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Keys to the Game: Buccaneers vs. Saints

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Defense

Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints defense showed up last week with a much better outing than the Rams showing, but the final drive is what anyone will remember from the game.

I’m not going to knock anything Rob Ryan has done, that isn’t the point. I think he’s done a far superior job than any coordinator that the Saints could have brought in has done this season. However, one wonders how the zone schemes were exposed in such a bad way last week, when the team played so hard to shut Cam Newton down.

At any rate, the big key here is watching our rush defense. Give the Saints credit, as they have averaged giving up 193 passing yards/game this season. The rush defense has given up 111 yards/game this season, and with the absence of Kenny Vaccaro the rest of the way, we will see how the Saints front seven will look to contain the Bucs attack.

What to Watch For: The third wheel. Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan have done an outstanding job this season getting to the quarterback. Jordan (12.5 sacks) and Galette (10 sacks) have accounted for 48% of the Saints (47) sacks this season. It’s a great sign, but who will end up emerging as that other sack threat? The next closest to Galette’s sack total is Akiem Hicks with 4.5 sacks on the season. While it’s not a bad thing to get help from everyone, teams account for the two heavy pass rushers, and if the Saints wish to go further in the postseason after this game, they will need someone like Hicks to step up.

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