I labelled this a must win game prior to kickoff and the Saints played like they agreed. We saw a fire in the Saints’ eye that just wasn’t there last week and the result was a completely different team and effort. The Bucs looked undisciplined and overwhelmed by the surroundings as the Saints took care of business and got a huge win to even the season series. The Saints can enjoy sole possession of first place for now, but that will be back on the line next week as the Saints travel to Atlanta. If the Falcons win that game, they will move into first place, so it’s another big game with huge implications. Still, it’s important to take the time to appreciate this performance by the Saints which was dominant, masterful, and desperately needed.
Below are my thoughts, bullet style per usual, on the game.
- Chris Ivory may have been rusty last week but he ran hard and well this week. A welcome contribution.
- Pierre Thomas was on his usual “pitch count”, but man, at what point do you get this guy more involved? He’s just been oustanding. But I guess too little of a great thing is better than too much of something bad.
- Josh Freeman looked horrible to me. He never throws downfield. To me he always settles for the underneath stuff and gets his yardage on runs after the catch. I was not impressed. His lack of accuracy really hurt the Bucs.
- The return of Zach Strief was much more needed and impressive than I expected. Oustanding performance by him.
- Speaking of the o-line- they were masterful. The Saints ran for 195 yards (7.0 yards per carry!) and Drew Brees was never sacked. What a difference a week makes.
- Roman Harper and Jabari Greer were oustanding.
- I mentioned to a friend that I liked Dunbar in the middle better for this matchup because of his physical ability… I think Vilma being held out was a blessing in disguise. Dunbar was fantastic against the run.
- Jonathan Casillas stepped in and had his best game of the season with extended playing time.
- The referees made numerous criminal calls against the Saints, trying their very best to keep the Bucs within striking distance. I seriously have to question their motives. The calls were so one sided it was very alarming. Horribly officiated game. A blatant hold by Kellen Winslow on Patrick Robinson in the open field goes ignored, and ditto a facemask by Ronde Barber… but the refs had no problems flagging Devery Henderson for a phantom hold or Leigh Torrence for pass interference when the receiver initiated contact.
- The interception Brees threw was very poor. Very very poor. And Ronde Barber can’t retire soon enough. I am so sick of that dude picking off our passes.
- Tracy Porter suffered what looked like a concussion and was carted off. Hope he’s ok.
- Darren Sproles is a beast.
- Brees’ first touchdown pass to Lance Moore was one of the best throws I’ve ever seen.
- The Saints interior line was completely dominant all game long.
Stay tuned for the grades!