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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints: Keys to the Game

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Dec 29, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon (8) is sacked by New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette (left) and outside linebacker Parys Haralson (98) in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans defeated Tampa Bay 42-17. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Game 5: ‘The Jolly Roger 101’

Welcome back to another Keys to the Game segment, Who Dat Nation. I hope you are in better spirits from the loss to the Cowboys last week, but I can understand if you aren’t. Maybe you might need a week off if you are really that frustrated. We’re focused on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday, and we’re back in the Superdome!

As always, we begin with some power rankings for the black and gold:

  • ESPN – #21 (Previous Rank: #15) -6
  • CBS – #26 (Previous Rank: #18) -8
  • FOX – #25 (Previous Rank: #16) -9
  • NFL – #22 (Previous Rank: #14) -8
  • USA Today – #23 (Previous Rank: #16) -7
  • Who Dat Dish – #23 (Previous Rank: #14) -9

These are real rankings gang. You can’t really argue or reason with it. The Saints simply have not played up to their usual standards.

What to Watch For

Offense – The Saints offense is averaging well over 100 yards rushing per game, but the biggest issue from last week was the play selection. 44 passing attempts to 13 rushes. Granted, the team was trailing, but we found success in the run department, even without Khiry Robinson’s 62-yard run. Where are the shots down field? Why aren’t we seeing anything from Nick Toon or Joe Morgan? Drew Brees has told Who Dat Nation to ‘Have Faith’. I know for a lot of us, we believe Drew. However, for the vast majority of us, we want to see it on the field. The dropped passes aren’t helping either.

Defense – Can we stop missing tackles? That’s all I care about at this point. There’s way too much emphasis on ‘going for the strip’ right now, and it’s allowing plays to go for extra yards. We aren’t getting pressure on the quarterback, and it’s just a horrid sight right now. Surely we can get after Mike Glennon, right? With the recent news of wide receiver Mike Evans being ruled out for Sunday, we should have a much better showing in the secondary. The keyword: should. Here’s an interesting tidbit for you, after Curtis Lofton, the Saints leading tackles are: Kenny Vaccaro, Jairus Byrd, Corey White, and Rafael Bush. One of these things are not like the other. With the very fresh news of no more Jairus Byrd for the rest of the way, it’s the Rafael Bush show.

Special Teams – Please, please, please. Shayne Graham, do not miss another field goal, especially at the Superdome. We don’t need another Garrett Hartley situation on our hands, and Graham was given the ‘vote of confidence’ from Sean Payton because of the experience. He’s missed an extra point and field goal in this very young season.

Key #1 – Get Off the Field

The Cowboys went 8/14 on third down last week, and those stops didn’t really come until the end of the game. With that type of efficiency, anyone can put up points on the Saints. The defense needs some early three-and-outs, and that’s all I want. Turnovers are nice, but let’s just get off the field to give the ball to our offense to strike. The Saints had the ball for a whopping 25:30 last week. A tired defense with an ineffective offense doesn’t work in any way, shape, or form.

Key #2 – Take Shots

We’re all waiting for smarter play calling to emerge right now. The Saints have not had many shots down field, but the shots they have taken have been relatively successful. We dare say that Sean Payton’s play calling is becoming ‘predictable’. Of course, this is just an observation. The fact that we had Pierre Thomas only touch the ball five times against the Cowboys last week was a bit disturbing, and then we had five receivers dress on the night, but did you even see Robert Meachem or Nick Toon’s number called?

The Bucs are fairly strong against the run, so it will be a bit of a challenge to see if the Saints can muster their fifth straight 100-yard rushing game. I expect a fairly big aerial assault from Drew.

Key #3 – Keep the Foot on the Gas (Finish Strong)

When the Saints trailed last week, the Saints were able to score twice in 25 seconds and 1:38. We know they jumped off to a big 14-0 lead against the Vikings during their last home game, but only wound up winning 20-9. We know the Saints can kick it into overdrive to start, but let’s see them finish things out. I won’t say that they’ll put up another 40+ point effort against the Bucs like they have in the recent home games, but we sure could use it.

Difference Maker

There are so many players to choose from, and I believe this has to be someone on defense this week. I talked about Cam Jordan as one of my five impact players for the week, and I’ll stick to him being the difference maker in this game. The defense needs a leader to step up and emerge, and who better to get things going than our star sack artist from a year ago? I believe if Jordan can find early success, it will help fuel the Superdome, and more importantly, help rebuild the confidence for the defense. We need someone to be that ‘spark’ for the team.

Did You Know?

  • This is the 44th meeting between these two squads. The Saints lead the all-time series 27-16.
  • The Saints have won the past five matchups against the Bucs, with the last loss coming in 2011, when the Bucs beat the Saints 26-20 at Raymond James Stadium.
  • In the past two home meetings, the Saints have scored 40+ points in each game. In fact, they’ve outscored the Bucs 83-17.
  • Drew Brees needs just 64 yards to reach 40,000 passing yards with the Saints in his 132nd game. He’d be the fastest player to ever eclipse that mark with a team in NFL History.
  • Saints, Buccaneers Connections

Closing Thoughts

I don’t care how the past two matchups in the Dome have went, or the fact that the Saints have won the past five matchups against the Bucs. This game should be treated as a ‘desperation’ game, and the Saints need to win. Managing 2-3 going into the bye week is a start, as we still have a great deal of the season remaining. If you’re going to the game, you should treat it like any other home game, and yell as loud as possible. This team needs you, and we need to keep believing that our boys will right this ship.

Prediction: Saints 30, Bucs 17

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