"The play-calling of head coach Jon Gruden cost the Bucs this game. Gruden failed to establish the running game by calling 44 passes to just 16 runs. Sixteen runs? Tampa Bay had nine runs in the first half to go along with 21 passing attempts, and then just seven runs in the second half with 23 passes. I know Michael Pittman isn't worth much, but how about Mike Alstott? Alstott has had two 100-yard days rushing against the Saints and was hardly used. The Bucs aren't a passing team, they're a play-action passing team. Without the run, or the threat of the run, there is no play-action passing game. That allows opposing defensive lines to tee off on Brad Johnson, who again failed to win a big-time game against a big-time opponent on the road."
"What more can you say about Simeon Rice? Three sacks in the first quarter, a forced fumble and a safety? Granted, he didn't have much of an impact during the rest of the game because of New Orleans' balanced offensive approach. He still leads the NFL with 14.5 sacks and set a new NFL record with five straight games with multiple sacks. Rice has 11 sacks and five forced fumbles in the last five games. Amazing."
"Sure, New Orleans' missed two-point conversion was big, but how about Martin Gramatica's field goal attempt which hit the upright in the first half. Those three points were costly to the Bucs, who lost 23-20."
"Once again, the Buccaneers offensive line failed against a superior defensive line. The Bucs will continue to lose against teams like Philadelphia and New Orleans due to their inferior offensive line. Chalk the Saints up as a team that the Bucs do not want to face in the postseason -- either in New Orleans or Tampa Bay. The Bucs are going to have a hard time winning in the post-season."
"The Saints special teams are awesome. I thought that the Bucs had good coverage and return units, and were one of the fastest teams. No way. New Orleans is flat out fast. Tampa Bay must do a better job of increasing its team speed next year, especially at wide receiver and running back. The Saints are faster than the Bucs and their team speed helped set up field good position and scores, and denied the Bucs good field position."
"Cornerback Brian Kelly had a good string of games, but against the Saints, Joe Horn gives him problems. Kelly bit on a move that allowed Horn to score a touchdown and then wasn't aggressive enough on jumping the slant route that Horn caught for 10 yards on third-and-8 to seal the Saints' win. Kelly's still having a great season, but Horn might have his number. Horn had five catches for 106 yards and the score."
LEO HAGGERTY – Pewter Report Managing Editor:
"There are some teams that just get inside the helmets of their opponents or match up with them better than anyone else. We've seen that with the Bucs as they have owned the St. Louis Rams in the last few years since the 1999 NFC Championship game. I'm afraid that this is the case with the New Orleans Saints. I think they have the Bucs number because of their tremendous team speed on offense and special teams. Michael Lewis, returning punts and kickoffs, is a weapon and proved it with two big returns. His 41 yard second half kickoff return and third quarter 56 yard punt return set up both Saints second half touchdowns. He's a game breaker. On offense, the Saints have two wideouts in Joe Horn and Donte Stallworth that have such great speed that the stretch the Cover 2 employed by the Bucs secondary to the breaking point. These two guys have the blazing speed to run through coverage before defenders can get to their landmarks. We can now add to the list of January no-nos, that already includes road games in Philadelphia or Green Bay, any meeting with the New Orleans Saints. I don't want to see these guys again in the playoffs that's for sure."
"The Bucs offensive staff must have been out to lunch against the Saints. They continually ran play action pass plays even though the Saints defensive line and blitzers were totally ignoring the run. Hello. When you rush the football 16 times for 34 yards you are not going to fool anyone with play action. This one falls squarely on the shoulders of head coach Jon Gruden who had his worst game as a playcaller since he arrived in Tampa. I believe he abandoned the run way too early in the game or, even worse, never planned to make it a staple of the offensive game plan against the Saints."
"What a poor showing on third down again by the Buccaneers defense against the Saints. The Pewter Pirates just can't get off the field. The Saints, in two games, are converting third downs at a 51 percent success rate. Is this a coincidence? I think not and just remember that speed kills and the Saints have plenty of weapons when it comes to that."
JIM FLYNN – Pewter Report Assistant Editor:
"Even the league's No. 1 ranked defense couldn't overcome the mistakes and turnovers created by its own offense and special teams units. Tampa Bay's offensive and special teams' struggles led to its defense allowing New Orleans' offense to convert 50 percent of its third downs, which is exactly what cost the Bucs the game in Week 1. The defense's tackling was shaky and looked disturbingly similar to its tackling performance in Week 1 against the Saints."
"Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly, who has had a Pro Bowl-type of season, struggled to contain Saints WR Joe Horn in Week 1 and he struggled to contain him again on Sunday night. New Orleans' superstar receiver caught five passes for 106 yards and one touchdown."
"Just when you thought Tampa Bay's offensive line was starting to improve, they took two big steps backward on Sunday night after this unit allowed New Orleans' front-four to treat quarterback Brad Johnson to like a piñata, again. Johnson was sacked four times. Tampa Bay left tackle Roman Oben surrendered two of those. And don't think I'm picking on Oben – Kenyatta Walker, Cosey Coleman, Jeff Christy and Kerry Jenkins made their fair share of mistakes, too. And in their defense, it's hard to protect the quarterback when the head coach is calling plays that call for play-action passes in an offense that has no running game."
"Richard Bisaccia's special teams troops had one of its worst outings of the year. They helped give up a total of 17 points on Sunday night (Gramatica's missed field goal and Michael Lewis' 56-yard punt return, which led to a touchdown and Lewis' 41-yard kickoff return, which also led to a touchdown). The Bucs' rushing attack was nonexistent and it will continue to be that way until Jon Gruden decides to feature another back other than Michael Pittman, who's obviously been ineffective. The Bucs ran the ball just 16 times against the Saints for 34 yards (2.1 avg.), which made its offense very one-dimensional. If the Bucs are going to make a serious playoff and Super Bowl run, they might want to seriously consider handing Mike Alstott, who scored a touchdown on a 44-yard pass play in the second quarter, the ball a lot more."
"Tampa Bay took a 9-6 lead into halftime, but if it weren't for defensive end Simeon Rice's three-sack performance in the first half, the Bucs might have been out of this right after it started. One would be hard-pressed to name a NFL defensive lineman who's playing better than Rice right now."
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