Quicky Reacts: Saints Overcome Slow Start Against Buccaneers; Hang on to Win in Tampa Bay 35-28
Posted by Mejdy Jabr on Sunday, October 21, 2012
After falling down 14-0 early, thanks in large part to an early tipped and intercepted pass from Drew Brees, Aaron Kromer and Pete Carmichael put the game in the hands of Drew Brees, and he did not disappoint. Brees began exploiting the Buccaneers inexperienced secondary, specifically safety Mark Barron, who was pump faked and moved by Brees' eyes throughout a majority of the game. Initially, it was a lot of scheming that I'll go more in-depth with in a moment, but the TDs that tied the game and gave the Saints the lead were all Brees. The athletic catch and run after for the touchdown by Morgan was a thing of beauty, but Drew Brees made it possible with a hard pump-fake that Buccaneer corner Eric Wright totally bit on so badly that what was a split-second freeze felt like a millenium. On the touchdown that gave the Saints the lead that they would never relinquish, Brees froze the linebackers, used his eyes to move the safeties and hit backup tight end David Thomas (in for the injured Jimmy Graham) wide open over the middle on a seam route. When he wasn't really manipulating Buccaneer secondary personnel, he was putting on a clinic with accurate throws in tight windows to a myriad of receivers.
The end result? 27 completions on 37 attempts, 377 yards and 4 TDs.
- Offensive Playcalling was Superb... For the Most Part
After coming out running the ball in the early goings of the game, which, while it was a cute idea, was odd because that’s supposed to be the Buccaneers greatest strength, Kromer and Carmichael quickly adjusted, switching to a spread formation to beat a weak Buccaneer secondary that zones a lot. Brees was great, but the success was only possible because of the implemented spread. The Saints first and second touchdowns weren't just "shifts in momentum." They told a story, and it was that the Bucs were probably going to have no means of stopping the Saints passing offense for the rest of the day. The first touchdown was an underneath crossing route over the middle to Colston. The Saints continued to use him in the intermediate zones, and it kept working like a charm. Their second touchdown exploited the Bucs commitment to stopping Colston, using him as a decoy to get Sproles wide open over the middle.
Besides the adjustments, the aggressive, smart playcalling on offense was also something that I'm sure Sean Payton was proud of today. They ran the ball 25 times, mostly to minimal success, but it gave the offense balance and kept Tampa's defense honest. The fact that he went for the touchdown instead of the field goal in the final 2 minutes of the first half wound up being the difference in the game.
That being said, it made his late-game offensive gameplan that much more upsetting to me. Don't take your foot off of the pedal, Kromer. No game is over in the 3rd quarter.
- Spagnuolo Must Continue to Work with his Secondary
Before ripping into them a little, I have to note that the defense was generally in position to succeed for most of the game. In the first quarter, there were a lot of holes in coverage that can't just be pinned on a player not executing or misunderstanding his assigned zone, that's scheme. In the second quarter, Spags made the right adjustments, and the defense started to hold up against Freeman. There is success to be had against Freeman if the opposition is getting pressure on him, and the Saints eventually found ways to make him uncomfortable in the middle two quarters. In the first quarter, the refs made an awful call in not giving Harper the pick that happened due to pressure by Vilma (props to him for looking nice out there today in his return).
The defense, as we've talked about in previous post-game articles, is truly bend but don't break. The safeties kept everything in front of them all game long. Pat Robinson, in the few man situations that he found himself in, was terrible as usual, but he was against the 6'5" Vincent Jackson for chunks of the game, so it's not like he was getting beat by a nobody (i.e. Brandon Lafell).
Side Note: The Vincent Jackson 90 yard reception was not just a lucky grab off of a tip by Roman Harper. Robinson and Harper actually executed the coverage decently, but they made the bone headed mistake of both trying to make a play on the ball. While Roman Harper did so semi-successfully, Jackson was still there for the catch and took off. Malcolm Jenkins, as I'm sure you all heard about from John Lynch if you were watching the FOX Broadcast of the game, made a great hustle play that stopped V Jax at the NO 2 yard line.
- Shhh... The Saints' Defensive Front Four Quietly Looked Stout Against the Run Today...
While it was quite noticeable in the third quarter goal-line stand, the one in which Schiano arrogantly called three runs up the middle for Legarette Blount, the combination of Will Smith, Cam Jordan, Brodrick Bunkley, Akiem Hicks, and Tom Johnson got penetration against a decent Buccaneer line all game long against the run.
Don't be fooled by the box score. The Saints allowed 16 rushes for 85 yards to Doug Martin today, but those kinds of numbers cannot always be attributed to poor defensive alignment. The Saints are still miserable tacklers, especially at the second level. Hopefully, the return of Vilma and him spelling Lofton will help in that department, but what this all means is that, yes, the Saints are not good in the department of rush defense. However, there is a ton of room for growth, and the tricky thing about this defense is that teams may be fooled into thinking that they have the advantage on 3rd or 4th and short, as the Bucs were today. Here are the facts: other teams don't have and advantage and Tampa clearly didn't today, and Spags can know that with supreme confidence now as he continues to get a better feel for his personnel every week.
Pass rush was awfully inconsistent, but it's miles better than it was a few weeks ago and did just enough to get the Saints the win.
The defense's late-game execution was a sloppy attempt at conservatism in which Spags went away from a lot of what was working in the middle quarters, but it's hard to nit-pick at these kinds of issues after such a big win.
- New Orleans is 2-4 and Still In Playoff Contention; Enter Joe Vitt
Kromer can now revert his attention solely to an offensive line that has already hit its stride. Joe Vitt should be able to provide the kind of fire and pedal-to-the-metal attitude that the Saints haven't been able to flash as consistently as fans would like. New Orleans is 2-4. It's not where they'd like to be, but it's not the worst position to be in after an 0-4 start. Next up, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
If there's any QB who can exploit a weak secondary in a zone, it's Manning. Spagnuolo will likely have to play next week more aggressively in order to give Brees and the offense a chance at stealing another one on the road.
|"Grr... Dirty, cheating Saints," says stupid, overbearing Tampa Bay Fan.|
- Bonus Link for You Curious, Whining Buccaneer Fans
The refs made the right call at the end of the game. Accept it. Move on.
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