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Week 15 Game Recap: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0, New Orleans Saints 41

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Josh Freeman, Pass: 26 - 47 - 279 - 0 TD / 4 INT, Rush: 2 - 8 - 0

Like Brees, Freeman appeared to have a favorable matchup, but his results could have been further from Brees'. Of Tampa's first seven drives, four were four plays or less and ended in punts. Somehow the other three managed to be worse, however, as they ended in Freeman INTs. After opening with a three and out, Freeman appeared to find some sort of groove on the 2nd drive. Freeman hit D.J. Ware on 3rd down for 23 yards, taking advantage of the LB coverage. After a short toss to Dallas Clark underneath for four yards, Freeman threw a perfect back shoulder throw to Mike Williams for 24 yards. The success was short-lived, however, as Freeman targeted Clark again on a shorter route, but was way off target. The coverage wasn't great, but the throw was worse and it was easily picked off. After another three and out, Freeman just missed a TD on his next throw the following drive. Williams put a nice double move on the corner and was well behind the coverage, but Freeman badly overthrew him. The following play was even more disastrous, as miscommunication between Freeman and Vincent Jackson led to another INT. It appeared Freeman expected Jackson to break his route into a deep post while Jackson continued up the seam. Again, the throw was well off and easily intercepted. Frazzled from the INTs, Freeman never recovered as the offense sputtered under the shaken QB with consecutive punts. With a mounting deficit and snowballing pressure, Freeman began to press. Getting possession right out of halftime and appearing to get some momentum after a successful fake punt, Freeman pressed a bit too much. With two tremendously athletic WRs on the outside, Freeman chose to target his TE deep down the field. The ball was not only underthrown, but to TE who has never been known for his athleticism. The ball was easily intercepted, squashing any potential momentum gained from the fake punt. Rattled and with no threat from the running game because of the scoreboard, Freeman and the passing offense had nowhere to hide. Freeman was able to dink and dump down the New Orleans' 25-yard line, but drive ended after an incompletion on 4th down. Freeman finally connected with Jackson on the following drive, but it was late in the 3rd quarter and the game was well at hand. Another drive deep into Saints' territory, with four connections to Jackson ended with another incompletion on 4th down. Two more drives, but both just as disappointing. After getting back into Saints' territory for a 3rd consecutive drive, Freeman threw up a prayer into the end zone and Jabari Greer posted his 2nd INT. Freeman got one more chance to get Tampa Bay on the board, but was stripped at midfield to end his day. An abhorrent day, Freeman turned the ball over five times and even more damning, put zero points on the board. Freeman really struggled with his accuracy and when it was on target, it was often to the Saints' defense.

QB Dan Orlovsky, Pass: 4 - 7 - 51 - 0 TD / 0 INT

Orlovsky came in for mop up duty for the Bucs' final drive. Orlovsky did drive the Bucs' offense into Saint territory, but the drive stalled at the New Orleans' 10-yard line.

RB Doug Martin, Rush: 9 - 16 - 0, Rec: 3 - 19 - 0 (5 targets)

In what should have been one Martin's easier matchups, he really struggled to get anything going early. As the Saints piled on and Freeman's turnovers killed every promising drive, Martin's opportunities quickly dissipated. Martin did have a long of 11 yards on a toss, but only managed to pick up five yards on his other eight carries. Martin also caught three passes on five targets, but only for 19 yards and a long of eight. The game was out of hand so quickly, Martin never had an opportunity to get involved and his stat line reflected that.

RB LeGarrette Blount, Rush: 4 - 25 - 0

Blount led all Tampa rushers, with 25 yards on only four carries. All of Blount's carries came on the Bucs' final drive, as both teams looked to drain the clock.

RB Danny Ware, Rec: 2 - 32 - 0 (4 targets)

Ware didn't receive any carries, but he did have two catches out of the backfield. His long went for 23 yards.

