Saints and Bucs meet for right to go to the NFC Championship game
The Saints will meet Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a third time this season, this time in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs. Beating a team three times in one season is not as difficult as it might seem, as it has happen 14 times out of the 21 chances that have been presented.
The last team to lose the third game after being 2-0 were the 2007 Dallas Cowboys, who lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants, and the most recent team to win three games against the same team in one season were the 2017 New Orleans Saints. The Saints beat the Carolina Panthers in the Wild Card round. So, how likely is it that the Saints will become the 15th team to beat an opponent three times in one year? Let’s take a closer look at how each club did against common opponents to find out.
Bears (Saints 2-0, Bucs 0-1)
The Saints advanced to the divisional round by defeating the Chicago Bears for the second time in the 2020 season. The Saints defense led the way in this game, allowing the Bears to score just 9 points, their lowest total of the entire season.
In the first matchup, Nick Foles was the starting quarterback for Chicago, just like he was when the Bears defeated the Buccaneers in Week 5. The Saints allowed Foles to pass for 272 yards and 2 TDs, and picked him off once. Foles led 4th quarter comebacks against both teams, but fell short in overtime against the Saints.
The Buccaneers were defeated by the Bears on a 4th quarter field goal from Cairo Santos. The Bucs got the ball back with 1:13 left in the game and facing only a one point deficit, but only managed to gain 16 yards before turning it over on downs.
Brady didn’t shake Foles’ hand again. pic.twitter.com/doLOeKXTzJ
— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) October 9, 2020
The Buccaneers were only able to score 19 points against Chicago, which is fewer than the Saints put up in both of their games against the Bears this season. The two games in the regular season were decided late in the fourth quarter and overtime, but the Saints recent success against Chicago, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, suggests that they have an edge over the Buccaneers.
Packers (Saints 0-1, Bucs 1-0)
The strongest argument for the Bucs and why they should be a favorite in the NFC playoffs is what they did to the Green Bay Packers in Week 6. In what was Tampa’s version of what the Saints did to them only three weeks later, the Buccaneers dominated the eventual top seed in the NFC. Tampa won 38-10 and picked off Aaron Rodgers twice, including a pick-six. It was a rare off-game for Rodgers, as a 28-point second quarter from the Buccaneers all but ended the game by halftime.
The Saints played a close game against the Packers in Week 3, but ultimately lost 37-30 in the Superdome. The two offenses for New Orleans and Tampa scored nearly the same amount of points against Green Bay, 30 and 31 respectively, but the Saints defense was unable to limit Rodgers to the extent the Buccaneers were able to. The Buccaneers also had a much easier time establishing the run, as Ronald Jones II ran for over 100 yards and 2 TDs to Latavius Murray’s 58 yards and no TDs.
This matchup gives a clear edge to Tampa Bay. However, if you take into consideration the Saints defense in Week 3 was not even close to the level they are at currently, and that the game in Tampa proved to be an anomaly for both teams, I believe it is fair to say that you shouldn’t get too nervous about this result.
Raiders (Saints 0-1, Bucs 1-0)
Arguably the most surprising loss of the 2020 Saints season would be the one to the Las Vegas Raiders. It was the only game the Saints lost this year by more than 7 points, coming courtesy of a 12-catch 105-yard day by tight end Darren Waller. The only explanation for this loss was that it was back in Week 2. All before the defense and Drew Brees had gotten to the levels they are at currently. The Saints offense simply was not able to generate enough points in the second half of this contest, aided by the fact that the Raiders held the ball for nearly 20 minutes in the second half. The defense was unable to get off the field when needed, and the Saints only gained 45 yards on their first two second half drives after the game was tied at halftime.
The Buccaneers however, thoroughly defeated the Raiders in Week 7. Tom Brady threw for 4 TDs as the Bucs won 45-20. The Buccaneers’ defense did a much better job containing Waller than the Saints, holding him to just 50 yards on 6 catches. Derek Carr threw for the exact same amount of yards in both games, but threw an interception halfway through the fourth quarter that all but sealed this game.
Chiefs (Saints 0-1, Bucs 0-1)
If either the Saints or Buccaneers advance to the Super Bowl, their most likely opponent would be the Kansas City Chiefs. Neither team was able to beat Kansas City this year, as both teams fell in their own stadiums to possibly the best team in the league.
The Saints allowed more total points than the Buccaneers, but also gave up fewer long touchdowns as most of the Chiefs points came on long drives down the field rather than deep shots to Tyreek Hill. Both games were decided by three points, as the Chiefs were able to hold the ball long enough at the end of each contest to deny Tom Brady and Drew Brees the chance for a tie or a victory.
The Saints were able to hang around for most of the game, never trailing by more than two scores, while the Buccaneers got down by 17 points late and used two 4th quarter touchdowns to make the game interesting. Despite the fact that the Saints gave up more points, the Buccaneers gave up way more yards on less drives than New Orleans. Patrick Mahomes threw for 462 yards against Tampa while throwing for 254 against New Orleans. The Saints were also able to sack Mahomes four times compared to only two sacks for the Buccaneers. Looking at the context of both games, I would say the Saints hold an edge over the Bucs in each teams performance against the Super Bowl favorites.
It is hard to say who holds a definitive edge in this matchup of Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The Buccaneers hold an edge in common opponents, going 9-2 to the Saints 8-3. The games against the Packers and Raiders are the most glaring differences, but based on the fact that these two games were very early in the Saints’ season, it is hard to compare the Saints then to the Saints now. The Chiefs games I feel are a much more accurate way to judge each team. The Saints played good football for 60 minutes against Kansas City, but simply fell short to what many feel to be the best team in football. The Bucs allowed the Chiefs offense and Tyreek Hill to run wild in Week 12, as the Pro Bowler gained over 260 yards and scored three times.
Based on this comparison, I believe the Saints passing attack is going to have to come up big if they are to be victorious. The Buccaneers can be thrown on, ranking 21st against the pass compared to 1st against the run, and Brees finally having his full arsenal of weapons should make you feel optimistic about their chances to have success throwing the ball. Now it remains to be seen if the defense will be able to get to Tom Brady and bottle up the Buccaneer receivers like they were able to do in Week 9.
Do you think the Saints will be able to beat the Bucs? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, follow us on Twitter @SaintsCSC, on Instagram at @SaintsCSC, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @HaydenReel.