Knockout Blows

December 23rd, 2016


It’s the most important relationship in pro football, and Saturday’s matchup at New Orleans is Exhibit A.

The vibe between a head coach and a quarterback cannot be overstated and this could be the last roundup for Drew Brees and Sean Payton at the Superdome, where they have lit up that scoreboard for the past decade.

Brees took a 30-28 career record into New Orleans as a free agent in 2006. He had never topped 3,600 passing yards before hooking up with Sean Payton and forming a deadly duo.

Brees turns 38 next month and there is growing speculation Payton will soon be traded for a package of draft picks to accelerate a rebuilding process.

It’s quite a different scenario in Tampa, where 22-year-old Jameis Winston and first-year head coach Dirk Koetter have the Bucs in prime position for a playoff spot.

Brees bounced back from two subpar games to strafe Arizona in last week’s 48-41 triumph, throwing for 389 yards and four touchdowns. That’s the NFL assassin Buc fans are familiar with, the gunslinger who has broken Tampa Bay hearts for 11 years.

The Bucs beat him 16-11 two weeks ago, but even defensive coordinator Mike Smith has to know deep down that Brees is going to get his on Christmas Eve.

Will Winston?

Impotent Stretch

Tampa Bay has topped the 20-point mark only once in the past five weeks, and this is no time for an offensive funk. The Saints lead the NFL in total offense and they average 31 points at home.

The Bucs defense will show up Saturday, but Winston and company have to do their part. They may have to win a shootout of the 35-31 variety. At the very least, they have to stay on the field.

If the Saints snap the ball 83 times, like they did at Arizona, they figure to win Saturday. Maybe even win big.

The onus is on Tampa Bay’s struggling attack to carve up a New Orleans defense that allowed the Cardinals to average 7.6 yards per snap.

Big plays would certainly help.

In the past two weeks, the Bucs have registered only five long plays — runs of at least 10 yards or completions of 20 yards or more.

Buc opponents have posted 13 long plays in that span.

“We look at the variables that affect winning in the NFL and turnovers is obviously number one, explosive plays is number two and sacks is actually ahead of third downs for number three,” Koetter says.

Pound 13

Mike Evans has only one long reception in the past three games, a 22-yard catch at San Diego, and that simply won’t do. Of course opposing defenses are tilting coverage toward Evans, but those are the challenges elite receivers face every week in the NFL.

If I’m Koetter, I’m not leaving the Superdome without throwing several long passes to Evans. He’ll catch a few and generate flags on some others, giving the Bucs the chunk yards that have been sorely missing.

I’m also activating Jacquizz Rodgers, with the idea of using him as my primary back if Doug Martin gets off to a slow start. This is no time to think about contracts, investments or hurt feelings, not with a postseason berth at stake in the final two games.

“We’re having some trouble in multiple spots,” says Koetter. “We’re too inconsistent overall on offense. We just got out of our rhythm.”

If you can’t find your rhythm in a jazz capital like New Orleans, you don’t deserve to be on the playoff stage. While Payton has one foot out the door, this is Koetter’s moment to ease him out of the Big Easy.

Ira Kaufman is a proud columnist pounding out columns Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, plus a postgame reaction and his riveting podcasts every Tuesday and Thursday. Considering eye-RAH! has been covering the NFL since 1945, he’s a very busy man. Ira is the only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter representing the Tampa Bay market.

21 Responses to “Knockout Blows”

  1. Joehelldeloxley Says:

    100 % with you Mr Kaufman, since the beginning of the season, we shouted a lot on the defense.

    Now, Defense has found a way to play, and make big important plays.

    In the last 5 games, offense didn’t produce enough and there is a staff mistake written on it, like putting Jacquizz Rodgers on the inactive list on the Dallas game !

    Offense has to produce and score, !

  2. teacherman777 Says:

    if we had a run game, we would be really dangerous.

    Do you now why our run game sucks this year?

    Because Logan Mankins, one of the greatest guards EVER, retired.

    I really miss that man. (And shame on you @Joe for making fun of his BBQ talk. He was 100% right. An O-Line MUST come together as a family to play well.)

  3. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    TheacherMan777 are you Logan Mankins’ father?

  4. Ed Says:

    Right on Ira. It’s time for the Bucs offense we saw earlier in the year at Atlanta and a little later in KC.

    More targets to Evans, less 1st down runs. Time to take some shots downfield.

    We need to get Sims one on one on linebackers and feed him the ball in space where his dance moves create wiffed tackles and some big runs.