WR Vincent Jackson, Rec: 6 - 81 - 0 (12 targets)

Jackson led the offense in every statistical category, including 12 targets. However, his first catch did not come until late in the 3rd quarter as all his numbers can be attributed to garbage time. On that same drive Jackson picked up four of his six catches. Jackson's biggest play was a target in the first half that saw Freeman expecting him to break his route in and resulted in Freeman's 2nd INT. Jackson just missed a TD early in the 4th quarter as Freeman threw him a jump ball in the end zone, but Greer made one of his many fine defensive plays, elevating and deflecting the ball away from Jackson.

WR Mike Williams, Rec: 4 - 63 - 0 (7 targets)

After posting two catches on the Bucs' first three drives, including a nice 24-yard back shoulder catch, Williams (like the entire Buc offense) disappeared until late in the 3rd quarter. Williams just missed two TDs, with one coming just prior Freeman's 2nd INT and another coming late. Williams successfully put a double move on the corner, easily beating the coverage, but Freeman overthrew his wide-open receiver and missed what would have been an easy TD. Later in the game Freeman went to Williams in the end zone, but after getting two feet down on the high throw was unable to maintain control as he spilled to the ground. Like Jackson, Williams was really hurt by Freeman's immense struggles.

WR Tiquan Underwood, Rec: 3 - 46 - 0 (6 targets)

Underwood was targeted six times, but only caught three balls, including a long of 19 yards. Underwood's first catch did not come until garbage time in the 4th quarter, with his 19-yard catch coming on the Bucs' final drive.

WR Chris Owusu, Rec: 1 - 24 - 0 (2 targets)

Owusu was only targeted once, making a nice 24-yard catch down the sideline from Orlovsky on the Bucs' final drive.

TE Dallas Clark, Rec: 8 - 42 - 0 (12 targets)

Clark was tied for the team lead in targets with 12, picking up eight catches with a long of 10 yards. Clark averaged a minute 5.3 yards a catch and was only targeted once ten yards beyond the line of scrimmage. After being targeted on Freeman's first INT, it was Clark who Freeman tried to hit deep down the middle just out of halftime. Looking like fly in molasses, Clark attempted a double move before trying to get down the seam. Freeman threw the jump ball, but Clark neither appeared ready nor able to make a play on the poorly thrown ball, leading to a second INT.

TE Luke Stocker, Rec: 3 - 23 - 0 (3 targets)

Stocker caught all three targets for 23 yards with a long of 15. Stocker was all but non-existent until garbage time.

New Orleans Saints

QB Drew Brees, Pass: 26 - 39 - 307 - 4 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 11 - 0

