in such contests. That leaves five games against the New Orleans Saints, and only one of those went Tampa Bay's way.

That the Bucs' one win against New Orleans since the start of 2020 was in the playoffs is, of course, a critical part of the storyline since Brady's arrival in Tampa in that it kept alive what would become a Super Bowl LV title run. It does not, however, erase the frustration of the last two regular seasons or make this weekend's assignment any less challenging. After starting off their highly-anticipated 2022 season with a rousing prime-time win in Dallas, the Buccaneers now head to the Superdome, where they haven't won or even come within a touchdown of winning since 2018.

As noted in our preview of Sunday's game, there are some common threads in the Buccaneers' recent losses to New Orleans, most notably turnovers, sacks and penalties, of which they've suffered quite a bit more than their opponent. Those could be elements of the "code" that Head Coach Todd Bowles said the Bucs have to crack against the Saints, but the home team won't make it easy to do so on Sunday.

"They don't make a lot of mistakes, they make you earn everything," said Brady. "Every third down's important, every kicking situation's important, every third down in the low red area is important, turnovers are important. It's a lot of things that lead to winning and losing and obviously we haven't done a good job of that in the regular season. We're going to have to play a lot better if we expect to win."

The Bucs beat the Cowboys rather handily last Sunday night, 19-3, in large part because the defense was nearly impenetrable. Tampa Bay won the game by a 16-point margin despite scoring what was tied for its second-lowest point total in any game since Brady's arrival. The offense moved the ball relatively well but struggled significantly in the red zone, settling for field goal tries on each of its first five drives. The special teams were strong across the board but the game was lopsided enough that the kicking game wasn't really the difference.

Brady says the Buccaneers can't rely on just one of those three units to dominate on Sunday in the Superdome.

"I think it's just understanding why we're losing those games," he said. "There's reasons why in each game. You can look at them and look at why we won and why we lost, the one time we beat them. It's got to be good football – offense, defense and special teams. They're too good of a team to think that you can win one phase and win the game. It's a challenge because they're well-coached, they're put in good position to do well, they have a lot of good players, a lot of guys who have been together, played together for a long time."

The best thing the Tampa Bay offense did in Dallas was run the ball, with Leonard Fournette racking up his best yardage total yet as a Buccaneer (127) and the team hitting 152 yards on the ground. The Bucs finished the game with 33 runs and 29 pass plays, which is the sort of ground-air balance they haven't shown too frequently over the past two seasons, despite having the league's most prolific offense in that span. Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich said on Thursday that run-pass balance isn't the specific goal; rather, Leftwich wants the Bucs' offense to be 'multiple' so that it is able to win in whatever way becomes necessary on game day. As for this Sunday's game, Brady thinks that way is most likely to include another good day on the ground.

"[Fournette] was great and the line was great and the receivers blocked well and it was good communication," said Brady of the rushing game in Dallas. "We're going to need that all year, so it was a great way to start. We've got to continue to build on it and this is a good team to do that against because you've got to stay really balanced against these guys. I don't think you can turn it into a pass-a-thon. Stay balanced and be really efficient in what we're doing up front and play physical and don't turn the ball over and score points in the red area and play well in the kicking game and try to get some turnovers on defense – if we can do all those things I think we'll be pretty happy at the end of the day."

Getting the running game going would likely help slow down the rush against Brady, which in turn makes turnovers less likely to occur. And that has undeniably been one of the main issues in the Saints' recent run in the head-to-head series.

"That's probably the thing that jumps out the most, turnovers," said Brady. "They're a very physical team, I think they beat us up, physically. It's just a tough, hard-nosed team. They're well-coached, they've got a lot of good players. They've kind of had a winning organization for a long time. They know how to get the job done. They've got a lot of great core players on both sides of the ball that have been there a long time. It's a tough environment to play but you've got to go play…you play good teams on the road, you've got to go play well. The last couple times we've played them we haven't done a great job of that."

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