Defense Controls The “W”

September 5th, 2018


From a silver and black grave, Al Davis offers up a succinct posthumous scouting report for Tampa Bay’s season opener in New Orleans.

It was the late Hall of Fame owner of the Raiders who supplied football fans with one of the great quotes in pro football annals 40 years ago.

Staring straight into the cameras of NFL films, Davis cut through all the nonsense:

“Somewhere within the first five to 10 plays of the game,” Davis said, “the other team’s quarterback must go down — and he must go down hard.”

That’s it. That’s the whole of Sunday’s matchup in a nutshell.

Drew Brees has had his way with the Buc defense for far too long. Can we really expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to win a shootout against one of the great offenses of the modern era?

Jason Pierre-Paul

This is where the overhauled defensive line of the Bucs must make its stand, even without newcomers Vita Vea and Mitch Unrein. This is where Jason Pierre-Paul, Gerald McCoy, Vinny Curry and Beau Allen need to show that these aren’t the same old Bucs.

“They are an explosive offense and it starts with their quarterback, who is a great player,” says Bucs LB coach Mark Duffner. “Their offensive line is one of the best in the league and we’ve got our hands full in terms of what they present from a matchup standpoint.”

There have been too many Sunday afternoons against the Bucs when Brees didn’t requite a post-game shower. He hugged his family, talked at the podium for a few minutes and walked out of the Superdome without as much as a bruise, looking for some gumbo and bread pudding.

You want proof?

In 25 career starts against the Bucs, including one as a member of the Chargers, Brees is 16-9 with 48 TD passes. He has been sacked only 33 times and the breakdown is quite telling.

When the Bucs drop Brees two times or fewer, he is 15-6 against them.

When Tampa Bay puts Brees on the ground at least three times, he is 1-3 and the Saints average only 17.8 points.

Courageous Vs. Tenacious

Sack totals can be overstated, but what can’t be disputed is the Buc pass defense will be shredded Sunday if Brees isn’t made to feel uncomfortable.

Even in the 2017 season finale, when the Bucs rallied for a 31-24 triumph against the Saints on a last-second TD pass, Brees was sacked twice and hit only two other times.

Those sacks and hits came courtesy of Clinton McDonald and Ryan Russell, who have both since departed.

“Brees gets it,” Duffner said. “He’s got eyes in the back of his head to get out of trouble and he’s also courageous about holding the ball long enough to wait for a guy to get open.”

Usually, that guy is Michael Thomas or Alvin Kamara, the league’s reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year. With Mark Ingram unavailable due to suspension, Kamara may take on a more prominent role Sunday.

“Kamara is a big challenge, with those swing passes out of the backfield,” says Lavonte David. “Sometimes, they line him up at receiver. He’s a force to be reckoned with.”

Thomas, an emerging star, caught 104 passes in his second NFL season.

The best way to contain Thomas? Move Brees off his sweet spot.

Ugliest Opening Number

That won’t be easy against a Saints front that includes elite center Max Unger and a pair of former first-round draft picks in guard Andrus Peat and tackle Ryan Ramczyk.

“We can’t wait,” says Kwon Alexander. “We’re not worried about being the underdog. We’re going to do our thing. This whole defense is more confident and we’re having a lot more fun. They’ve got great players and great coaches, but we do, too.”

Tampa Bay’s early offensive woes are well documented, but the Bucs also allowed an NFL-high 87 points in the opening quarter last fall.

There were too many times, especially on the road, when Mike Smith’s work force appeared unprepared at kickoff time.

“To win this game, we’ve got to play team football in a hostile environment,” David says. “We’ve got to start fast and finish faster.”

Now in his 40th year covering the NFL, Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in the Tampa Bay area. He scored a full-time seat at world headquarters in July of 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays at 5 p.m. during football season. Also a TV star, see Ira now on Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360 (aka BayNews 9). Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday NFL show and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, tennis, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

36 Responses to “Defense Controls The “W””

  1. horse liver Says:

    Ira has it right. Mike Smith’s defense musy hold Brees and the Aints to 23 points or less to have a chance, and that means effective pass rush from the front four and sone creative blitz packages that don’t telegraph who’s coming. And then the blitzer needs to make the play instead of flying by and like a ufo and whiffing.

