The Bucs hope to end their four-game losing streak today at New Orleans against a Saints team that has the NFL's second-longest active winning streak at five games, behind only the Eagles (six). Here are things to watch for as the Bucs try to avoid a 2-6 record that would leave them four games out of the division lead.
The biggest difference between the two Bucs-Saints games last year? Running back Mark Ingram. In Tampa Bay's 16-11 win in the first meeting, Ingram was held to 14 yards on seven carries. Two week later, when New Orleans won 31-24, Ingram had 18 carries for 90 yards, with two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. As the Bucs tried to get the ball back in the final two minutes, Ingram converted a third and 1 to clinch the game. Rookie Alvin Kamara is also a challenge. The Bucs need to contain New Orleans' running game and put Drew Brees in predictable situations if they hope to match the three interceptions they had against him in last year's win.
Saints rookies in secondary
Cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the Saints' first-round pick at No. 11, has been part of New Orleans' defensive turnaround, getting two interceptions in the past three games and returning one for a touchdown. Second-round safety Marcus Williams has started every game, also has an interception and has 29 tackles. Lattimore is already commanding respect from opposing offenses. Do the Bucs go after him aggressively or throw at another young corner in second-year pro Ken Crawley? Buffalo's Tre'Davious White had that key forced fumble and recovery to set up the Bills' win two weeks ago, so don't take the rookies lightly.
More happy returns
Kickoff and punt returns are hard to come by in Bucs games. They've had opponents return only nine kickoffs and nine punts, with only Carolina (14) allowing fewer total returns this season. The Bucs are fairly conservative on returns themselves, taking touchbacks on all but seven kickoffs this season and returning only 11 punts. But the Saints have given up the third-highest kickoff return average this year, as well as the sixth-highest punt return average, and Detroit had a 74-yard touchdown on a punt return. Could the Superdome turf help Bernard Reedy make an impact?
A motivated Murray
Like Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, kicker Patrick Murray was briefly a Saint — for less than a week in the preseason, not even getting to kick in a game before he was released. Murray's career long is a 55-yard kick he had with the Bucs in the Superdome in 2014, and he's yet to miss in his three games since taking over for Nick Folk. Kickers were a big part of the scoring in last year's first game, with Roberto Aguayo and Will Lutz each going 3-for-3 in the Bucs' 16-11 win in Tampa.
Welcome to the
Quarterback Jameis Winston needs 15 passing yards to reach 10,000 for his young career. That would happen in his 40th NFL game. The fastest ever to 10,000 was Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, who needed only 36 games, edging Detroit's Matthew Stafford, who did it in 37. Winston can move up the list for passing yards in a player's first three NFL seasons; he's already 14th and is on course to finish with 12,367, passing Peyton Manning for the second most all-time. The record is Andrew Luck with 12,957, which is likely out of reach for Winston, who would need to average 331 yards the rest of the season.
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