Buccaneers-Saints Preview: Can the Bucs Save Raheem Morris?

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIDecember 23, 2009

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 29:  Head coach Raheem Morris of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on during the game-winning touchdown by the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 29, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Typically, in these previews, I'd give you the full on breakdown of the Bucs offense versus the Saints defense and vice versa. We'd talk about matchups and factors that could be important in deciding the winner of the game on Sunday.

Let's not kid ourselves here. There is absolutely no statistical advantage the Buccaneers hold over the Saints. There's no point in breaking anything down, because frankly, you know the Saints will win in every matchup.

That was painfully evident when the Bucs were trounced at home by the Saints 38-7 a few weeks back...and the Saints weren't even really trying all that hard.

So what really this football game is about is one man—Raheem Morris. After the debacle that was the Saints game, Morris fired defensive coordinator Jim Bates and returned the Buccaneers to the famed Tampa Two, but with Morris' own twist.

Unlike his predecessor Monte Kiffin, Morris the play caller loves blitzing and has a myriad of blitz packages to attack opposing quarterbacks.

Since taking over the defense, the Bucs have given up 324 yards a game (which would be good for 14th in the NFL), 17.25 points per game (which would be third in the NFL), and just 190.25 yards per game passing (which would have them fourth in the NFL).

Only stopping the run continues to be an Achilles' heel for the defense.

However, we can't know if this is really an improvement of the Bucs defense or just luck of the draw in the opponent. In three of the four games, the Bucs faced backup quarterbacks.

The Saints game will reveal the truth about the Bucs improvement on defense. It also may hold the future of Raheem Morris as head coach of the Buccaneers.

While the victory on the road in Seattle certainly helped his case, Morris hasn't been saved by that win. The Seahawks are a team that have obviously packed it in for 2009, while the Saints are still fighting for home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

A victory on the road in New Orleans would clinch Morris' return. However, another 38-7 styled shellacking may seal his fate.

These last two games are Morris' tryout. While the Glazers will take the entire season as a whole when deciding whether they like the direction of the franchise, they need to see that after a season of disappointment and failure, the team is beginning to come around.

A competitive game in New Orleans and a win at home against the Falcons would go a long way in providing good feelings for the ownership and maybe even the discontented fan base.

Except for maybe one game this season, Morris has had his team playing hard for him. For a 2-12 team to still care this deep into a lost season has to say something for the head coach.

He hasn't lost them. On the contrary, they're trying to save him.

The question is, can they save Morris from himself? Many of his team's problems have been self inflicted, making erratic decisions at inopportune times have cost this team in the win column.

Just like his rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, Morris has made some big time blunders in game management. It's been a learning experience for the young head coach.

Freeman is also a factor in the decision for Morris. After seemingly getting out his rookie yips in the second half of last week's game, Freeman's progression these last two ballgames will be closely watched.

If Freeman plays well in New Orleans, it's a win for Morris, even if the team loses.

If he returns to the rookie kid who threw five interceptions against Carolina, it won't look good.

So while this football game holds a lot of meaning for the New Orleans Saints, it certainly holds just as much for the Buccaneers' head coach.

My prediction? The Bucs will hang around for awhile and make it interesting before finally succumbing to the superior Saints.

Saints 30, Bucs 17.