Sunday, May 27, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Memory of loss to Saints replays in minds of Bucs

TAMPA — Mike Williams could have chosen to trash the video and forget that it ever happened.

But the Bucs' third-year receiver instead is more than willing to look back at that fateful play at the end of Tampa Bay's loss to the Saints on Oct. 21.

With the Bucs down seven and looking to tie the score, Williams caught what appeared to be a touchdown with time expiring in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the score was nullified by an illegal touching penalty because Williams had first gone out of bounds and come back into the field of play.

"It's a play I've definitely learned from," Williams said. "I just have to stay in bounds. If I do that, we tie that game and keep playing."

It's a particularly painful game to look back on for other reasons, too. The Bucs had 513 total yards that day, their second-most of the season, with WR Vincent Jackson (216 receiving yards) and QB Josh Freeman (420 passing yards) setting career highs.

Yet, Tampa Bay lost the game 35-28, blowing a 21-7 advantage.

"Everything was executed, except me going out of bounds on the last play," Williams said. "Everything went the way it was supposed to. Everything was so perfect. So it's hard when you play like that and you lose."

Said Jackson: "For me, it's always about the win first. … We executed some things well. Josh had time and he was getting the ball out. Our scheme is good. When we don't hurt ourselves and we're playing at a high level … it allows us to be very dynamic."

The outcome of the first game was typical of this series. The teams have split their last eight meetings, four of them decided by seven points or fewer.

Williams anticipates the usual on Sunday at the Superdome. And he knows now, more than ever, that one play might be the difference.

"I really think it's really the definition of a tough division," Williams said of NFC South matchups. "Anytime we play anyone in our division, it's going down to the final play. It can always go either way. We always know it's going to be tough."

RUSHING BREES: Only five teams have given up fewer sacks than the Saints, a key reason QB Drew Brees already has his seventh straight 4,000-yard season.

But the Bucs will settle for making Brees throw under pressure or, as they call it, getting him "off his spot."

It's a key element to having success against the prolific New Orleans passing attack.

"We have to rush better and cover better so there's nowhere to go with the ball," coach Greg Schiano said. "But even in (the first meeting), Drew was very good at extending the play. So, we need to be very disciplined in our rush lanes where, if he tries to extend the play, he runs into somebody. … He's not looking to run. He's looking to extend the play and throw it to an open receiver."

But defensive linemen must reconcile that edict with knowing when to freelance a bit, Schiano said.

"That is such a fine line," he said. "I've been (on teams) where the defensive line coach is so ingrained in rush lanes that nobody takes a chance and gets a sack. … I think you change it up. You blitz, you straight rush. As you change it up, the rush lanes change per the call, and that helps a lot."

DE Da'Quan Bowers said there are other ways to disrupt Brees.

"You have to get in his throwing lanes," Bowers said. "He's not tall (6 foot), so anytime we can get a hand up and change the path of the ball, anything like that, can help."

INJURY REPORT: Bowers, who has been slowed by a hamstring injury, was listed as questionable. CB LeQuan Lewis (knee) also is questionable, while DE Michael Bennett (shoulder), CB Anthony Gaitor (hamstring), G Jamon Meredith (ankle) and DT Roy Miller (head) are probable.

The Saints ruled out five players: T Charles Brown (knee), RB Chris Ivory (hamstring), S Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring), T Zach Strief (ankle) and CB Corey White (knee).

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