Even the most casual football fan probably knows how dangerous Drew Brees and the Saints passing attack is under Sean Payton and OC Pete Carmichael but we’ll take a look at some key stats to this week’s huge game at the Pirate Ship!
Calling the Saints pass-happy could be an understatement but they are quite sneaky fitting backs Mark Ingram (143 car, 758 yds, 5.3) and Tim Hightower (105 car, 422yds, 4.0) into the mix. You put so much focus into stopping Brees and applying pressure that you neglect how stout these two backs are. The Saints are top three in the majority of passing statistics but come in with a decent amount of carries with 302 (12th most) and for 9th best 4.3 yds per carry. Sneaky.
Obviously, though, all eyes will be on #9 under center. The Bucs secondary will undoubtedly have their hands full. With backup corner Jude Adjei Barimah out due to suspension (returns Dec. 24th) and safety Chris Conte questionable, Alterraun Verner and Keith Tandy will be used heavily in nickel and dime often with Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes to combat the three wide set of Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and the rookie who I like to call their next Marques Colston, Michael Thomas out of Ohio State.
What has driven this Bucs late season surge has been the turnovers this defense is regularly generating. Eight straight weeks the Bucs defense has forced a turnover, and during this 4-game winning streak, they have forced 11 extra possessions for Jameis and Co. The great part about it is, they’re not having to blitz to get the pressure needed to grab three pick-6’s this season, 2nd best in football.
Bar none, the Bucs come into this huge divisional game as one of the most confident football teams in the league right now. We have an identity and we know EXACTLY who we are. The Saints are coming into Tampa after a bad loss in Motown to the Lions 28-13, where they really looked lost for the majority of the game with three turnovers and a Brees game ending pick.