Tale Of The Tape: New Orleans Saints At Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- QuarterbackDrew Brees and the Saints may be the most motivated team in the league after last year’s debacle that was largely the fallout from the Bountygate scandal. Brees is one of the game’s most resourceful and accurate quarterbacks, and he would like to get the Saints back on track. Brees has the quick release, accuracy and guts to get the Saints back into the playoffs.Josh Freeman is an up-and-down quarterback who has the size, arm strength and athletic ability to lead the Saints to big wins. However, he lacks consistency and struggles to string good games together. While there is no question about his commitment, he seems to have a difficult time with his judgment. He will often force the ball into coverage and that results in costly turnovers.
- OffenseThe Saints have a slew of talented offensive players and the most important may be tight end Jimmy Graham, who is almost certainly the best player at his position in the league. Marques Colston knows how to get open and will not drop the ball. The Saints have three running backs who can contribute in Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram.The Bucs look to powerful Vincent Jackson for big plays and leadership. When Jackson catches a couple of passes in a game and gets his motor running, he becomes very difficult to stop from that point forward. Doug Martin had an excellent 2012 season and should give the Bucs consistent production on the ground this season.
- DefenseThe Saints made a major statement against the Falcons when they kept Atlanta out of the endzone even though quarterback Matt Ryan had the game in his hands in the final moments. It’s something that should stay with the Saints throughout the season. Linebacker Curtis Lofton is not a star, but he is a hard hitter who had five tackles against the Falcons.The Bucs need to be smarter and more efficient on defense. After taking the lead in the final seconds, the Bucs gave the Jets a chance to win the game when linebacker Lavonte David took a late-hit penalty and gave Jets PK Nick Folk the opportunity to win the game with a field goal. Leonard Johnson is a big hitter from the secondary and he had nine stops against the Jets.
- Special TeamsThe Saints are prepared to win any game on special teams. Garrett Hartley does not have a big reputation but he is accurate and prepared any time he is asked to put three points on the board. Sproles has the quick change of direction to produce productive returns on a consistent basis.Rian Lindell is a backup kicker whom the Bucs are fortunate to have. He gave them a late lead when he was successful on a 37-yard attempt that should have been the decisive score in the game. The Bucs will use Martin as a return specialist any time they need a big play to get back in the game.
The Saints had a statement game in Week One when they defeated the Falcons at home by making a last-minute defensive stand to preserve the victory. That’s a good first step for Sean Payton’s team, but they can’t let up on the road. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor