Saturday, January 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Saints' defense presents challenges for Bucs

TAMPA — After a frustrating offensive debut in Sunday's opening loss at the Jets, the Bucs can only hope for something completely unrelated at home against the Saints this weekend.

The two opponents' defenses are related, however, if only via the sideline. Following its 18-17 stifling by coach Rex Ryan's Jets, Tampa Bay on Sunday faces Ryan's brother, new Saints defensive coordinator Rob.

Rob has experience holding the Bucs in check. Last year his Cowboys defense held them to 166 yards total in a 16-10 Tampa Bay loss, with 70 coming on the Bucs' last drive.

"I think it would be foolish of us not to look at that game, which is another challenging, difficult, disappointing game for us offensively," Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said this week. "I think there will be some similarities (between the defenses), but not necessarily a carbon copy."

New Orleans doesn't have Dallas' stellar defensive ends — nor the Jets' line, for that matter — but the Bucs' offensive focus is on cleaning up their game. They had just 12 first downs against the Jets. Take away Vincent Jackson's 154 receiving yards on seven catches and the rest of the team totaled 96 yards on 52 plays.

The offense committed six penalties and had another two declined.

"There's a lot of disappointment," Sullivan said of the Jets game. "We didn't execute the way we're capable of, we didn't perform the way we're capable of, we didn't coach the way we're capable of. … There's just a lot of things that weren't what we want."

Facing a quarterback such as the Saints' Drew Brees, who threw for 684 yards and eight touchdowns in two wins against the Bucs last year, puts added pressure on Tampa Bay's offense to keep up with the gaudy numbers.

"We're going to have to score points, playing such a good offense over there in New Orleans," said receiver Mike Williams, who had four catches for 52 yards in the opener. "Naturally, all the people in the passing game have to get involved and do their part. I don't think we have to change much."

Much of the attention this week has been on quarterback Josh Freeman, but coach Greg Schiano pointed to the penalties and negative plays that he said kept his offense out of rhythm against the Jets.

He is looking for consistency as a starting point.

"We need to just get in a flow and run our stuff and run it efficiently," Schiano said. "I believe we're going to do that. You take a Rob Ryan-coached defense, and he presents issues. Schematically, there are things that can get you if you're not careful, so we really have to be on point to be efficient."

Saints coach Sean Payton said he watched a few Bucs games last year while he was suspended for his role in the team's bounty scandal, and he has seen enough in past meetings to know Freeman can be dangerous if the offense clicks.

"Freeman can make plays, extend plays with his feet," Payton said. "He's always given us trouble. … I think they present a number of challenges, both in the run and the passing game."

Bucs vs. Saints

When/where: 4 p.m. Sunday, Raymond James Stadium

TV/radio: Ch. 13; 103.5-FM, 620-AM, 95.3-FM

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