Game 8: Saints 31, Bucs 14
Track today's game with us.
Read and react.
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First, some notable items in today's St. Petersburg Times:
- Derrick Brooks will break a tie with Paul Gruber and play in his 184th game, the most by any player in Bucs history. Rick Stroud writes: "His perseverance has been exceeded only by his performance."
- Jon Gruden, the mastermind behind behind the Bucs' 30th-ranked offense, Gary Shelton writes, "is charged with concealment of weapons, with abandonment of strategy, with destruction of a football team."
- In The Point After, John Romano asked: "How bad is this offensive line that we're pining for the days of Roman Oben?" Shelton's answer: "The Roman Empire, I think we called the old days."
We'll be looking at a few things today:
- Reggie Bush, yes, but what about Saints receiver Marques Colston (No. 12), who has six touchdowns (make that seven now) to Reggie's one (that punt return against the Bucs)?
- The Bucs running game.
- Obvious passing downs. How many times will the Bucs deploy four, let alone three, wide receivers? On the Bucs Report podcast, Stephen Holder said the Bucs have so little confidence in their pass blocking they often stick with their base two-tight-end alignment to help protect the quarterback. Fewer swift receivers running pass routes means fewer opportunities. Hence, a dropped ball for the Bucs is far more critical than a dropped ball for the Colts.
Let's watch some football.
- Our announcers are Dick Stockton, sideline behemoth Tony Siragusa and Darryl "No Longer a Moose" Johnston, who reports the first ugly statistic: The Bucs offense has failed to score a touchdown in four of seven games.
- First third-and-long for Bucs. Three wide receivers, whoa, but Bruce Gradkowski very quickly checks to tight end Alex Smith. Nothing doing.
Saints 7, Bucs 0. Drew Brees is 5-for-5 in a methodical drive. Bucs blitzed on at least three plays to no avail. Touchdown to . . . Marques Colston, your frontrunner for rookie of the year.
- Cadillac for minus-4, Gradkowski sacked for minus-3, Gradkowski throws it away on third-and-forever. Oh boy.
- Third-and-7 for Bucs. Another pass attempt well short of the first down.
- Sweet Brees throw to Colston, who looks huge.
- Some new numbers out there for the Bucs: 27 (Torrie Cox); 31 (Phillip Buchanon).
- End of the quarter: Brees, 11-for-11, 157 yards; Colston, five catches for 61 yards; Gradkowski, 1-for-4, 5 yards.
- Brees' first miss. And the Saints fail to convert on third down for the first time.
Saints 17, Bucs 0. John Carney field goal. Remember when he played for the Bucs?
- Worst-case scenario: The Bucs play two tight ends much of the time to help with pass blocking, but how hard is it to rally with three or four receivers (two of whom are running backs or tight ends) going against seven faster defenders?
- All of which would explain why, as the announcers are saying, the Saints are swarming. Sure, it's seven against three.
- Third-and-10. Two wide receivers only and Gradkowski checks down to Michael Pittman. Case closed.
- Brees has missed his last three; whattabum.
- Can't catch a break. Big punt by Josh Bidwell, muff by Michael Lewis, but the ball trickles out of bounds.
- Small victory: four carries for Reggie Bush for minus-7 yards.
- Geez. Brees throws into Cox's chest, but no interception.
- Third-and-11, three wide receivers, and Gradkowski checks to Pittman for nothing. Gradkowski is 3-of-10 for nine yards. Cadillac has seven carries for 10 yards. No first downs.
- Did I hear an alarm clock? Gradkowski takes a big hit but delivers a 28-yard strike to Joey Galloway.
- Bucs defense is stepping up or Saints offense is playing conservatively.
Saints 17, Bucs 14. Wow. Gradkowski is better with a lineman in his face. Threaded strike to Galloway. Saints have allowed touchdowns on each of opponents' past 11 trips inside 20-yard line.
- Gradkowski, 12-for-23, 141 yards, 2 TDs.
- Cadillac, 9 carries, 16 yards.
- Galloway, 4 catches, 97 yards, 2 TDs.
- Brees, 13-for-19, 168 yards, 2 TDs.
- Colston, 6 catches, 65 yards, TD (photo at right)
- Bucs offense: six possessions, no first downs; two possessions, 146 yards, two scores. Weird.
- Reggie Bush is scary on punt returns.
- Too easy. Brees recovers his touch as Saints go back to Deuce McAllister.
Saints 24, Bucs 14. Saints have only 25 yards rushing, but Deuce walks in from the 3.
- Another sack, long yardage on third down and Bucs punt.
- Interesting point by announcers that Bush's tendency is to bounce runs to outside. Not in this league, where everyone is fast. He has eight rushes for minus-5 yards.
Saints 31, Bucs 14. Brees and Henderson burn Torrie Cox for 45 yards. Game over?
- Henderson and Colston each over 100 yards receiving.
- Brees now 23-of-31, 308 yards.
- Bucs defense has allowed some big numbers: Atlanta's 306 yards rushing; Philly's 506 yards of offense; today, Brees for 308 in three quarters.
- Fourth-and-3, Bucs pick up blitz, Gradkowski overthrows Michael Clayton.
- Saints have held ball for nine minutes.
- Who's next for Bucs? At Carolina.
- A grace note for the Saints, humility for the Bucs. Brees takes knee on four downs at Bucs 5.