NEW ORLEANS -- Time for some halftime observations and notes on the Saints and Buccaneers with Tampa Bay leading 10-7.
The Saints, who already had several injured players sitting out, are getting more banged up. Safety Malcolm Jenkins (knee), running back Chris Ivory (foot) and tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle) all left the game in the first half. The team just said all three players are questionable to return to the game.
I know New Orleans coach Sean Payton said he wouldn’t be watching the scoreboard, but maybe he should. As I type this, Atlanta has a 21-0 lead against Carolina. Assuming the Falcons don’t fall apart, they’re headed for the NFC South championship and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. That would leave the Saints as the No. 5 seed and they can’t improve their seed as long as Atlanta wins. With the injuries piling up, Payton might be wise to rest his starters and not risk more injuries.
New Orleans’ Drew Brees now has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 27 consecutive games.
Tampa Bay may be the youngest team in the league, but you should be able to get your players on and off the field in a timely fashion by the final week of the regular season. The Bucs couldn’t pull that off consistently. Mainly due to problems getting the proper personnel on the field, the Bucs used their third timeout of the half with 13:52 left in the second quarter.
Looks like the Bucs got the better of the Antonio Bryant "trade." Rookie Dezmon Briscoe had a spectacular touchdown catch midway through the second quarter. You might remember Briscoe as the guy the Bucs signed to their practice squad after he was cut by Cincinnati. The Bengals wanted to bring Briscoe back to their practice squad, but the Bucs beat them out by offering Briscoe a contract worth about three times what practice-squad players make. They kept Briscoe on the practice squad most of the season, but activated him after Arrelious Benn suffered an injury. Bryant, Tampa Bay’s top receiver a year ago, was allowed to walk in free agency because the Bucs didn’t want him back. He signed with Cincinnati, but was released in the preseason.
When Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris looks back on this season, I hope he scraps the Wildcat package entirely. The Bucs used it once in the first half, putting Josh Johnson in at quarterback. He pitched the ball to Micheal Spurlock, who continued rolling to the right. Spurlock pulled up and tried to throw across the field to Johnson, but the Saints had the play covered all the way. Gimmicks are nice, but they’re not needed when you have a real quarterback. The Bucs have a very real quarterback in Josh Freeman and they shouldn’t waste their time by taking the ball out of his hands.