In Sunday's highly-anticipated NFC South showdown at Caesars Superdome, several players emerged in the Big Easy for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With a defensive resurgence in the fourth quarter, the Bucs put another tally in the win column – this time, against their longtime nemesis. Here are the top takeaways from the Bucs' Week Two matchup.
Jamel Dean Double-Interception Performance
Cornerback Jamel Dean turned the tide in the fourth quarter, activating the defense's onslaught. In less than 12 minutes, Dean amassed two interceptions that resulted in 10 points for the Buccaneers – half of the club's output. On the first, Saints' quarterback Jameis Winston faced pressure up the middle and released a deep play-action pass. No. 35 made a diving interception in the end zone that created a domino effect. The takeaway culminated in a Tom Brady-Breshad Perriman touchdown, giving the Bucs a 10-3 advantage. On the ensuing defensive drive, Dean showcased his ball-tracking two plays in. Winston overthrew Juwan Johnson on a corner route and Dean broke off to make a play on the ball as Mike Edwards sunk down in coverage. Winston wanted to push the ball downfield but forced it, allowing the Bucs' secondary to feast. The latter culminated in a Ryan Succop 47-yard field goal, extending the Bucs' lead. Dean spearheaded the attack with exceptional play, emboldening the team.
Mike Edwards Pick-Six
With just under five minutes to go in the fourth, the Buccaneers' defense struck again. Mike Edwards recorded a pick-six, sending the Tampa Bay sideline into an elated frenzy. On the specific play, Edwards originally lined up deep – appearing to be in a two-high shell coverage – then came down (robber) and undercut Winston's pass. He returned the interception 67 yards for a Buccaneer touchdown, making it a 20-3 ballgame. Edwards served in a multi-faceted role, making a play in man coverage earlier in game. He locked up Chris Olave and forced him out at the boundary on third down. Edwards was a difference-maker on the back end, solidifying the secondary against the Saints' star-studded receiving corps.
Catalysts: Devin White and Shaquil Barrett
Dean was not the only player who provided a defensive surge, fashioning the frantic push to victory inside the dome. Veteran cornerstones Devin White and Shaquil Barrett provided momentum. White and Barrett led an assault on Jameis Winston, totaling six sacks collectively. White led the defense with 11 tackles, and also added a sack, a pass defensed and a forced fumble. On the sack, White showcased his read-and-react skills. Following the snap, the Saints' running back picked up the corner blitz and White looped around to the inside, bursting up the A-gap to knock down Winston. That play was a microcosm of his instinctual play throughout the Week Two battle. In 2022, White has taken his game to the next level with a greater understanding of the Bucs' system, paired with his development in coverage in both man and zone. He has become a focal point in Todd Bowles' exotic blitz packages on third down, wreaking havoc on offensive game plans. On the edge, outside linebacker Shaq Barrett became White's menacing counterpart. Against the Saints, Barrett recorded two sacks, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, a forced fumble and five combined tackles. Barrett showcased his closing speed in the second quarter, chasing down Winston from behind on a scramble, and stripping the ball out. He consistently made plays, whether flushing Winston out of the pocket or dropping a ball carrier in his tracks. Both linebackers set the standard in Week Two.
Tom Brady Connection with Breshad Perriman
After failing to reach the end zone in the first half, the Bucs cashed in during the final period. The Saints rushed three and Brady took advantage, finding Breshad Perriman in a one-on-one with P.J. Williams down the right sideline. Brady released a perfectly placed throw, hitting Perriman in stride as he separated from Perriman in the end zone. Perriman showcased his straight-line speed, creating enough cushion for Brady to work his magic. His production between the hash marks garnered praise from Head Coach Todd Bowles.
"Well, he's always prepared," Bowles state on Perriman. "His readiness, his understanding of the game, doing the right things all the time, staying mentally sharp, doing all the little things…he's a pro's pro. He's a guy's guy, especially in the locker room. Understanding what he has to do to prepare so when the moment comes, it's not too big for him. It's routine for him and it's a small thing that goes under the radar but it's a big thing for us."