Buccaneers vs. Saints: Live Grades and Analysis for New Orleans

James Ermilio@jimmyermilioCorrespondent IIIDecember 29, 2013

Drew Brees and the Saints will treat this one like a playoff game—win, and their season continues.
Drew Brees and the Saints will treat this one like a playoff game—win, and their season continues.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints advance to the Wild Card Round with a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Final Score:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

New Orleans Saints 42

Check below for grades and analysis!

New Orleans Saints Game Grades
Positional UnitHalftime GradesPostgame Grades
Pass OffenseA+A+
Run OffenseC-B-
Pass DefenseC+B
Run DefenseCB
Special TeamsCC
Bleacher Report

Postgame Analysis for the New Orleans Saints

Pass Offense: Drew Brees was incredible, with four touchdowns in the first half, 381 yards and a 78 percent completion rate. A remarkable 11 receivers caught passes from Brees in this game, including six different receivers with catches over 20 yards. Four different receivers had touchdowns in a truly phenomenal game from the Saints passing offense.

Run Offense: The Saints finished with nearly 100 yards on the ground in this game, a respectable finish despite a pedestrian 3.3 yards per carry. Khiry Robinson racked up 50 yards on 12 rushes for 4.4 yards per carry, and Pierre Thomas punched one in for a score.  

Pass Defense: The pass defense started strong and finished stronger—while Mike Glennon did have a pair of first-half touchdowns (including a 48-yard bomb on a flea-flicker), the Saints allowed him to gain just 5.3 yards per attempt through the air. Journeyman Tiquan Underwood racked up 93 receiving yards, but otherwise the Saints were fairly stingy in their pass defense.

Run Defense: The Saints run defense stepped up in the second half, allowing just 12 rushing yards. Admittedly, the Bucs didn't run much in the half due to the big deficit, but New Orleans has to be happy with the performance by the front seven.  

Special Teams: Thomas Morstead finished with a gross average of over 40 yards per punt and Shayne Graham knocked home all six of his extra-point attempts.  

Coaching: Sean Payton's squad emerged from its funk with a vengeance, winning every meaningful statistic from time of possession and turnovers to sacks (though they did manage to rack up nine penalties). The big plays returned and the defense frustrated the pedestrian Bucs offense. The Saints head to the playoffs with a road game in the Wild Card Round. 

Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) leaves the field after the game. The Panthers defeated the Saints 17-13 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports


Halftime Analysis for the New Orleans Saints

Pass Offense: The Saints needed a big game from Brees in a win-and-you're-in scenario, and they've gotten an incredible performance so far. Brees has four touchdowns and an 81 percent completion rate in one of the most impressive halves of football you'll ever see from any quarterback. An offensive game plan focused on taking the top off of a young secondary has allowed Brees to destroy the Bucs defense with a slew of huge plays. Five receivers have catches for over 20 yards, four different receivers have touchdown catches and eight have hauled in at least one reception on the day. 

Run Offense: It's been another unsuccessful half for the Saints running game, and another half in which it doesn't matter. The Saints mustered just 29 yards in the half, 15 of which came on a single run by Mark Ingram (another Ingram sighting!). Still, there hasn't been much need for a rushing attack with the Saints lighting up the Bucs through the air.

Pass Defense: One 48-yard Underwood catch off a flea-flicker sets this grade back a bit. Otherwise, the Bucs have just 72 yards passing in the half; with a yards per attempt average far lower than the already-pedestrian 6.7 that includes Underwood's catch. This hasn't been an elite performance from the Saints defense, but they haven't been asked to do much in a game that Brees controls.

Run Defense: Yet again, the Saints can't run the ball or stop the run, and yet again it doesn't matter. The Bucs have had success against the Saints' nickel package, with 63 yards on the ground at 7.0 yards per carry, including a 24-yard burst by Brian Leonard. Still, New Orleans has dominated in terms of possession and the Bucs haven't been able to punch it in with a run.

Special Teams: Graham has nailed all four of his extra-point attempts and Morstead knocked his only punt 41 yards.

Coaching: Coach Payton and crew have taken it to the Bucs secondary with great success. After struggling for a few games, they've returned to their signature big-play style. Their five first-half penalties are the only thing sullying an otherwise strong performance.