Saints (12-4) vs. Buccaneers (11-5) Divisional Round Preview

Saints Offense vs. Buccaneers Defense
STATS NO O vs. TB D
Buccaneers Offense vs. Saints Defense
STATS NO D vs. TB O
The first two times these teams played, the Saints Defense had the Buccaneers’ number. Tom Brady threw 2 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and played to a 58.8 QB rating. He was also sacked 6 times and under lots of pressure, particularly inside. This is probably the most critical area of this matchup. Can the Buccaneers protect against inside pressure vs. the Saints’ front-4? That task will be difficult with right guard Alex Cappa now done for the season and Aaron Stinnie replacing him in what will be the first start of his career.

In those first two games, the Saints’ inside pressure not only led to sacks, but it disrupted Tampa’s passing game altogether. Brady did not have the time to sit in the pocket, scan the field, and work through his reads. Below, you can see some of the pressure the Saints were able to generate. On this first play, focus on David Onyemata (#93), aligned over the left guard (Joe Haeg), who was starting in place of an injured Ali Marpet.

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Below, the Saints had linebacker Demario Davis come down over right guard Alex Cappa to force 1-on-1 matchups to the left side of the protection.

2020Wk9_TBONOD_Rec_4
Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

Onyemata again was able to win his 1-on-1 and get pressure on Brady inside.

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With the inexperienced Aaron Stinnie at right guard, the Saints will find ways to force him into 1-on-1 matchups. That could be a problem for Tampa.

From a coverage standpoint, Saints Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen had a great plan for handling the Buccaneers’ passing game. Allen played a lot of 2-man coverages. Sometimes those coverages would have the two safeties play over the top. On the below play, they rolled over top of the 3-receiver side featuring Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown, all but taking them out of the play.

3x1 Slide Gronk-Jenkins
Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

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Sometimes, those two safeties would help out in other ways, like on this 4th down. This time, one safety played over the top of Tampa’s 3-receiver set and the other jumped a crossing route inside:

2020Wk9_TBONOD_Rec_8
Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

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On both plays, you can see that the Saints dedicated extra coverage to Tampa’s dynamic trio of receivers (Evans, Godwin, Brown) and felt comfortable leaving safety Malcolm Jenkins in 1-on-1 coverage against Rob Gronkowski. Overall, the Saints did a great job in both games vs. Tampa of using help defenders in man coverage to take away Brady’s best options. We’ll see if they can do it again on Sunday.

To read our full breakdown of the Buccaneers Offense vs. Saints Defense in Week 1, click here.
To read our full breakdown of the Buccaneers Offense vs. Saints Defense in Week 9, click here.
To read about how the Buccaneers Defense should approach the Saints Offense, click here.

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