The Bucs will take on their second division opponent for the second time when the Saints come to town on Sunday. They won their rematch with the Carolina Panthers this past week in a game avenging their Week Nine loss. Unlike Carolina, this team coming to town, the Bucs had success against the first time around. In a game where virtually no one gave the Bucs a shot in Week One, Tampa Bay's offense came out blazing with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. They won in a shootout 48-40, almost letting the Saints come marching back in towards the end.
This time it will be quarterback Jameis Winston under center, which by default adds a little bit of a wrinkle for New Orleans. Though they aren't unfamiliar with him, he's undoubtedly a different kind of player than Fitzpatrick and how he operates the offense will follow suit. Something the Bucs will surely be breaking down is how the Dallas Cowboys were able to stop a red-hot Saints team that went into Dallas winning 10 straight.
"It was two hot teams – two teams that are both red hot," Head Coach Dirk Koetter said of the matchup. "Dallas latter part of the year here and the Saints 10 [straight] games. Low-scoring, which is lowest by far for the Saints. I thought Dallas just played really hard. Saints usually get off to such a fast start. I thought the fact I think [Drew] Brees missed his first four passes for the first time in a long, long time. They were incomplete, whether he missed them or not. I just thought Dallas played hard, got some momentum. That's a tough place to play. It's hard from a crowd noise standpoint to communicate there. Dallas got that early lead and held it. I just thought they executed very well."
Execution will be key again for the Buccaneers. The defensive effort against Carolina has been attributed to better execution by multiple coaches and players this week, so they'll look to continue that trend. As for the unique challenge New Orleans presents, no matter how familiar they are with the Saints, their signal caller makes every matchup a challenge. Drew Brees is a contrast from the opponent the Bucs faced last week in Cam Newton. Where you want to force Newton to stay in the pocket and not scramble with his legs to make plays, the focus for Brees is to get him off his mark. It's not easily done because the guy has one of the quickest releases in the NFL – and he's notorious for it. Not only is he quick, but he's accurate, too.
"It is – Cam [Newton] being so noted for his ability to scramble and extend plays," Defensive Coordinator Mark Duffner said of the contrast between the back-to-back opponents. "Brees is so accurate throwing, number one. Number two, he's quick with getting rid of the ball and they've done a great job of protecting him. It's all together a different challenge each and every week. We will all have our hands full, that's for sure."
"They hit them every play – didn't let them breathe," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy added. "Just didn't let them breathe. You hit somebody – I don't know how many street-fights you guys have been in, but when you get somebody on the ground, you just keep hitting them. They can't recover, and that's kind of what Dallas did. Don't be fooled by that. This is Drew Brees and Sean Payton we're talking about – don't be fooled by that at all."
Wide receiver Mike Evans capped off his Catch for Christmas last night at AdventHealth Training Center by surprising a group of Jr. Bucs who made good grades with a full evening of holiday fun. Evans snuck up on the boys as they were taking a picture and then proceeded to take them on a tour of the training facility. The tour ended in the indoor facility where there were inflatables and games set up for the boys to enjoy. Evans even launched a few deep passes as the kids dove left and right trying to catch each one.
Following the tour, a pizza party was set up in the Bucs' dining room. Evans and his family sat with the boys talking mostly football and how important education is. The evening wasn't quite over yet when after pizza, Evans took them into the auditorium where individual gift bags were set up for each child. The gifts included brand new Playstation 4s (with Madden 19) along with new shoes, clothes and of course, Bucs swag. It was the third event in a row for Evans and his family, who hosted a dinner for children at a residential shelter on Tuesday evening and a celebrity bowling tournament with his teammates on Monday night. Each event benefits the Mike Evans Family Foundation which focuses its aid on education and helping victims of domestic violence.
The Salty Dogs podcast had safety Andrew Adams on the show. His three-interception performance from Sunday was shockingly NOT the first of his career. His first three-pick game came in college while he was at UCONN when they played the University of Central Florida.
In the most unsurprising fact about Adams, he was actually a center-fielder in high school and committed to play baseball before he realized he couldn't give football up. It's not shocking considering his versatility on the football field. He's listed as a safety but he plays this hybrid role where he comes up underneath to play dime linebacker in certain situations. It was kind of necessitated with the injuries in both the linebacker and secondary groups. It's true that Adams is a little bit bigger than your average safety. It makes him a fit all over the field and if Sunday is any indication, successful all over the field, too.
Adams started his career with the New York Giants and overlapped with a certain Bucs' defensive end that's currently having a season of his own. Adams said that in New York he didn't really have the opportunity to watch and study Jason Pierre-Paul because he was still getting his feet wet as a young player. Now that he has the opportunity to watch him again, he's taking notice, just like the rest of us. He said it's great to see JPP playing at the level he is and he's in awe of his play up front.
Same, Andrew. Same.