To watch the Bucs play on Sunday Night Football game and not see anything to highlight, is a new feeling for this year. There are plenty of things that the team has to work on, such as the gameplanning, special teams, and chemistry between the offense. But there are so many things that this team was doing well, but it seems as if I would be nitpicking too deep into the team if I were to bring those things up. Was this just a flash in the pan of the Saints’ greatness, or should you be worried about the fact that the Saints have done this to them twice?
For starters, the offense had the return of Chris Godwin and the debut of Antonio Brown. Godwin was playing with a splint on his hand, because his finger was broken while catching a touchdown pass from Brady a couple of weeks ago. Godwin, Evans, and AB may be the best trio of receivers in the league, yet they did not do anything worth noting.
At this point, it’s a relief to see them all on the field together and finishing a game healthy. Evans went down early with what seemingly was a groin injury, but he returned after a team timeout. Antonio Brown had a few catches too, and he was the only person on offense who showed life, after screaming after getting a first down, but they were down 31-0 by that point.
Tom Brady may have played his worst game in his long illustrious career, so there’s that as well. The run game was not even used, due to the game being out of hand after the first few possessions. The Bucs looked like a JV team playing against the state champion varsity team all night. No way around it.
The defense was shown up by the unique play calling of Sean Payton and the integration of Michael Thomas back into the offense. Every phase of the Bucs defense just looked lost out there. The linebacking core was caught making adjustments as the Saints snapped the ball on multiple occasions and even gave up a touchdown due to it. Taysom Hill taking snaps was something that seemed to give them problems all night and he was running wild all over this defense.
Shaq Barrett did have a strip sack that looked like it would shift momentum in the game, but it was futile. There was also a strip on Jared Cook that this defense created earlier in the game, but a three and out was what the offense followed it up with. As high as I am on this defense, they did not perform to the best of their abilities at all and easily had their worst game of the season, even though they were not the reason for the loss.
Bruce Arians is the head coach and has not been able to get this team to play consistently all year. They have many ups and downs and in the playoffs, you cannot have that be the case. A lot of Bucs fans were unhappy with them being swept in the season series by the Saints, and I saw even a few of them calling for his job. Now I do think that may have been a product of being a prisoner of the moment and he does not deserve to be fired, but this is an issue.
Arians has been outcoached twice by Sean Payton, and if this team wants to win a Super Bowl then he has to be able to get through the Saints. Even though he has Tom Brady and it may seem as if that is all that is needed to take the next step, he needs to have his team ready on both sides to play a divisional rival. As of now, Atlanta and Carolina are not as much of a threat to the division lead as New Orleans is. If they cannot get past them in the standings, a wild card round against them could prove to be this team’s kryptonite.