  2. Says:

    I remember a game we won in New Orleans where just one hit of Brees was enough to mess his shoulder up for a few games. Jameis was QB that game, too. Our team can play well against the Saints in their own stadium. With a group of Stick Carriers in the Superdome making some noise, we could come out of there with a W.


  3. BigPoppaBuc Says:

    Feeling pretty good about the upcoming season. Just not this game. Our three game opening gauntlet starts with a division opponent on the road. Hard to see us winning, but effort and play calling will be under my microscope. Go Bucs!

  4. Steve in Mad Beach Says:

    It’ll help if our corners aren’t lined up 10 yards back. Brees will pick you apart if you give him everything underneath. You have to give the D lineman at least 2 seconds to get there!

  5. Marc Says:

    Is D. Smith back on the practice fields yet? What about C. Davis and M.J. Stewart? We are really going to be doing those guys back this week. Please keep us posted.

  6. Reality_43 Says:

    So who throws the 1st interception?

    FITZ or BREES?

  7. Says:

    My hope is it is Brees that coughs up the ball first. Watch for the DT to bat and tip balls early and often.

  8. DB55 Says:

    Alex Mack plays for the saints? Lol, go back to bed Ira.

    There’s so much wrong here I don’t even know where to start. Thomas is an emerging star? Lol, hmm okay. He’s a pro-bowler who we could have drafted especially since his mentor got us a championship but what’s that matter? We could have draft him or Derrick Henry but instead got Noah Spence who is NOT a pro-bowler.

    The QB going down hard is now a 15 yard penalty in the nfl.

  9. BucNole Says:

    JOE – I hope you can give us some info on how the Stick Carrier Invasion goes.
    Maybe some pix and a few snippets of info.
    It would be nice to hear our fans on the TV Broadcast as well

  10. Dooshlarue Says:

    Ok, so Defense controls the W……
    What I want to know is…..

    Who be eatin’ that W?

  11. Wausa Says:

    Ira is correct the Bucs defense must show up.

    The Bucs had one of the worst defenses in NFL history last year so they better be significantly improved.

  12. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Game 1 – Saints
    Element of surprise because of our improved defense. Very winnable.


    Game 2 – at Eagles
    They lost a lot of talent, some of which came to us, not to mention repeating is difficult for a SB team. Another winnable game.


    Game 3 – Steelers
    We’ve only beaten the Steelers twice since 1976, and the last time was 4 years ago. The first time was 20 years ago this year. Never say never, but I’ve got to mark this one as a loss.


    Game 4 – at Bears
    We played them in our first game last year (which should have been our second game, but, you know…Irma). We stomped them into the mud. Jameis Winston will do the same thing this year.


    Game 5 – at Falcons
    The Falcons beat us twice last year, but we usually split the games with them. There is a reason for this. Jameis Winston and Matt Ryan are actually very close stat-wise, and we had no defense the past few years. That has now changed, and although we’ll lack the element of surprise, we’ll still win this close game.


    Game 6 – Browns
    The Browns had a no-win season last year. They will likely be better this year, but we are much, much better across the board.


    Game 7 – at Bengals
    Andy Dalton at quarterback will get the Bucs a few sacks in this game. We’ve faced each other 11 times over the years, and we are 7-4 against them. We make it 8-4.


    Game 8 – at Panthers
    This game is going to be a good one. Right around this time of the season, we will have IR players returning, but might need a week to get going. Vea will have been starting for a while, and by this point the Bucs ability to get sacks will no longer be in question. That said, Newton is going to scramble a lot, and he’s smart enough to throw the ball away. Sack totals will be low in this game for us. The pressure will be there though. Newton will throw a pick, maybe more than one. It will be a close game, but we lose it.


    Game 9 – Redskins
    The players who return from IR are now ready to play. The Bucs, even with the loss they had in the previous week, are the talk of the NFL. All the national media will pretend they never predicted doom and gloom for our Bucs.

    The skins traded for Alex Smith. They were quiet in free agency, and getting Smith cost them a CB and a third.

    We have played the Skins 20 times, and we each won 10 games. This is the tiebreaker.

