NO-TB grades: Buccaneers' offensive line stars in win over Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16, New Orleans Saints 11
Here are the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the Buccaneers’ 16-11 win over the Saints in Week 14.
Quarterback grade: Jameis Winston, 75.7
Winston continues stretch of impressive play
In what was a pivotal game for the Buccaneers as they try to keep pace with the Falcons in the NFC South, Tampa Bay played a mistake-free game on offense and never surrendered the lead on the way the team’s eighth win.. The offensive line provided Jameis Winston with enough protection to distribute the ball to seven different receivers. Of his 31 dropbacks, he was only under pressure 12 times, and didn’t force any mistakes; he was five-for-nine for 63 yards with a scramble and two sacks when under duress. Winston found success in the intermediate level (10–19 yards) of the Saints’ defense, completing 6-of-11 passes for 83 yards. The former Florida State product will have to continue his strong play down the stretch for the Bucs to remain in the thick of the playoff race.
Top offensive grades:
LG Kevin Pamphile, 78.1
LT Donovan Smith, 76.9
C Joe Hawley, 76.3
WR Mike Evans, 74.7
TE Cameron Brate, 74.3
Offensive line plays well in win
Three of the five top-graded players on offense for the Bucs were offensive linemen; the unit gave up only eight hurries on the day in the passing game, with RG Ali Marpet responsible for three of those. Yards were hard to come by on the ground, as the team finished with an average of 3 yards per carry on 35 rushing attempts, with 83 yards coming after contact. Tight end Cameron Brate has emerged as one of Jameis Winston’s favorite targets, along with Mike Evans, they combined to catch eight passes for 89 yards on 13 targets.
Top defensive grades:
DE Robert Ayers, 87.8
CB Brent Grimes, 85.4
FS Keith Tandy, 83.6
SS Bradley McDougald, 83.2
DE Noah Spence, 78.6
Makeshift secondary gelling nicely
Coming into the season, the Bucs’ secondary appeared to be a mix of journeyman veterans and unproven practice squad players. Coming in for his second start, Keith Tandy’s performance suggested he is capable of holding down the role for the long-term. In total, he allowed only two catches on seven targets for 11 yards, one interception, and a pass defense. Cornerback Brent Grimes was flying to the football with reckless abandon against New Orleans, allowing only two catches from three targets for 16 yards and a pick. Similarly, Bradly McDougald’s aggression close to the line of scrimmage totally wrecked the Saints’ run game. He managed a team-high three stops against the run.
Quarterback grade: Drew Brees 50.2
Brees blown away by Bucs’ defensive effort
Drew Brees put together possibly his worst performance of the season in a crucial divisional game. He ended the contest with a pick, his third of the day, displaying uncharacteristically poor decision-making. Brees still made a couple of pinpoint passes, but was also misreading coverages and forcing throws underneath. The Saints’ signal-caller started off poorly, nearly notching a pick on his first series, only for the ball to slip through the defender’s hands. Ultimately, that throw set the tone for the rest of the game. Facing a consistent interior rush, Brees started making mistakes rarely seen from him. He managed a QB rating of only 68.7 under pressure.
Top offensive grades:
FB John Kuhn, 80.1
OT Terron Armstead, 80
C Tim Lelito, 78.4
OG Jahri Evans, 75.7
WR Willie Snead, 74.0
Fortunes fluctuate on the New Orleans O-line
A couple of Saints’ offensive lineman were tormented by a rampaging Robert Ayers. Rushing from the interior and exterior, he was nearly unblockable throughout the game. LG Andrus Peat certainly could not block him. For that, he would have needed to get his hands on him first. Peat was decimated to the tune of one sack, three hits, and three hurries from 43 dropbacks. In the past three weeks, he has given up four sacks, five hits and seven hurries, highlighting his struggles of late. On the other side, Zach Strief had his own issues with Ayers. Unlike his teammate, however, Strief had only allowed 19 pressures on the season entering the game. That figure soared all the way to 27 after the matchup with a red-hot Ayers. The Saints’ three remaining lineman, in contrast, allowed only four pressures between them, and managed solid run-blocking grades.
Top defensive grades:
CB Sterling Moore, 83.0
ED Cameron Jordan, 81.3
DI Nick Fairley, 78.7
S Jarius Byrd, 77.9
LB Dannell Ellerbe, 74.2
Cameron Jordan continues stellar season
Defensive end Cameron Jordan continues to impress as he recorded his seventh sack of the year; he also contributed with two quarterback hurries and a QB hit, along with five tackles. Jordan is by far the best player on the Saints’ defense, which has had its struggles at times this year. This would not be one of those times, as the unit played fairly well, limiting the Bucs to 3 yards per carry and holding Jameis Winston to under 200 passing yards. The secondary did a good job of limiting big plays to opposing WR Mike Evans, as they held him under 50 yards on eight targets. Sterling Moore was the Saints’ highest-graded player in coverage, as he recorded an 83.7 coverage grade and made the notable pass breakup intended for Russell Shepard in the end zone.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Robert Ayers, DE, Buccaneers
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