Tampa Bay’s defense produced a season-high six sacks last Sunday against Philadelphia, accounting for one quarter of its 2012 total in that category. Against the Saints in Week Seven, that defense failed to pick up a sack, marking just one of four times this season it has been shut out. This Sunday, the Buccaneers probably need to fall somewhere between those two extremes if they want to avenge their earlier 35-28 loss.
It won’t be easy, though the constant pressure the Bucs put on Eagles QB Nick Foles is definitely a good sign.
“That’s something we want to build off of,” said DT Gerald McCoy, who dropped Foles twice and added three more quarterback hits. “Even if we don’t get six, we still want to use it as momentum going into this game. But that was last week. It was a completely different team, a completely different O-Line, a completely different quarterback. They’ve got Pro Bowlers up front on this line and a Hall of Fame quarterback throwing. It’s a little different from a rookie that has started six or seven games. So we’ve got a tough test ahead of us.”
Indeed, while Foles did some very impressive things, particularly on the last two drives that won the game for Philly, he obviously has less experience and less of a track record than Saints QB Drew Brees. Brees has had the good fortune in recent years of playing behind elite talent on the offensive line – and still does, in some cases – but he also deserves a lot of credit for avoiding sacks with his quick decision-making. In his first six seasons with the Saints, Brees absorbed an average of just 19.3 sacks per season, or a little over one per game. He has been dropped 23 times this year in 13 games, a slightly higher average but still nothing dramatic.
“From our end of it, we’ve got to disrupt #9 more than that,” said McCoy. “We had no sacks and no pressures [in Week Seven]. That’s not good enough. You can’t beat #9 doing that. You let that guy get comfortable and he’ll kill you. I believe he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Anybody like that, you let him get comfortable and he’ll hurt you.”
LB Adam Hayward compared Brees to Denver’s Peyton Manning, saying both quarterbacks were extremely hard to fool or confuse with defensive disguises. Hayward did point out that Brees is not one of the league’s taller quarterbacks, a fact he has obviously overcome to an enormous degree, but still makes him a little more susceptible to disruption if pass-rushers can get close to him.
“That pressure, when you’re getting in somebody’s face, it doesn’t make them comfortable, sitting in that pocket,” said Hayward. “If we can get him uncomfortable sitting back there it’s going to be turnovers for us and it’s going to be a better game than the last time we played him. The guy knows what [defense] you’re in, he knows what’s going on, just like how Peyton was. He sees everything. Quarterbacks like this, you’ve got to find something that they don’t do well and make a living off that. Get in the right position and tackle, like we’ve been doing, and get turnovers.”
Brees has thrown nine interceptions in his last game, an extremely uncharacteristic streak for him. Probably not coincidentally, he has been sacked seven times in that same span. The Buccaneers hope they can keep both of those trends going on Sunday.