By Kyra Hallett
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the New Orleans Saints Sunday at home. The Saints are 1-4 on the season and coming off their bye week. This will be the Bucs throwback game and it seems fitting for it to be against the Saints, since the Bucs’ first franchise win came against the Saints in 1977.
The Bucs have several things going their way in the game Sunday. They lead the series between these two teams 11-10 since 2001 with five of those wins coming at home. This season, the Bucs are 2-1 at home and 1-0 in divisional play with the Saints being 0-2 on the road and 0-1 in divisional play.
The Saints seem to be struggling with the absence of their head coach Sean Payton, who is suspended all season due to the bounty gate scandal. Offensive line/running game Coach Aaron Kromer has been named the interim head coach.
Quarterback Drew Brees doesn’t seem to be missing a beat. He has thrown for over 300-yards every game except in Week Three versus the Kansas City Chiefs where he threw for 240-yards and three touchdowns. For the season he has 14 touchdowns, six interceptions with a passer rating of 90.7 and 1,720 yards thrown.
Bucs head coach Greg Schiano, knows how difficult it will be to take on Brees. “It’s certainly a huge challenge now coming to play the New Orleans Saints and what they bring. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge,” said Schiano.
Brees had this to say about the Bucs defense as a whole and how Schiano has changed them:
“They play with a lot of energy, a lot of, I’d say, swagger and attitude. You look at (them) statistically and their defense against the run is quite impressive, they’re top five against the run in the NFL. That’s kind of a mindset. They’ve been very, very good there. They have been really good at rushing the passer with their blitz packages and then, really, with just their front four at times too. All of those things are stuff that we have to be ready to combat.”
Kromer had this to add about the Bucs defense:
“The first and second down passing appears to be good. They’ve been good on third down against the pass, they’ve had a good percentage. They’ve kicked it up a notch there. We definitely have to be able to establish some sort of running game and do what we do.”
Regarding Ronde Barber at safety, Brees said, “He is such a great athlete, versatile player and competitor that you can put him anywhere and he is a great football player.”
One of Brees’ main targets, tight end Jimmy Graham has been limited at practice. At this point, it is uncertain if he will play Sunday and that would be good news for the Bucs, as it would be one less threat to cover.
The Saints could be getting linebacker Jonathan Vilma back. He has been suspended due to the scandal, too, but he has also been injured. “Jonathan looks good. He is running around well and he is physically ready. He has made some plays in practice that you’re impressed with. We are excited and hoping he is ready,” said Kromer.
This match-up hits home with Buccaneer guard Carl Nicks. Nicks was drafted by the Saints and called New Orleans home for four years. Nicks has been looking forward to this game “for a whole bunch of reasons, but mainly so I can play the guys and play the team that let me go I guess.”
It is clear that the Bucs are happy to have him. “Carl has been a great addition. He is a physically dominating player. He has been a great guy to have in the organization. He has been a leader on the offensive line. He has really been a positive addition,” said Schiano.
Does Nicks feel the same way? “I really don’t like it here. I love it here. I think I made the perfect decision,” said Nicks.
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Kyra Hallett is a freelance writer and a Multimedia Sports Journalist. She has experience covering Tampa Bay sports in many outlets including Examiner.com. Her dream job would be to work with the athletes and their fans. You can view some of her work at KyraHallett.com or here at Examiner.com.