Check your pulse. Has it finally come to a rest after last week? What a nail-biter between the Buccaneers and the Rams. These games are usually the ones the Bucs could never hold on to win, but this time was different. At no point in the game did the Buccaneers not have a lead against the defending NFC Champs and they closed the game out with an exclamation point. With the momentum still tangible from last week, Arians has to get this team ready for another road game against a division rival. The current NFC South leaders at 3-1, the New Orleans Saints.
Whether this Buccaneers team is playing well like they are now or if they are in their usual state questioning their NFL relevance, the Saints will always have a tough time coming away with the win. Last week, the Saints Defense held a very efficient Cowboys offense to only 10 points total. Can they repeat it against a Buccaneers offense that just dropped 48 offensive points on a tough Rams defense? That’s what we will look at first in this week’s Keys to Cannon Fire and how the Buccaneers can take over the NFC South with a victory in the Bayou.
Payton versus Bowles
I’ll say this first, the Bucs offense and the Saints defense are going to battle it out and have their share of victories and defeats. What I am interested in is the chess match that is going to go down with a very creative and successful offensive mind in Sean Payton against the modern-day Lazarus in Todd Bowles.
What Todd Bowles has done this year with the pass rush and the overhaul from a 4-3 to 3-4 has been just plain amazing. You can look at the yards gained against them and the points scored, but it won’t tell the entire story. Not even close.
In the first two games, the defense only allowed two touchdowns. Week three was a different story with the coming-out party of Daniel Jones and his four touchdown contribution.
Week four against the Rams they allowed plenty of yards and points, but here’s why. The Buccaneers offense could not be stopped which allowed the Rams so many opportunities on offense. Jared Goff threw the ball almost 70 times! Almost any Quarterback in this league is going to drop some yards if given that many attempts.
This defense is also now the leader in rushing yards allowed per game/total. All of this after facing the likes of a four-headed monster in San Francisco, the league leader in rush yards (McCaffrey), the arguably most talented Running Back in Football (Barkley) and the mercurial, yet resilient Todd Gurley who just ran over the Seahawks.
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This Bowles front seven of Vea, Nassib, Gholston, Suh, David, Minter and the league MVP right now in Shaq Barrett is going to have to keep this pace. The Secondary will have to step up as I guarantee that Sean Payton is licking his chops with how average they have played.
Offensive Line Improvement Continues
How did this once questionable offensive line group keep Aaron Donald and crew off of Jameis Winston? HOW I ASK?! That was easily one of the keys to victory last week and lo’ and behold, the Buccaneers won with a stellar performance from Jameis Winston.
Across the board, the guys in the trench played out of their minds in Los Angeles allowing only two sacks. The Saints will try to improve on their 10 sack showing this season and succeed where the Rams failed. Donovan Smith will have to hold his own against Cameron Jordan. A player who has had Smith’s number a few times before.
With improvement in the pass protection may also provide improvement in opening lanes for Barber and Jones. The Saints are currently allowing 112 yards per game to opposing running backs. The offense needs to continue to expose this weakness and take control of the game away from Sean Payton. Arians and Leftwich know this. They know their opponent and what his mind is capable of.
Shut Down Another Elite Running Back
As mentioned previously, this defense has taken care of some of the best running backs this league has to offer. They will be tested yet again. Alvin Kamara is fast, shifty, smart, tough and can break off a run or catch from anywhere on the field. His rush attack is not the only weapon in his wheel house. Payton knows how to amplify his talents to fit the play call.
The Buccaneer’s interior defense is great at forcing the rushing game outside the guards but has also kept them inside the tackles well. This is why they have succeeded in containing the big run play. However, the Saints offense isn’t going to be a vanilla, run up the gut attack. They are going to make you think left and go right. They are going to get the speed in play to get outside and upfield. This defense must keep up with the speed of Kamara and the toughness of Latavius Murray to win this matchup.
Here’s a bit of good news for an already stout defense. Devin White returned to practice this week. No disrespect to Kevin Minter. He’s played very well, but the speed and awareness of Devin White are crucial for this game.
If the Buccaneers can shut down the run and get in the face of Bridgewater they can make him lose this game for the Saints. Have no doubt Buccaneers fans. If they don’t win, we are going to lose a lot of momentum heading in the next few road games. One in London against a Panthers team looking for revenge.