    Time to put Doug Martin on a short lease, if he keeps getting stuffed and is only getter 3 yards, change to Rogers, he hits holes faster than Doug.

  5. LargoBuc Says:

    Maybe on first down we can try something other than run Doug Martin into a wall for little to no yards. Open with some short, quick passes. Push the tempo. Eventually the deep pass will be opened and maybe even the running game. But sending Martin through the B gap is not getting it done. Good offenses are able to unclog the interior by mixing it up.

  6. Buc4Lyfe79 Says:

    If Rodgers isn’t active and on the field for ATLEAST 30% of our offensive plays, and is not allowed to run the ball ATLEAST 10 times, then Koetter and Co. DO NOT want to win…SIMPLE AS THAT. Put the hamstrung hamster back in his medicine ball, and RUN F’ING RODGERS FOR THE WIN, GO BUCS!!!

  7. Bucsfanman Says:

    It’s going to come down to the run-game and clock management. Jameis is our guy but not in a shootout with Brees.

  8. Bucsfanman Says:

    @Buc- It’s going to take more than Rodgers. The O-line has got to create holes. I get that we’re all frustrated with Martin, but what’s the guy supposed to do when defenders are 4 yards in the backfield at the snap?! It won’t matter who’s back there unless we get some blocking.

  9. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    That can’t be true Bucsfanman, Joe says it’s “bizarre” that someone claims the offensive line is struggling.
    Actually, go back and look at what Joe said was “bizarre” criticism. Joe made a crystal clear explanation. –Joe

  10. Mike Johnson Says:

    The Saints will be ready. Key to the game will be the 1st qtr and our Defense. If our D is so-so/average or worst? Look for us to take an A..whippin of major proportions. Don’t matter what our Offense does. Defense had better be clicking.

  11. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    Jameis has changed the culture of the team, but he hasn’t been able to get the fans to give up the doom and gloom attitude. Mike Johnson thinks if the defense doesn’t play lights out they are going to get an ass whipping of “major proportions.” Dude the Bucs have won 5 of the last 6 and the Saints were one of the teams we beat. The Saints defense is not that good so I wouldn’t say it is solely on our defense. Also, remember that they are 6-8 for a reason. They are not that good.

  12. Bucnut2 Says:

    Touchdown- let’s talk Sunday morning after the Saints eliminate the Winston led Bucs from playoff talk.

  13. Mike Johnson Says:

    TouchdownTampaBay…. I can see you truly do not watch Buc football closely. I bet you’re one of the cheerleader types who just throw up your dress..when we score!! I stick by what I said.

  14. Kobe Faker Says:

    people finally going to realise what Kobe has been saying for months

    Koetter the clown doesnt know how to put the players in their best position to succeed

    he keeps on using Martin and vjack all year

    doesnt use shep enought though he runs the best routes and has the best hands

    runs sims nonstop to the middle

    runs hump down vertical when he cant create separation

    de activates quizz

    no rb screen passess

    runs non stop 1st down into a 8 man wall

    ask atlanta fans how his playcalling was

    this guy is clueless

    doctor shroud and i did a thorough mental personality evaluation on koetter

    our analysis came back with insecurity personality defect

  15. yrbndr Says:

    @kobe faker Your hate for Koetter is baseless! Sign up for your local Pop Warner team as a coach. If you pass the background check you will be served a large dish of humility! I thought you were going away? Obviously not a man of his word!

  16. yrbndr Says:

    @kobe faker
    You obviously are not a Bucs fan. Stop ranting how horrible Koetter is as a HC/OC and enjoy your keyboard and mountain of chips and milk and root for another team that meets your agenda. Stop being an energy sucker that brings eveyrthing else down! Have you played or coached?

  17. Buc15 Says:

    Dont worry Kobe promised never to post here again. A man is only as good as his word, right Kobe?

  18. Piratic Says:

    Kobe Faker=Oath Breaker

  19. Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    “…I’m also activating Jacquizz Rodgers…”

    I hope so. Its time!!!!!!!!

  20. Kobe Faker Says:

    the odds os Quizz playing is 0%. You guys ready for wester our right tackle.

    Your koetter has put our team to lose before we even kickedoff.

    You guys will finally realize that koetter is terrible at putting players to succeed with their talents and skills

    *I also would like to thank Poster Bucnut for paying for my beer tab last week at Abes at clearwater. I was ready to bolt out the door but Bucnut paid my bill.

    Merry christmas to you and your family

  21. Kobe Faker Says:

    *For those unedjucated posters who want me not to post…

    I tried to transfer my obama phone account to a new number, but they wouldnt let me