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Week 14 Game Recap: New Orleans Saints 28, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14


What you need to know

New Orleans Saints

The Saints looked like the same team who struggled against the Cowboys last week in the first half. They looked out of sorts and it all started with Drew Brees. He was not finding the same success underneath that he has had this season. Brees still had his luck with Michael Thomas but could not find the end zone. There were only 2 plays of 20 yards or longer for the Saints and they just did not look like the same explosive offense. The rushing attack combined for exactly 100 yards, even with 2 guys netting negative yards. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram split their carries, but it was Ingram who was able to break free and find the end zone. The defense did not start well but stepped up in the second half and kept the Buccaneers off the board. This is now back to back underwhelming performances for the Saints, only this time they came away with the win. New Orleans has a tough close to the season with a Monday Night game against the Panthers next week and then the Steelers and the Panthers again to close the season. It will be a good test going into the playoffs for a team that is struggling a little.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay went into halftime with a 14-3 lead, but the 2nd half was all New Orleans as Drew Brees and the offense put up 25 unanswered points. Receiver Desean Jackson sat out again with a thumb injury. Adarius Taylor intercepted Drew Brees on a screen pass in the 2nd quarter. Jason Pierre-Paul recovered a Drew Brees fumble at the beginning of the 3rd quarter. New kicker Cairo Santos missed 40 and 46 yard field goal attempts. Jameis Winston threw two touchdowns in the first half and led the Bucs in rushing again as the run game stalled out.

New Orleans Saints

QB Drew Brees, 64 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 31 - 201 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - -1 - 1
Things have not clicked for the past 2 weeks for Brees. He has thrown an interception in back to back games for the first time this season and barely surpassed 200 yards through the air. Brees also lost a fumble on a strip sack. He has played behind the best offensive line in the NFL this season and has not had to deal with defenders in his face that often. Brees connected with Zach Line for a 1-yard touchdown on a play action pass. Everything looked like the Saints were going to run the ball and power it in from the 1, but Line leaked out into the flat for an easy touchdown. Brees also threw an interception where he faked the ball to the left and then lofted a screen pass towards Ingram that was intercepted. He threw the ball into traffic and just did not see the defender in the way. The Saints were on the Buccaneers side of the field and it killed the drive. Brees also added a 1-yard rushing touchdown to cap off his day. Usually when the passing game struggles the run game picks up the slack, but that has not been the case. Brees will need to get back on track in the last 3 weeks before going into the playoffs.

RB Alvin Kamara, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 51 - 0, Rec: 5 - 36 - 0 (6 targets)
Since Mark Ingram returned, Kamara has not been the same back. The Saints continue to split their carries and will not commit one way or the other. The split today was 12 for Kamara and 13 for Ingram. The biggest difference was in the passing game where Kamara had 6 targets to Ingram's 3. There has been a changing dynamic all season. Some weeks Kamara will get the goal line carries and Ingram the passing situations and visa versa. It has been a tough season to predict for the Saints backfield. Kamara's longest run today was 12 yards off tackle and his longest reception was 15 yards. Kamara had not found the end zone on the ground since week 10 where he had back to back games with 2 touchdowns. Kamara did chip in with a 2-point conversion today but did not get the same usage in the red zone as earlier in the season.

RB Mark Ingram, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 52 - 1, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (3 targets)
It has been a tough season for running backs since the Saints got Ingram back from suspension. They have been very good about splitting carries but that has made it hard for any one back to find sustained success. Ingram surpassed 50 yards on the ground and added a touchdown. He did not look great in the passing game and only caught 1 of his 3 targets. One of his targets was on the screen play where Brees threw his third interception of the season. His touchdown run was a brutal 17-yard run where he dragged defenders into the end zone with him. Ingram powered his way right up the middle and stormed his way into the end zone. It has been a tough season for running backs as neither gets a starters workload. The traditional roles from last season have not been utilized this year and the numbers for Ingram have shown that. The rushing game is going to matter in the playoffs and all of the splitting should give their backs fresh legs.

RB Zach Line, 17 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 4 - 0, Rec: 1 - 1 - 1 (1 targets)
Line is not normally mentioned in many circles, but he added an important touchdown this week. He caught the play action 1-yard touchdown pass from Brees to start the comeback for the Saints. It was the same play they have run all season long where after the play action he leaks out into the flat and continues to be uncovered. The Saints have established a run game to the point that they bite almost every time on this play. Line does not get many carries or looks in the passing game but has been good for a couple touchdowns each season.

WR Michael Thomas, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 11 - 98 - 0 (13 targets)
Thomas failed to surpass 100 yards again this week and did not find the end zone. Teams have been looking to take him away in the passing game and have found mild success in recent weeks. He saw the type of volume that we have come to expect this season but was never able to break free. His longest catch of the day went for 20 yards and he caught 11 of his 13 targets. His normal crossing routes were tackled right away and Brees was not as accurate in the red zone on their usual out route for a touchdown. Thomas is the same player he has been all season but does not have a receiver opposite of him to take some of the pressure off. Thomas could operate underneath when Ginn was taking the top off the defense or when the linebackers were biting on the play action. Thomas is still the number one option in the offense, but he will need some help on the other side so that he isn't constantly double covered.

WR TreQuan Smith, 41 offensive snaps (1 targets)
The offense has just not been the same in the last 2 weeks and Smith has not contributed at all. He had a single target this week and did not catch it. The emergence of Keith Kirkwood has really cut into the playing time for Smith and that looks to be a trend that is going to continue. Smith has surprised a lot of people this season since filling in for Ted Ginn but that has changed in recent weeks. Any value in Smith may be lost with 3 tough matchups to close the season.

TE Ben Watson, 28 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 24 - 0 (3 targets)
Watson caught all 3 of his targets this week but did not play a major factor in the game. Despite the lack of receiving depth, Watson has not emerged in the Saints offense. His longest catch today was 11 yards and he was a non-factor in the red zone. It has been a disappointing season for the big tight end with Brees utilizing other tight ends in the offense. The skill set does not seem to matchup with what the Saints are trying to do right now. With Taysom Hill and Josh Hill bidding for time, Watson may be the odd man out at the end of the season.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Jameis Winston, 70 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 38 - 213 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 5 - 47 - 0
Winston led the Bucs to a score on their first offensive drive, hitting Mike Evans for a 36 yard gain down the right sideline and capping the drive with a precision pass to Cameron Brate between two defenders. Winston led another scoring drive with the two minute offense at the end of the 2nd quarter. Winston finished the drive with a short, play action pass to Cameron Brate after Adam Humphries was tackled inside the 1 yard line on the previous play. Winston struggled to push the ball downfield after the early hookup with Evans. Winston and Godwin were particularly out of sync as they only connected on 1 of 10 targets, including several deep balls. Winston didnít do much in the second half and was intercepted on the last play of the game as he he heaved a desperate long ball into the end zone. The Bucs were down by two touchdowns and time was expiring, so we won't hold that one against him.

Winston led the Bucs in rushing for the 2nd week in a row. He converted 3rd and 9 with a 17 yard scramble in the 2nd quarter. He picked up another first down on 3rd and 4 in the 3rd quarter.

RB Peyton Barber, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 42 - 0, Rec: 1 - 2 - 0 (2 targets)
Barber watched Winston lead the team in rushing for the second week in a row. Barber burst up the middle of the defense for a 13 yard gain early in the 1st quarter. He had a bad drop on an open pass that would have picked up good yardage in the 1st quarter. He secured his second target for a minimal gain at the end of the 2nd quarter.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 16 - 0, Rec: 4 - 38 - 0 (5 targets)
Rodgers took his first carry up the middle for 10 yards in the 2nd quarter. He logged a couple more carries on the same drive. Rodgers caught a checkdown pass from Winston for 5 yards during the last of minutes of the 1st half. Rodgers pulled in several checkdown passes at the end of the 4th quarter that went for big gains as the Saints sat back in prevent defense with a two touchdown lead.

WR Adam Humphries, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 42 - 0 (8 targets)
Humphries was second on the team with 8 targets, but had a bit of a down week. He nearly scored at the end of the first half, instead setting up a short touchdown for Brate. Humpries got destroyed on his first reception, a skinny post route that picked up 15 yards. He lost his helmet on the play, but bounced back up and didn't seem affected by the shot. Humphries caught a deep comeback route on the next drive for a nice gain. Winston hit Humphries with a quick slant at the end of the 1st half. Humphries worked his way open on the next play as Winston improvised and bought time with his feet. He eventually found Humphries open in the middle of the field, and Humphries carried the ball down inside the 1 yard line.

WR Mike Evans, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 86 - 0 (6 targets)
Evans started his day out with a deep ball down the right sideline that picked up 36 yards on Tampa Bay's first offensive drive of the day. Evans was quiet until late in the 3rd quarter when he took a big shot while making a leaping catch up the left seam. He was slow to get up, but didn't miss any time after the big hit. Winston hit him for a big gain on a deep comeback route later in the 4th quarter. The two connected one more time on a deep out route with less than a minute in the game as the Saints sat back in prevent defense with a two touchdown lead. Evans was the target on Winston's interception, but it was just a desperate heave into the end zone as time expired, with the Bucs down two touchdowns to the Saints.

WR Chris Godwin, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 13 - 0 (10 targets)
Godwin drew team-high 10 targets but was horribly inefficient, converting them to just one reception for 13 yards. Corner Eli Apple followed him for much of the day with great success. Winston targeted him in the end zone on Tampa Bay's first offensive drive, but Godwin couldn't get his hands on the pass. Winston overthrew him on a deep route later in the 1st. Godwin was targeted with a deep ball in the end zone in the 2nd quarter, but got tripped up by incidental contact with his defender. Godwin actually fumbled his reception in the 2nd quarter, but Cameron Brate was able to recover the 13 yard gain. Winston overthrew him again on a 3rd quarter deep ball as the two struggled to get on the same page.

WR Bobo Wilson
Wilson got a few snaps in behind Evans, Humphries, and Godwin. He lined up wide left and caught a bubble screen for a short gain in the 2nd quarter.

TE Cameron Brate, 46 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 12 - 2 (4 targets)
Brate only managed 12 yards but scored twice in the first half of the game. He lined up tight and worked his way to the front pylon of the end zone where he scored his first touchdown early in the 1st quarter. Brate made a strong catch between two defenders just behind the pylon. Brate got open on a play action pass from inside the New Orleans 1 yard line for his second touchdown at the end of the 1st half of play. Brate did not record any stats after halftime.

TE Antony Auclair, 23 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (1 targets)
Auclair made a nice catch up the seam for a 12 yard gain at the beginning of the 2nd quarter.