Dec 4, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (right) in the huddle during the second half against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Tampa Bay won 28-21. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints

After getting blown out by the Atlanta Falcons, the Bucs’ record fell to 3-5. Quarterback Jameis Winston following that defeat, declared that he and his team were not losers.

Since then, he’s backed up his talk, leading the Bucs to a 4-0 record including key wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks. During this four-game winning streak, Winston has thrown for six touchdowns and three interceptions while averaging 286 passing yards per game. Offensively, the Bucs are averaging 24 points per game during this streak and 23 points per game overall.

Defense Wins Games

The key behind the Bucs’ turnaround, however, has not been the offense, but the defense, which has been lights out. During this winning streak, Tampa Bay’s defense ranks first in points allowed per game (13.3), takeaways (11), and passer rating allowed (67.3). The defense also ranks second in third-down percentage allowed (28.9), fifth in sacks (12) and fifth in yards allowed per game (300.3). This has been especially impressive because this is the same unit that gave up nearly 1,100 yards in back-to-back games against the Oakland Raiders and the Atlanta Falcons.

The players believe that better communication has been the key to this defensive turnaround.

“There was a lack of actual talking,” said Gerald McCoy, Bucs defensive tackle. “There’s non-verbal communication and then there’s verbal communication. We were actually not talking enough, like saying out loud what you thought the check was, or what we were in. It was causing guys to make mistakes, because they thought somebody was doing one thing and they were thinking another.”

Work To Be Done

Thanks to this resurgence, the team now finds itself holding onto a playoff spot with the sixth seed in the NFC. It will be tested this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, a team the Bucs have not beaten at home since 2011. Quarterback Drew Brees has shown no signs of slowing down even at the age of 37. He leads the NFL in passing yards (3,913), passing touchdowns and completion percentage (71.4). Although the Saints’ defense has been horrible (26th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed), any team that is led by Drew Brees at quarterback should not be underestimated. Winston seems to understand this, as he says his team has to keep fighting.

The game will begin this Sunday in Tampa at 4:25 p.m.

 

About David Street

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