There is no better cure for a case of the production ills than the league's worst passing defense. After struggling for three consecutive weeks, Drew Brees finally got some reprieve on Sunday in the form of Tampa Bay's passing defense. Firing right out of the gate, Brees had the Saints at midfield in two plays; a quick 12-yard strike to Jimmy Graham followed by another 13-yard hit to Marques Colston. Going back to work two plays later, Brees faked the toss right and booted left, connecting with an uncovered David Thomas for 12 yards. Brees and Pierre Thomas worked the screen game on the following play, picking up 20 yards down to the Buccaneer 12-yard line. A perfect cap to the way too easy drive, Brees found Thomas again two plays later for a nine-yard TD over the middle. The offense went three and out on their next drive, but really a poor drop from Sproles on 3rd down prevented what could have been a huge play. Brees read the coverage perfectly, with Sproles isolated in man coverage against a LB, but the RB was unable to bring the short toss in. Had the pass been completed, the middle of the field was barren and could very well have gone for an 83-yard TD pass. Brees went back to work on the third drive, opening with a short swing to Sproles for two yards before following it up with a 15-yard completion to Graham over the middle. Brees hit Sproles on another short toss before working play action two plays later and finding Colston over the middle for 26 yards. A 12-yard slant to Lance Moore took the offense inside the Tampa ten-yard line, but the offense stalled and had to settle for a rare red zone FG. Brees had two rare misses on the following drive to send the Saints to their second three and out in four drives. The offense bounced back, however, as Brees had his best throw of the game on the drive's first completion. Facing a 3rd and 11 and pressure in his lap, Brees blindly threw to Colston (who had yet to get out of his break) for a 21-yard completion. Clearly in rhythm, Brees threw three straight completions to finish the drive off, bookended by a pretty 16-yard strike to Moore and a two-yard TD pass to Sproles. Brees missed all four throws on the following drive, but like he had done all day, made up for the punt with one more TD drive just before half. Brees opened the drive with a short eight-yard hit to Graham before absolutely getting his TE destroyed on the following play. A deep shot down the seam, Brees' throw was high and S Mark Barron blasted an over extended Graham to ensure the incompletion. Brees went right back to Graham after a time out, again down the seam and this time Graham made a tremendous catch to get the Saints down inside the Tampa ten. Brees eyes looked right before coming back to Moore on the left who was hitched just beyond the goal line for the seven-yard TD pass. Just as they had done in the first half, the Saints went right through the Tampa defense on their opening drive of the 2nd half with little resistance. After five consecutive drives, Brees hit Graham on a short 10-yard crosser. Two plays later, Brees had his longest (and easiest) completion of the game, a 34-yard TD pass to Joe Morgan. With Morgan easily beyond the coverage, Brees merely had to put the ball on Morgan for the TD. Up 31 and cruising, Brees spent the rest of the game killing the clock before being replaced by Chase Daniel on the Saints' final drive.

RB Mark Ingram, Rush: 14 - 90 - 1

Unlike Brees, Ingram's matchup was much tougher on Sunday, but the results weren't much different. Averaging 6.4 yards a carry, Ingram dominated the carries and showed the power and speed Saints' fans and fantasy owners alike have been waiting nearly two years for. Ingram didn't get his first carry until the Saints' 3rd drive and despite it only going for four yards, looked surprisingly shifty for a power back. Ingram was hit just as he took the handoff, but spun out of the contact and turned the-should-have-been loss into a nice gain. Ingram opened the 2nd half with his longest play of the game, a 33-yard run exhibiting deceptive speed. A subtle cut in the backfield, Ingram found the edge without getting touched before turning on the jets. Ingram's next big run combined both power and speed, as he used the former in order release the latter. Like snow falling off a warm car, Tampa tacklers sloughed off Ingram as he took his carry through the first wave of attempted tackles at the line of scrimmage. Able to use his power to get the edge, Ingram again exhibited a shocking burst once he hit the edge, picking up 26 yards on the run. As the Tampa defense wore down, Ingram only got stronger, easily scoring from 11 yards out for the Saints' final TD. Running up the middle, Ingram looked like a semi powering through papier-mâché as the attempted tacklers didn't bother (assuming he even felt them) the RB in the least on his way to the end zone. Clearly stuck in a crowded backfield and receiving a plethora of carries to kill the clock, it is hard to ignore how good Ingram looked with his touches. Power, speed and most importantly health, there is much to look forward to in Ingram's future.

RB Darren Sproles, Rush: 5 - 22 - 0, Rec: 5 - 21 - 1 (8 targets)

Sproles received ten touches, with an even split in carries and catches and caught one TD from two yards out. Most definitely not a between the tackles runner, Sproles longest run came on the 3rd play of the game on a toss. More solid blocking than flashy running, Sproles' quickness accelerated the play allowing for the big gain. Sproles' longest catch was a mere seven yards as Tampa Bay (and specifically Lavonte David) did a nice job limiting anything longer. Outside of the short TD, Sproles' biggest play was actually a missed opportunity. Matched up in single coverage with David, Sproles was correctly targeted as he was beyond the coverage, but couldn't bring the pass in as it bounced off his hands. A big opportunity missed for the Saints' offense, but as the score would suggest, not one that would hurt them in the end.

