ReFo: NO @ TB, Week 2
After having to sit and wait for 69 minutes in the middle of the first quarter both the Saints and the Bucs came out and played as flat as could be. Mental errors and shoddy offense were the two themes for the game as both teams tried to give the game away it seemed. With 1:06 remaining Rian Lindell missed a 47 yard field goal that gave the ball back to the Saints, down a point, with one last chance. Four plays later Drew Brees had the Saints spiking the ball at the Tampa Bay nine and Garrett Hartley would knock in the 27 yard field goal for the win.
The bright spots for both teams were the suffocating defenses. The Bucs secondary had made Brees gun shy by the second half and he kept reverting back to Jimmy Graham. Graham saw 15 targets for an amazing 179 yards, but Brees went to the well one too many times. A forced throw to Graham late in the game led to a Mason Foster 85 yard interception return for a touchdown that almost gave the Bucs the game.
With the win the Saints improve to 2-0 while the loss moves the Bucs 0-2. The Bucs weakest link last season, pass defense, now appears to be their strength. Surprisingly, it’s the offense that is miserably lagging behind.
The Saints have made quite the defensive turnaround of their own. Through two games last season the defense had given up 75 points and was 0-2. After facing two division rivals this season that number is cut in half. Here are the performances that have made the biggest difference:
New Orleans – Three Performances of Note
Cameron a Game Changer
There were times last year where you could see the ability. Like in week 1 when he had 10 stops against the Redskins or week 9 where he notched three sacks and nine total pressures against the Eagles. This year, though, it hasn’t been just flashes; it’s been a constant stream. Cameron Jordan looks like he’s finally putting it all together. The third year end out of Cal had his second straight monster game with a grade of +4.1. Jordan made four stops on the day and had three pressures including a sack. He currently has the second highest grade of any 3-4 defensive end (behind J.J. Watt) and has collected the most pressures. It’s been a truly remarkable start to the season for Jordan.
Coming into his Own
When Jermon Bushrod headed off to the Bears in free agency the sentiment at PFF was that he wasn’t worth what he’d be getting. So far through two games the Saints decision to let him walk looks brilliant. Bushrod has stumbled to a –3.0 grade games while his replacement Charles Brown is at +0.6 through two games with a superb performance on Sunday. The fourth year left tackle out of USC matched up against Adrian Clayborn all day and surrendered a single pressure. Brown’s pass blocking efficiency of 94.6 for the season while Bushrod’s is 90.8.
First Round Flop
It is interesting to think about where Mark Ingram (-1.5) would be if he would have been drafted elsewhere in the 2011 NFL draft. It’s not that he can’t run the football, his 40.9 elusive rating was one of the best in the NFL last season. It’s just that Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas’ elusive ratings were better and they’ve earned their superior playing time. Ingram doesn’t have the speed of Sproles or the power and elusiveness of Thomas. Ingram also doesn’t have the versatility of either. Last season the Saints passed around 64% of the time, but when the former Heisman trophy winner was in they passed only 41% of the time.
On Sunday it was more of the same. Ingram took eight handoffs in his 14 snaps for 20 yards, breaking no tackles and notably getting stoned at the goaline by Mason Foster. His power never quite translated to the next level and if Thomas stays healthy, Ingram may see his 15 snaps a game dwindle even more.
Tampa Bay – Three Performances of Note
Calls from Roger Goodell
Some penalties you can live with. With two players going full speed sometimes you can’t always react to what the other guy does. When those plays keep happening though, it just shows a lack of discipline. Clayborn (-1.7), Dashon Goldson (-2.4), and Ahmad Black (-0.9) were all knocked with personal fouls for avoidable contact on Sunday (Goldson’s just got him suspended for next week). In Clayborn’s case it cost the Bucs a turnover in Saints’ territory. These penalties come a week after Lavonte David’s late hit cost them a victory over the Jets. Add to those three an illegal formation that cost the Bucs a touchdown as well as an offisides that could have led to a Saints touchdown and you have a disturbing trend down in Tampa.
Josh Freeman’s statline at the end of night was atrocious. He went 9 of 22 for 125 yards with a touchdown and an interception. This led to a terrible one touchdown performance from the Buccaneers offense. Freeman didn’t play nearly as bad as the numbers looked though. The Bucs’ quarterback had some awful luck throughout the game.
Freeman dropped back to pass on 11 third downs for the game and converted only three. While that looks bad, here’s why the others weren’t converted:
- Two completed passes short of the sticks
- Two drops past the first down marker
- A receiver fell down on his break
- A receiver failed to keep both feet in bounds
- A completed first down called back by an illegal formation.
- A blindside sack/fumble
If those five plays go the other way Freeman’s performance looks completely different. That’s not even mentioning the touchdown to Jackson that was called back or the deep ball off of Kevin Ogletree’s fingertips. Some days the ball never bounces your way, and for Josh Freeman that day was Sunday.
Boom or Bust
You may not see another play quite like the one Vincent Jackson(+1.2) made midway through the third quarter for the rest of the season. Quarterback Josh Freeman had all day to throw and decided to play a game of ‘500’ with Jackson and Kenny Vaccaro. Not a bad idea considering Jackson’s five inch height advantage. Jackson got in better position and easily came down with the ball and strolled casually into the endzone 73 yards from the original line of scrimmage. The only problem was that Jackson hadn’t lined up on that same line of scrimmage when he was supposed to and his celebration was sadly cut short.
Jackson saw 11 targets on the day even though the Bucs threw just 22 passes. He caught five of those for 77 yards and made multiple tough catches late in the game. His day would go much like Freeman’s did however. Jackson dropped a couple passes, slipped as he was breaking open for a pass, and was leveled by Vaccaro on another pass before he could even make his cut.
– Drew Brees completed just three passes for a passer rating of 1.7 on the 15 dropbacks where he faced pressure.
– The Bucs linebackers were their best positional unit on the day. Lavonte David, Mason Foster, and Dekoda Watson had a combined grade of +6.8.
– The Saints missed just two tackles in 54 attempts for a tackling efficiency of 27.0.
PFF Game Ball
While the Saints tackles were superb in pass protections, no player impacted all phases of the game quite like Cameron Jordan did. He didn’t miss a snap on the day and played outstanding form start to finish.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner