ReFo: Buccaneers @ Saints, Week 17
The Saints came into the game with a playoff spot on the line, while the Bucs looked to end the season on a high note, playing for little more than pride. By the end of the game, the stakes for both teams were irrelevant; wins by Carolina and San Francisco locked New Orleans into the sixth seed in the NFC, while the actual outcome – a 45-17 Saint win – ended any hopes of Tampa Bay going out strong.
Now the Saints head to Philly, and though the 45-point outburst should give the team confidence, they will still have to reverse their recent road struggles. The Bucs enter offseason disappointed after a 4-12 season, and now with some uncertainty regarding the coaching staff, but with some hope; the way Mike Glennon played down the stretch and on Sunday should buy him another year as the starting QB, and allow the team to use its seventh overall draft pick to add some surrounding talent, perhaps at the other offensive skill positions.
Tampa Bay – Three Performances of Note
Speaking of Mike Glennon, he had his best performance of his young career in this one, grading at +4.2, despite the offense failing to surpass 17 points. As expected, there were some rookie mistakes, including the throws at 0:27 in the first and 6:45 in the fourth that both should’ve been intercepted, though the one throw that was picked off was in part a miscommunication with his receiver. Many outstanding throws made up for those mistakes, however, including his 48-yard touchdown at 8:40 in the first and the first down throw at 13:21 in the third. Both passes showed off Glennon’s impressive arm strength, though the second was particularly impressive as he stood tall in the pocket and delivered a strike into coverage to convert a third-and-long. Throws like those, and the overall solid decision-making on a high volume of attempts, should have the Bucs and their fans excited for the future – although the new coaching staff could have other ideas.
Struggles in the Slot
While QB should be set for one more season, slot cornerback is a position that could use an upgrade. All six passes thrown into the coverage of Leonard Johnson were completed, with the Saints gaining 104 yards, a TD, and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 on those plays. He was beaten in coverage by four different receivers, the worst coming on a 44-yard touchdown on which he was torched by Lance Moore (10:23, Q1). Equally incompetent after allowing the catch and at times in run support, Johnson also missed three tackles. With this performance in the books, the Buccaneer ends the season as our third-lowest graded corner, having allowed 1.44 yards per snap in coverage in the slot.
More Coverage Woes
Not all the blame can go to Johnson in a game in which the Tampa Bay defense allowed 381 yards passing. Even the great Darrelle Revis had a down day, as he was beaten one-on-one for a 41-yard touchdown by Robert Meachem (8:12, Q2), and also involved in the coverage breakdown that allowed a 76-yard Kenny Stills walk-in (2:50, Q2). Safety Dashon Goldson was also a part of that collapse, additionally allowing another touchdown and later missing a tackle on Jimmy Graham. On the bright side, Johnthan Banks ended his rookie season on a relative high note. He was beaten in coverage for a pair of first downs, but also made some nice plays coming up to limit a couple New Orleans dump-offs to short gains.
New Orleans – Three Performances of Note
At Home in the Dome
If only every game were a home game for Drew Brees (+4.5), who lit up the Buccaneers for 381 yards and four touchdowns (plus an additional rushing TD) on 24-of-31 passing. Brees was especially sharp on the deep ball, completing 4-of-5 for 194 yards and three of his four touchdowns on passes over 20 yards in the air. The QB was also impressive under pressure, taking just one sack and completing five of his six attempts on such plays, something he wasn’t in the previous two games, in which he combined to grade -4.3 on throws under fire. It helps that the Bucs weren’t able to pressure Brees often – just seven times in his 33 drop-backs.
Not Feeling Very Safe
While Brees enters the playoffs following a big game, Malcolm Jenkins is coming in cold, perhaps rounding into 2012 form. After grading at a relatively solid -1.2 through the first 14 weeks – at least when compared to his 2012 mark of -19.3 – the safety has now graded at -4.8 in the last three games. Not a good sign with Kenny Vaccaro out for the year. His mistake, biting on the run fake at 8:48 in the first to allow a 48-yard TD on a flea-flicker, was inexcusable as a single-high safety. He didn’t inspire much confidence lining up closer to the line of scrimmage either, as he was beaten on two other passes and also missed a tackle (bringing his season total to 16) on a Brian Leonard run.
Fortunately, Rafael Bush (+1.7) has looked good this season as the team’s third safety. Against the Bucs, he got his hands on a pair of passes, close to intercepting both. Still, the Saints can’t afford a slide from its main safety if they want to make a run at the Super Bowl.
Pro Bowl Snub?
In all the talk of how much improved the Saints defense has been this season, it’s not often mentioned that the team has been missing two of its top corners for most of the season in Patrick Robinson and Jabari Greer. Credit Keenan Lewis (+2.0) for that, as he ended the regular season with another good performance perhaps wanting to show the Pro Bowl voters they made a mistake in leaving him off the roster. Aside from a defensive pass interference penalty (though he could’ve also been flagged for an incidental face mask), Lewis was all over the Tampa receivers, allowing just two catches for 13 yards in four targets. His pass defense (7:32, Q3) was nullified by a Tampa facemask, but his opportunistic interception of a Glennon and Vincent Jackson interception counted.
For the regular season, Lewis allowed 0.89 yards per snap in coverage, while opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 67.4 when targeting him – both up there with the top marks among starting CBs.
– Darren Sproles caught just two passes – only the second time this season he’s caught fewer than three in the Saints’ RB-heavy passing attack.
– Rookie UDFA Tim Wright saw season-high 10 targets. 20 of his 50 snaps were inline, with Wright lined up in the slot our out wide on the other 30.
– The New Orleans Saints’ defense combined to miss just two tackles, tied for its season-low. For the season, the D averaged 4.75 per game.
PFF Game Ball
Who else but Drew Brees? Now if he and the offense can just play like this on the road in the playoffs, the Saints make it out of the NFC.
Follow John on Twitter: @John_Maney