    This is not the same old Bucs. They have attitude and play with anger now. Mad after a loss to a divsion rival, the Bucs stomp the Redskins badly.


    Game 10 – at Giants
    We faced them last year, and won in a close game (25-23). Jameis was injured at that point (from two games previously) and was throwing with a bad shoulder, yet still threw for 332 yards.

    He’s not injured this year. Still the game should be a close one, and both teams improved their defense. Close game again. Since we beat them with all our injuries last year, plus JPP might have some inside knowledge on getting Eli to make mistakes, I’m predicting a win.


    Game 11 – 49ers
    No one really knows what to expect from these guys. New GM (John Lynch) who has spent time on the Bucs sidelines and has been getting insider infor for years. The two teams have faced one another 23 times, and the 49ers lead 17-6.

    John Lynch is going to lean toward defense, so they will be focused on shutting down our offense in a big way. I want a win here, but I have to mark it as a loss.


    Game 12 – Panthers
    Payback time. We lost the last game against them, and it made the team angry. This time, they come out guns blazing. The Panthers will not know what hit them.


    Game 13 – Saints
    No longer having the element of surprise, after beating them in the first game of the season, the Bucs will get their rears kicked in this game.


    Game 14 – at Ravens
    We have only faced the Ravens 5 times, and we’ve been running neck and neck against them. Right now, they have a one game lead, but that ends here and we tie up the series.


    Game 15 – Cowboys
    The Bucs have faced them 18 times counting 2 post season games), and the Cowboys lead the series 14-4. The last time we beat them was in 2015. In 2016, the Cowboys won by one score. In fact, most of their wins against the Bucs were by only one score, with the exceptions of 2-3 times.

    Their starting QB is injured by this point (as is the tradition there), and we play a backup. In past years, this would be bad news since the Bucs struggled against backups, but like I said already, this is not the same old Bucs. The national media will be split on this game, but most will give the edge to the Cowboys. They’ll be surprised. We win.


    Game 16 – Falcons
    By this time, the Bucs have secured a first round bye in the playoffs. Koetter decides to rest some starters, and the Falcons are trying to save face. They beat us as a result.


  13. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    If the OL is out of whack then cam jordan and the aints rookie DE may end up setting an all time 1 game sack record, poor fitzmagizc, licht should take note on how the saints GM built this team, actually every gm except licht has built a team capable of playing strong defense and run the ball with an elite qb, maybe not cam so much BUT

  14. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    I would love it if the Bucs CBs played press, totally catching the Saints off guard.

  15. Reolity-is-a-Beotch Says:


    so now that you have written the bucs results for the comedy or syfy channel to use.

    let’s see the realistic prediction with the narrative for the 4-12 season the bucs will actually have complete with your hero batman quitting on the team and running off another set of coaches…. bucs are quitters not winners

  16. LakeLand Says:

    Didn’t the Yucs recently signed DE Carl Nassib?

    A backup DE from a 0-16 team lol

    If Defense win games, the Bucs are in serious trouble

  17. View from 132 Says:

    8-8 after starting 5 dash 2, but I don’t like this matchup or the Steeler game.

    Saints 34, Bucs 20.

  18. stpetebucsfan Says:

    To all the guys who think Pittsburgh will beat us…is that with or without Leveon Bell. Hard for me to see how you remove over 400 touches by one of not the best RB in the league.

    Certainly Big Ben and Antonio Brown could rip us…but I’d rather face the Steelers without their great RB.

  19. Buccernutter Says:

    I’m shocked I’m the only one that realized Alex Mack plays for the falcons, not the saints. Surprised it took this long to be addressed.

    Also, is the saints line really one of the best in the league? Hmmmm

  20. Wausa Says:

    Love the prediction Buccaneer Bonzai

  21. Says:

    We should try to get Glennon for the Steelers game… he is 2-0 vs the Steelers.

  22. Trench War Says:

    The Saints have never been shy historically since Peyton has been head coach to spend a 1st round pick on a good offensive lineman, unlike the Bucs. Every time they lose a good lineman to free agency, injury or retirement they use a high pick to draft another. They know the best way to win games is by protecting Brees. The same could be said about Belicheat too.

