TAMPA — DE Darryl Tapp could make his Bucs debut on Sunday against a team he knows well: He played all of last season with the Saints and was on their roster until final cuts in September.
He's not surprised to see QB Drew Brees and New Orleans at 5-2 and leading the NFC South.
"Coach (Sean) Payton is probably one of the best in the league," said Tapp, who joined the Bucs last week but didn't play in Sunday's game at Buffalo. "They've got a roster that can make a lot of things happen, a good mixture of veterans and young guys. They feed off each other. It's no surprise that they're rolling right now."
Brees leads the NFL in completing 70.6 percent of his passes and ranks sixth in QB rating, with 11 touchdowns against four interceptions. The Bucs have split their series with New Orleans in each of the past two seasons; Brees and the Saints had won seven straight before that. Tapp said he knows the challenge of containing that offense.
"It's a nightmare," Tapp said. "No. 9 is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He always has that confidence about him, always has that swagger, never gets rattled. For us, on the defense, we have to make sure we're on our P's and Q's, can't go rogue. We really have to stay true to what our scheme requires us to do, then go out there and make plays."
When Brees plays Sunday, it will be his 24th career game against the Bucs, breaking the record he currently shares with Brett Favre for the most by an opposing quarterback. Brees holds the career records for passing yards (6,490), passing touchdowns (45) and interceptions (26) against the Bucs. Should he win, he'll pass Favre (15) for the most against Tampa Bay as a starting quarterback as well.
The Bucs defense took a big step against Brees last year. For 10 straight seasons from 2006-15, he had at least three touchdown passes combined in his two games against Tampa Bay, but he totaled one in last year's split. Tampa Bay's 16-11 win in the first meeting last year saw Brees throw three interceptions with no touchdowns, and his 48.5 quarterback rating was his worst in any game in the past four years.
Ten Bucs rookies, including TE O.J. Howard, S Justin Evans and LB Kendell Beckwith, spent their Halloween morning with patients and their families at Moffitt Cancer Center then took part in a "Play 60" event with students from Lee and Lockhart elementary schools and Sligh Middle School.
"It's something close to your heart. It gives me motivation. I'm fortunate to go out and play the game I love," Beckwith said of spending time with patients. "It makes me appreciate it that much more. It really touched me."
The Bucs are mired in a four-game losing streak, but as players signed autographs and posed for selfies, it was a reminder that some fans are still thrilled to meet players whether they're winning or losing.
"It's awesome for us to be able to get out in the community, interact with the people who support us and put a smile on their face," WR Chris Godwin said. "It's special, with all the things they're going through, for them to say they're praying for us, that's unbelievable. It puts a smile on our faces as well."