Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Bad news for Brees in New Orleans could open a door in Tampa Bay

The Saints quarterback could miss six games with a thumb injury, which means the NFC South may be up for grabs after all.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees leaves the field after their loss against the Los Angeles Rams during an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Los Angeles. Brees left the game after being hurt in the first half. [MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ | AP]
Published Sep. 16

TAMPA — Your initial thought should be a somber one.

Drew Brees will apparently need surgery on his thumb, and will likely miss at least six games. This is awful. Awful for Brees, awful for the Saints, awful for fans who appreciate a well-played NFL game.

Brees is artistry in a helmet. He has thrown more completions for more yards than anyone who has played the game. He has also beaten the Buccaneers more times than any quarterback in history.

And that’s where this gets tricky.

If you are outwardly saddened by a competitor’s misfortune, are you allowed to have some selfish thoughts to yourself?

Because, parochial as it sounds, this could be a game-changer.

The balance of power has not completely shifted in the NFC South, but it is less defined than it was 48 hours ago. The Saints were thought by many to be a Super Bowl contender, and were certainly a chic pick to win a third consecutive division title.

Bucs fans understand the magic of Drew Brees better than most. The Saints quarterback, shown greeting Jameis Winston after a game in 2016, has gone 17-10 in his career against Tampa Bay, throwing for more than 7,600 yards. Times file photo. [Times files]


The Brees injury does not mean that’s no longer possible, but it’s definitely less likely. If the initial reports coming out of New Orleans of a torn ligament in his thumb are accurate, the Saints will be without their unquestioned ringleader until the second half of the season.

That’s nearly an inconceivable thought in New Orleans. The last time a starting quarterback other than Brees won a game in a Saints uniform was nearly 14 years ago.

The offense may be drawn up by coach Sean Payton, but it’s owned by Brees. He controls it, he directs it, he makes it work more smoothly than any quarterback could.

In that sense, he may be the most valuable player in the league. Tom Brady has obviously had more success, but the Patriots have managed to go 13-6 during his rare absences in the last 15 years.

The good new for the Saints:

They planned for this eventuality by making Teddy Bridgewater the NFL’s highest-paid backup with a one-year, $7.25 million contract this season.

The bad news for the Saints:

Bridgewater lost his only start in New Orleans when the Saints played a meaningless game in the 2018 season finale. He also failed to lead the Saints to a touchdown against the Rams on Sunday, only the third time in Payton’s 12-plus seasons they’ve been kept out of the end zone.

None of which means the Bucs are in the driver’s seat today. Heck, they’re not even riding shotgun at this point. The favorite in the NFC South may still be New Orleans. If not, then Atlanta.

So Tampa Bay’s unlikely path to the playoffs still looks like a reach, but at least now there is a new formula to consider. Between Brees’ injury and Cam Newton’s pitiful performance against the Bucs on Thursday night in Carolina, Tampa Bay’s early-season schedule doesn’t look as daunting as it once did.

During the next four weeks, the Bucs face a pair of 0-2 teams (the Giants and Panthers) and one team missing its franchise quarterback (the Saints). Suddenly, it’s not inconceivable for the Bucs to reach the bye week after the London trip at 3-3 or even 4-2.

There are still plenty of unknowns to consider. It’s possible Bridgewater will look a whole lot better in the coming weeks as he gets more practice with the first team, although he’s going to be tested quickly with a game at Seattle on Sunday and the following week at home against Dallas.

Brees has also left open the possibility that he might return sooner. After seeing a leading hand specialist in Los Angeles on Monday, he is now seeking a second opinion.

In the meantime, Bucs fans have reason for renewed optimism. It might be fleeting. It might be selfish in the face of Brees’ woes. It might even be misplaced if Bridgewater exceeds expectations.

But, for now, it is plausible. Even if you keep it to yourself.

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.



ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians walks on the field before Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers in London. ALASTAIR GRANT  |  AP
    And that’s especially true for turnover-prone Jameis Winston, who will remain the starter when Tampa Bay next takes the field Oct. 27 vs. the Titans.
  2. Since he entered the NFL in 2015, Jameis Winston has been responsible for a league-high 87 giveaways, including six Sunday. JEFF HAYNES  |  Associated Press
    Sunday was a tough day for the players taken at the top of the 2015 NFL draft. The Titans at least are realizing what the Bucs are denying: They have a quarterback problem.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) makes a touchdown catch against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. ALASTAIR GRANT  |  AP
    An ugly loss leaves a sour taste, and several players would like to get back on the field immediately to right the ship.
  4. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates his touchdown against the Chiefs during the second half of the game in Kansas City. ED ZURGA  |  AP
    Road To Miami: Quarterback play continues to soar, for some teams - allowing us to realize who’s coming
  5. Pat and Richard McBride of Leicester have been Bucs fans for 34 years. They've suffered through some bad Tampa Bay seasons but remain loyalty, unlike fans of the other team owned by the Glazer Family, Manchester United. Eduardo A. Encina/Tampa Bay Times
    #GlazersOut has become a popular slogan and hashtag as the team battles on-field woes and reported financial issues. But “Manchester U. fans are good at one thing and that’s complaining,” said one...
  6. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota looks on from the sideline during the second half of a loss to the Broncos, during which he is benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill. DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    His status for an Oct. 27 game against the Bucs isn’t clear after he is benched against the Broncos.
  7. Former Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) gestures toward the Tampa Bay bench during the second quarter of Carolina's 37-26 victory over the Buccaneers Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. TIM IRELAND  |  AP
    Tampa Bay was without two starters on the right side of its offensive line. Did McCoy and Co. exploit that weakness or simply win one-on-one battles?
  8. Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) scores on a second quarter touchdown pass, leaving Devin White and a host of other Bucs in his wake. TIM IRELAND  |  AP
    Bucs journal: In his first game since Week 2, White gets a reminder about the mental aspects of the game
  9. The Bucs' Jameis Winston threw five interceptions and lost a fumble against the Panthers on Sunday. It's never good when a quarterback's turnover total is twice his jersey number. TIM IRELAND  |  Associated Press
    After suffering a 37-26 beatdown, the team should extend its stay in London, maybe indefinitely. | Thomas Bassinger
  10. Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen (7) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) meet at midfield after playing in an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) TIM IRELAND  |  AP
    That’s how Bruce Arians tried to explain Winston’s six-turnover performance in London Sunday.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement