Gus Kattengell’s Saints Report – Bucs Game
Saints-Bucs Sunday, a win and you’re in the post season where the team could be one of three different seeds. By kickoff we’ll know if the Saints can still be NFC South Division champs and the second seed, for that to happen Carolina must lose at Atlanta. A Panthers win would mean that the Saints will playing for either the fifth or sixth seed of the Wild Card.
Saints head coach Sean Payton says scoreboard watching or worrying about things they can’t control can hurt simply because there is only one game that they can control. “So for this weekend, we are not really,” says Payton, “looking at the scenarios, the records. We are looking at playing our best game here. We are coming back home, taking advantage of what we get when we play at home and playing a good football game.”
Last week’s loss to Carolina stung as the team outplayed the Panthers for most of the game but once again couldn’t find a way to close out the game. Can the team bounce back this week? “I think it was disappointing for all of us because it was right there,” says Payton. “I think there is a good many of them that understand how hard it is to get into this position and get a chance to win 11 games and play in the post season. I think today’s meetings and practice was sharp and I think they understand the importance of it. I don’t think this is a week where they can’t recognize or understand any of us can’t value the importance of this game. This would be like a playoff game.”
CAN’T JUST SHOW UP
New Orleans enters the game 10-5 while Tampa Bay enters at 4-11. The Saints have lost two straight and three out of their last four games, while the Bucs have also lost three out of their last four and two straight.
“We had some tough losses earlier in the year. It was a little bit of a weird year,” says Tampa head coach Greg Schiano. “Some of those games we almost invented ways to lose. I think what the biggest thing is our guys stuck together. There was no finger pointing. We have a great group of guys in that locker room and some real strong leadership. They show the younger guys the way to go. We are not near where we want to be. We’ve had a lot of injuries. We have 15, I guess 16 guys now on the IR. We just kind of tried to fight through all this stuff and we have one more opportunity on Sunday in New Orleans and we are looking forward to it.”
The Saints of course have plenty to play for but as for the Bucs a win could push them further down the draft board. So just how much effort will Tampa players put out on Sunday? “We want to go out with a win,” Tampa quarterback Mike Glennon said to local New Orleans reporters this week. “Every game the goal is to win and it’s no different for us. We want to play well for each other, for the coaches, for the organization, and go out and perform well and finish the season off strong and have some momentum heading into the off-season.”
The Saints are a talented team and have a more talent than the Buccaneers but that doesn’t mean that the Saints can simply walk onto the field and claim victory. “I believe they’ve won four of their last seven (games),” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said when asked about how tough a team Tampa could be on Sunday. “Defensively, I feel like they’ve always been a very aggressive, a lot of movement, guys flying around, pressure packages, that kind of stuff. They’ve got some really good players on defense at all positions: their front four, their linebackers, and obviously their secondary. Offensively it seems like they’ve hit their stride. (Mike) Glennon is playing pretty well. They are running the ball well. Obviously they’ve got some big play threats. I think they’re a team that’s kind of found their own as they’ve gotten towards the end of the season here, and they’re playing well.”
KEYS TO THE GAME
A fast start is a must for the Black and Gold. The Saints offense needs to get going and play the way they have all season at home that’s allowed them to be undefeated. Over the last five games the offense is averaging just 16.8 points which anything but an explosive offense. The good news is that four of those five games have been on the road. The Saints have one team at home and a different team on the road. In the comforts of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome New Orleans averages 32.9 points per game.
“I think those early downs are going to be important, staying out of those long yardage situations, avoiding the penalties and I think especially against this front, having balance where it is not one-dimensional,” Saints head coach Sean Payton says. “I think that will be important.”
Brees is just 219 yards away from eclipsing the 5,000 yard mark for the third straight season and no doubt the Saints will throw the football a lot on Sunday. They must also establish a run game however for two reasons. A balanced attack will help and secondly Brees has a bruised right knee and keeping him from getting hit might be a smart thing.
Defensively the Saints have been consistent and played well at home. Tampa Bay has struggled to score as well averaging 15.0 points over their last four games. I don’t see Tampa busting out with an offensive explosion this week.
Saints win 27-17 and unfortunately will enter the playoffs as a Wild Card and will play next week on the road.