RB Pierre Thomas, Rush: 4 - 13 - 0, Rec: 3 - 26 - 0 (4 targets)

With Ingram controlling most of the carries and Sproles most of the targets in the passing back, Thomas biggest impact came on his longest play of the game on the Saints' opening drive. After Brees faked the handoff to Thomas, he slipped behind two blockers and took the screen up field for 20 yards. Thomas also received four carries, but only managed 13 yards with a long of seven yards.

RB Travaris Cadet, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (2 targets)

Cadet only registered one catch, for three yards. Insignificant as it was, it still was a nice play by Cadet as he made a one-handed grab as he was falling to the turf. With Sproles back in the mix, Cadet returned to his main role on special teams returning kickoffs.

WR Lance Moore, Rec: 4 - 42 - 1 (5 targets)

Moore was third on the team in targets with five and second in catches with four, but like the rest of the passing offense was hurt both by Brees' propensity to spread the ball and game script. Moore's longest catch went for 16 yards and came on the Saints' 2nd TD drive. Moore ran a deep post, elevated between the coverage and made a nice grab to get the offense inside the Tampa 10-yard line. Moore also had a TD catch, coming just before halftime. Nothing spectacular, Moore went just beyond the goal line before curling up. Brees looked off the coverage before coming back to Moore for the seven-yard TD.

WR Marques Colston, Rec: 3 - 60 - 0 (3 targets)

Colston only received three targets, but was caught all three including a 26-yard long on the Saints' 3rd drive. Colston also help set up the Saints' 2nd TD, making a 21-yard catch on 3rd down. Colston was not quite out of his break, but Brees put the perfect amount of loft on the throw allowing the WR to run under the throw. Brees did a nice job spreading the ball around and 24-point halftime lead meant Colston's opportunities were limited.

WR Joseph Morgan, Rec: 2 - 61 - 1 (3 targets)

Morgan only caught two passes (on three targets), but still managed to lead the team in receiving yards as Brees spread the ball around. Morgan's long went for 34 yards and a TD, but was by far the easier of his two catches. Morgan ran right past the coverage and only had to secure the uncontested catch before getting slipping into the end zone. Morgan's best catch, however, came later on a back shoulder throw. The throw was wide and Morgan, who had been running full bore, had to not only turn his body outside, but lay out to make the 27-yard catch. Morgan also drew a 40-yard pass interference penalty on the Saints' final TD drive, putting the offense into the red zone and setting up Ingram for his TD run.

WR Devery Henderson, Rush: 1 - 13 - 0 (1 targets)

Henderson only received one target, but was unable to corral the wayward throw. Coming on a quick slant, the throw was a bit behind the WR, but one that Henderson is expected to make. Henderson also received a carry on an end-around, picking up 13 yards on the run.

TE Jimmy Graham, Rec: 5 - 69 - 0 (9 targets)

Graham was Brees' favorite target, picking up nine targets with five catches including a long of 24 yards. Graham opened the game with an easy 12-yard out, but his best play came just before halftime. After picking up eight yards and a body bruise after a brutal hit from Barron, Graham went right back into enemy territory down the seam on the very next play. Needing both a short memory and testicular fortitude, Graham high pointed the ball in heavy traffic and maintained control despite the rough landing pull down the 24-yard catch. Working mostly the shorter underneath routes, Graham received one more deep target late in the game. Again, running down the seam, the heavily covered Graham couldn't make the contested catch in the end zone. Graham did have one more drop, but news of an injured wrist surfaced earlier in the week, which certainly contributed.

TE David Thomas, Rec: 2 - 21 - 1 (2 targets)

Thomas caught both targets, including a nine-yard TD on the Saints' opening drive. Working off the line, Thomas faked the out before angling back inside and easily scoring on the short toss.

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