It’s a bit of a surprise that the GOAT Tom Brady would need keys to victory against the Andy Dalton-led New Orleans Saints; but after a 5-6 start to the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need all the help they can get. The Buccaneers are currently first in their division at 5-6 while the Saints are last at 4-8. Had the Saints won their previous matchup this season, their divisional standings would nearly flip-flop, as this bad NFC South division is wide open. The path to the playoffs starts now for the Buccaneers, and it’s time to put up or shut up for the recent world champions.
Utilize the Two-Headed Backfield
Much like the Dallas Cowboys’ combination of the bruising Ezekiel Elliott and the finesse Tony Pollard, the Buccaneers have developed a similar backfield with Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White. After being underutilized for the majority of his rookie season, White has now had over 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his last two games. One was played entirely without Leonard Fournette, the other was while playing alongside a banged up Fournette. Fournette has not eclipsed the 100-yard mark since Week Six, so clearly White needs to continue to be involved. Also, Fournette had not surpassed four yards per carry since Week One until Week 10 when he averaged 4.07 yards per carry. That was in large part because he was able to have fresh legs while splitting the load with White. The passing attack from Tom Brady has not been up to par with Brady’s standards, and with Marshon Lattimore shadowing Mike Evans all game, the Buccaneers could be in store for another quiet passing performance. They need to power the offense through the running backs to control the clock and support Brady.
Keep Everything in Front of the Defense
The Saints are in heavy need of playmakers this season as Michael Thomas is out for yet another season, big arm Jameis Winston has been benched, and Alvin Kamara has struggled running the ball for over a month straight. The Saints will not be able to keep up with a slow, grind-it-out type game with the Buccaneers if they make use of both of their running backs as previously mentioned. The Saints have a few role players who have had huge plays this season, including Chris Olave, Taysom Hill, and Juwan Johnson. The Buccaneers will need to play a lot of zone coverage with plenty of help over the top to keep these players from sparking the offense. Tom Brady is a genius that can pick apart any defense if given the time and opportunity, but he will struggle if the Buccaneers defense gives up big touchdowns and puts the pressure back on the offense.
Move Mike Evans Around the Formation
Mike Evans is a prototypical X-receiver, meaning he is a big body receiver who lines up on the far outside of the offense on nearly every snap. Evans doesn’t have the turn of foot that Chris Godwin had when running routes, and Godwin doesn’t have the jumping ability that Evans has, so it makes sense to keep Evans outside and Godwin in the slot. The problem arises when Evans is forced to play against a man-to-man specialist corner like Lattimore who has proved to be a problem for Evans in the past. Evans has averaged a measly 37.8 receiving yards per game over his last five regular season matchups against the Saints. That is a sample size that spans three NFL seasons! The key will be for the Buccaneers to put Evans in the slot, put him in the wing-t position, and even put the 6’4 receiver at tight end. By constantly moving Evans around the formation, it will cause one of two problems for Lattimore. Lattimore will either be uncomfortable moving all over the field and may make some mistakes along the way, or the Saints will be forced to cover Evans with safeties and linebackers in order to keep the defensive formation intact. Evans would easily dominate any small safety or any slow linebacker that comes his way. Worst-case scenario for the Buccaneers, if Evans is moving over the formation and Lattimore continues to dominate, this will potentially leave Godwin one-on-one on the outside which could turn into huge gains and red zone touchdowns because of Godwin’s explosiveness.