At last, the Buccaneers are in the win column against their division nemesis. Since Tom Brady's arrival in Tampa Bay, the Bucs have gone 0-4 against the New Orleans Saints in the regular season. Sparked by the defense in the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers pulled out a 20-10 victory in Caesars Superdome. During the final period, cornerback Jamel Dean put on a show. His two takeaways in the game's last 12 minutes led to 10 points.
The first came in a time of necessity for Tampa Bay. With emotions high, a scrum ensued midfield while the Buccaneers were getting into punt formation. A shove by Leonard Fournette on Marshon Lattimore and a subsequent push on Lattimore by Mike Evans, resulted in both Lattimore and Evans being ejected from the game. Two plays later from second-and-eight, Dean made an acrobatic leaping interception in the end zone.
"I kinda recognized the formation and then I was anticipating it," Dean stated. "Once I saw Jameis look where he was going, I just took off over there to get to where he was trying to go."
Tom Brady capped off the following offensive drive with a scoring pass to Breshad Perriman in the back corner of the end zone. On the ensuing defensive drive and two plays later, Dean picked off an overthrown pass, to the cheers of Bucs fans amidst a sea of black and gold. His second interception led to a Ryan Succop 47-yard field goal, extending the Bucs' advantage 13-3.
"The second, I just broke to the ball and realized it was an overthrown ball, so I thought it is another opportunity for me," Dean said.
Following training camp and the 2022 preseason slate, Dean came out on top of a head-to-head battle with Sean Murphy-Bunting for the starting gig opposite the incumbent, Carlton Davis III. Despite Murphy-Bunting receiving the majority of reps with the first-team defense, Dean garnered attention from the coaching staff for his instinctual play and ball-hawk prowess; both materialized on Sunday afternoon, fostering production. Dean possesses the versatility to cover the 'X' and 'Z,' and solidified the secondary against the Saints. Dean was selected by the Bucs in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, a year after Auburn teammate Carlton Davis joined Tampa Bay. In 2021 when Davis missed time due to a quadriceps injury, Dean took advantage of the starting role. He continues to take strides, elevating the club's defensive output.
Dean is physical at the line of scrimmage and challenges at the catch point. He is able to fluidly transition and burst out of breaks against quick routes. The fourth year player possesses the lateral agility to stay in position from press coverage and accelerates quickly to top speed. On Sunday against the Bucs' division foe, Dean displayed his awareness, route-recognition, and ball-tracking. He sparked the defensive resurgence in the fourth and is on track for a breakout campaign in 2022.