As a former NFL assistant coach, Greg Schiano is familiar with the Louisiana Superdome, one of the league’s iconic destinations thanks to its many Super Bowls. Before Sunday, it had been a long time since he’d been reacquainted with the Superdome atmosphere, but he already knew what to expect before he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into that hostile environment.
“I haven’t been in this place for probably about 18 years,” said Schiano, who last visited as an assistant coach with the Chicago Bears in 1996. “But I remember it was loud then and it’s going to be [the same] today. They’re an angry team, as well, so you’ve got two angry football teams that are trying to go out there and get that taste out of their mouths. Should be great.”
Schiano’s Bucs are still clinging to slight playoff aspirations, while the Saints have been essentially eliminated at 5-8. Both teams ended up in their current situations after suffering difficult defeats last Sunday. Tampa Bay fell to Philadelphia, 23-21, on the last play of the game while the Saints ran into a Giant thresher in New York, falling 52-27. In addition to those disappointing outcomes, the Bucs and Saints also have a previous matchup this season to rehash, with New Orleans winning 35-28 in Tampa in a game that ended with a rare penalty wiping out a potential game-tying touchdown.
The Saints have the potential for a sweep after taking the more difficult half of their home-and-home series with the Bucs, but Tampa Bay has actually fared well in the Superdome in recent years. Three of its last five trips to New Orleans have ended in victory. The Bucs also won their only other game this season that was played on artificial turft, taking down the Vikings in Minnesota in Week Eight.
“As with anything in life, when you’ve had success doing something you should have confidence that you can do it again,” said Schiano. “That consistency over time makes you an elite performer or coach. So here we have a second chance to go into a dome and hopefully manage the situation well. The best thing we did in Minnesota was we got ahead early, we played well early and the crowd kind of sat on its hands a little bit.”
The Bucs took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter against the Vikings in the Metrodome, sweated a bit when the Vikings rallied in the third quarter but then pulled away for the 36-17 victory. During Minnesota’s attempted rally, the Metrodome got etremely loud, but the Buccaneers handled that extra presssure and were able to quiet them again.
Schiano knows that the Superdome can be just as difficult as the Metrodome, but he believes his team can once again establish an early lead and then pound away with the rushing attack.
“It’s going to be loud, real loud,” he said. “Some of the things we do in our audible system are not up today, can’t do them. But there are some good things we can do, and you’ll see Josh doing some things at the line of scrimmage to get us in and out of the right things. We’re going to run the football today, no doubt about it. We’ve got to do it successfully.”