What it means: The Saints bounced back strongly from an embarrassing loss to St. Louis last week and also avenged an October loss to Tampa Bay. At 6-3, the Saints remain in sole possession of first place in the NFC South as they head into a big showdown with the Falcons next week. The Buccaneers continued their season-long struggle to be consistent. They never really got into an offensive rhythm, and a defense that played well in the previous meeting with the Saints was dominated. At 4-4, the Bucs have fallen into third place in the NFC South.
What I liked: I used to think it was simply a case of Drew Brees making everyone around him look better than they really are. But I’m now thinking that, as great as Brees is, he’s got a pretty amazing collection of talent at the skill positions around him. The Saints are loaded with running backs, tight ends and receivers, and they can hurt you in just about every way.
What I didn’t like: Tampa Bay inserting Josh Johnson to run a play out of the Wildcat formation on a third down near the end of the first half. It went nowhere and the Bucs had to settle for a field goal. Coach Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Greg Olson need to yank that play out of the playbook permanently. You don’t need gimmicks when you have a real quarterback. Although he’s been inconsistent this season, Josh Freeman can make a big play at any time, and he had the Bucs driving at the time they elected to run Johnson. Besides, the Saints were not at all surprised. The Bucs had put that play on film previously, and everyone in the building knew Johnson was going to run.
What else I didn’t like: Running back LeGarrette Blount continues to hold Tampa Bay back because the coaches don’t trust him in pass protection. Although Blount hinted he might be an every-down back this week, he wasn’t. Tampa Bay played Kregg Lumpkin, who is not going to scare any defense, in passing situations. Even when Blount was on the field, he hurt the Bucs. When the Bucs were driving in the third quarter, he was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that forced the Bucs to settle for a field goal. Replays showed Blount was slapping at the facemask of New Orleans defensive end Will Smith. When you’ve got Blount’s history, you shouldn’t even think about slapping someone.
What’s next: The Saints travel to Atlanta next Sunday to play the Falcons. The Buccaneers are home against the Houston Texans next Sunday.