TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – In their final game before their Bye Week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face their divisional rival, the New Orleans Saints, in the Caesars Superdome on Halloween. It’s a matchup of two top-10 defenses in the NFL, in what promises to be an electric environment Sunday afternoon.
This past week, the Bucs improved to 6-1, marking their best start in franchise history. They weren’t far off last season, starting 5-2 through seven weeks, but even winning one more game at this point makes a difference in this league.
“Obviously they all count the same in the end, but they feel better when you’re winning and you’re learning,” said quarterback Tom Brady. “It’s hard when you put yourself behind the eight ball and lose a bunch of games early in the year. You feel like you’re always behind. You want to give yourself the best opportunity, especially down the stretch, and put yourself in a great position. It’s just winning games, stringing them together, playing well consistently. We’ve done a good job of that. We’ve put ourselves in a decent position at 6-1 and after this game, we get a Bye Week and a break.”
And going into the bye week at 7-1 sounds a lot better than 6-2.
For that to happen though, the Bucs will need to keep protecting Tom Brady as they have been, allowing him to throw 21 touchdowns and just three interceptions through seven games. Brady leads the league in passing yards (2,275), passing touchdowns (21), and completions (203) and is second in NFL in TD-INT ratio (21-3). The Bucs are also third in the league in points scored, averaging 33.3 points per game. And in the last three games, they’re averaging 37. Now it’s a matter of keeping that up week-in and week-out.
“We want to play great every time we take the field,” Brady said. “We want to play great every snap we take, every drive. I think we all get frustrated if we have three-and-outs. It’s an imperfect game and we’re trying to play it in a very perfect way. It’s just a very challenging game to get everything kind of exactly the way you want it. I can probably count on one hand the number of games – out of the 300-plus I’ve played – that went exactly the way that I hoped. I always want them to go that way, oftentimes they don’t. We’re just going to keep fighting to make it the best we can.”
But Brady and the Bucs know what they’re up against in the Saints’ defense, which ranks third in the league in points allowed (16.8). This week, head coach Bruce Arians said this will be the best defense they’re going up against so far — even better than the Rams, who handed them their only loss of the season.
“It’s a better 11,” Arians said. “The Saints are a better 11. The Rams are a really good defense, but the Saints are a better 11.”
“I think they have a lot of guys who can do different things,” Brady said. “Certainly (they have) guys that can win with speed, certainly a lot of guys that can win with power, guys that win with effort. It’s a collective group. The linebackers blitz a lot, the safeties can blitz. They tried a corner blitz on us last year. So, they have a good scheme that kind of always keeps you guessing. Anytime you have a team like that, we’ve got to make sure we’re communicating about what we see and how we’re going to deal with it, understanding they do a good job at what they do. Our line has done a great job all year. We’ll obviously know the situations that they’ll try to use some of their exotic stuff in, but it’s really one play at a time about execution and us all being on the same page and seeing things the same way. That’s the only way to deal with it.”
Another factor in this matchup is communication in a very noisy environment, and making sure that doesn’t cause pre-snap penalties.
“Yeah, that’s the thing,” Arians said. “We didn’t do it very well on the road so far, and it’s going to be loud. It’s time to clean it up. The post-snap penalties, they happen, but the pre-snap (penalties) have got to be eliminated. You can’t go into a game against these guys and beat yourself.”
“Everything goes into it,” Brady said. “We’ve just got to go out there – we know it’s going to be tough. We know it’s going to be physical. It’s going to be loud. They’re going to do a great job in their communication. They have a very talented football team, so it’s going to be a great football game (between) two very good teams that are hard-nosed, tough. Both teams are very well-coached. Both teams have a lot of veterans. So, this is going to be a great football game.”
The Bucs (6-1) and Saints (4-2) kick off at 4:25 p.m.
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