  23. BucEmUp Says:

    press the wrs for once disrupt the timing and you will see those sacks

  24. Pickgrin Says:

    “Defense Controls The “W”

    Assuming the offense can score at least 20-24 points – I imagine this is a completely true statement.

    We need to see COMPLEMENTARY FOOTBALL all season long. I’m thinking we might have finally acquired the roster talent and degree of balance necessary to achieve that. But reality dictates remembering that a lot of our good players are still fairly young and don’t have years of NFL experience to fall back on.

    Should be a good year all in all. Why not the Bucs? Why not now?

    Buncha that young talent fixin to BUST OUT in 2018 I’m hoping….

  25. joestang Says:

    We need our linebackers to show up. Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander have to make more splash plays. These plays were missing last year from our linebackers. Can’t count on secondary to cover.

  26. gilhealy Says:

    Young and Dumb, Pickgrin. I’ll take it. Let ’em play loose and get after it. It may take a half for the DB’s to flow, but I’ve no doubt we’ll be up to all challenges this year. We need the linebackers to rock, though. Gotta keep Kwonie in his gap. Although we didn’t record a ton of sacks preseason, we got constant pressure. That in itself will make a huge difference in the backend, and linebackers. I think Whitehead is gonna get a lot of snaps, as well. Straight baller with great instincts. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a pick.

    I’ll stop. Can’t wait to see the talent shine. 100% glass full.

  27. XpfcWintergreen2 Says:

    Love the quote from Al Davis, Sage!

    Old farts like me appreciate information and insight. That is what we come to places like this for.

    Petty bickering and name calling (among a minority, here) does not constitute good debate among staunch fans.
    Go Bucs!!!! Just Wreak Havoc!

  28. AlabamaBucFan Says:

    On paper, the Saints are better at almost every position except LB and TEs. It is pretty evenly split with DBs and WR. They outmatch us at every other position; QB, RB, OL, and DL. I don’t see us winning this one, especially with Jameis out of the game.

  29. Reolity-is-a-Beotch Says:


    you are given bucs lb’s way too much credit and a free pass. lvd has not been good since schiano and kwon is all ROAR and no play… it’s actually a weak group without beckwith. he played well.

  30. Defense Rules Says:

    Oh Ira, bravo on 2 fantastic quotes in there:

    o “Sack totals can be overstated, but what can’t be disputed is the Buc pass defense will be shredded Sunday if Brees isn’t made to feel uncomfortable.” Pressure on Brees & stopping the run are the keys to victory on Sunday.

    o “To win this game, we’ve got to play team football in a hostile environment,” David says. “We’ve got to start fast and finish faster.” LVD nailed it … TEAM football. Time to let the dogs out. Really hope Bucs are up to playing good old smash-mouth football.

  31. 813bucboi Says:

    the goal is to go 1-0….

    hopefully, dirk has this team ready to go and they don’t come out “FLAT”!!!!!


  32. Reality-is-a-Beotch Says:

    hopefully, dirk has this team ready to go and they don’t come out “FLAT”!!!!!

    Tennessee Ready!

  33. Mike Johnson Says:

    With yas Ira….Been shoutin DEFENSE the last 5 yrs or so with these Bucs. Everybody in BucLand so enthralled at nice spirals and Jameis’s ohhh and ahhs. We got away from the franchise’s calling card yrs ago. And once we did, we never recovered. This Defense has got to get after it in order for this team to have success. It starts Sunday. Us ole heads are watching…….Say Ira maybe you can get DC Smitty to make a cameo..appearance on the playing field Sunday? Even his Defensive troops would be fired up about that!

  34. SchwiftyBuc Says:

    Ira you got a little bit confused here it looks like. While the Saints do have an elite center, their’s is named Max Unger. Alex Mack plays for the Falcons.

  35. Bucsfanman Says:

    I love the positivity Bonzai! Why not?! A bad bounce here, a short kick there, it can happen!

  36. Buc1987 Says:

    The Saint’s are holding onto Mark Ingram?

    FOUR game suspension and all?

    Surely he’s HURTING his team……

    If I were one of a few Bucs…I mean Saint’s fans…I’d be wanting him cut immediately!