Saints vs. Buccaneers: 7 Keys to the Game for Tampa Bay
Fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have many reasons to be excited, especially now that their team is coming off of a 38-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. They should also be excited that their next opponent is the 1-4 New Orleans Saints. By all means, this is a winnable game for Bucs, who have a 2-1 record playing at Raymond James Stadium this season. But in order to win, a number of things must go right for Tampa on Sunday. Let's take a look at those things.
Throw the Ball Deep
Last Sunday, the Bucs coaching staff finally took my advice (yes, I'm taking the credit for this one), and let Josh Freeman throw the ball deep on a more consistent basis.
Freeman finished the game with 328 passing yards and three touchdowns, his best numbers of the season.
So why not continue to air it out against the Saints, who give up an average 8.6 yards per attempt, 283 passing yards per game, and have produced only 11 sacks and three interceptions?
Keep the ball in the air, and watch the scoreboard light up.
Doug Martin's Continued Development
Doug Martin had arguably the best game of his young career against the Chiefs.
With just 13 carries, he rushed for 76 yards, a 5.8 YPC average. He also had the longest run of his career, a 23-yarder.
He also produced in the receiving game, adding a 42-yard reception to his stat line.
Say what you want about an improved offensive line (we'll get to that later), it cannot be denied that Martin looked like a much better player, having learned how to make the most of his 5'8'', 215-pound frame to evade defenders and break tackles.
Block the Run
Like Doug Martin, the offensive line also had its best game.
Running the ball, the Bucs picked up 145 yards with 6.0 YPC. They had two long rushes of 23 yards and 35 yards, respectively.
Most of this is due to an offensive line that is finally clicking. The O-linemen are understanding each other's tendencies and so we see an improvement.
Now, if they can just continue to improve...
Don't Make Boneheaded Mistakes
I think this video is pretty self-explanatory.
A big part of the Bucs' defensive success during Week 6 was due to great tackling.
To quote ProFootballFocus,
This is not your Buccaneers of last season for sure. Just two missed tackles in this game—that’s less than Tanard Jackson averaged a game (2.4) on his own in 2011.
If the Bucs can minimize the yards after catch for the Saints by tackling them as soon as they get the ball, half the battle is already won.
Once again, it's time to let ProFootballFocus handle this one.
With Aqib Talib suspended, E.J. Biggers (+3.1) steps into the role of starting cornerback for the Bucs. Against Kansas City, Biggers was strong in coverage, allowing two receptions for 19 yards. On the year, the cornerback has given up just three catches on 10 targets, with three pass break-ups, and is allowing 0.5 yards per snap in coverage—the fourth-best mark among all CBs.
Aqib Talib's suspension seemed like a death sentence for the Bucs secondary when it was first doled out, but since E.J. Biggers did so well against the Chiefs, we might actually see an improvement.
Key word: "might"
The Bucs rookie safety also showed up big time Sunday, landing eight tackles, two tackles for a loss, one pass deflection, and one interception.
Those stats don't even reflect how Barron was swarming to the ball on seemingly every play. If he didn't make a tackle, it was because someone else got there first.
Barron will be tasked with making sure that the Saints wideouts don't get behind him and cause havoc in the secondary.
If what we saw Sunday was any indication, he's up for the challenge.