The Buccaneers’ defense has gone three straight games without allowing a touchdown pass to its opponents, an impressive streak. The last Tampa Bay defense to do that was the 2005 crew, which put together a shutout month of October, with zero TD passes allowed consecutively to Detroit, the New York Jets, Miami and San Francisco.
Could the 2012 squad match that run of four TD pass-free games by the ’05 defense, which finished the year ranked first in total defense? Well, you couldn’t devise a tougher challenge to the current streak if you tried.
Seriously. The Saints are coming to town Sunday, and holding Drew Brees without a touchdown pass isn’t just difficult, it’s been essentially impossible for three straight years. Two weeks ago, before New Orleans’ bye, Brees broke an NFL record that was more than 50 years old by throwing a scoring pass in his 48th consecutive game. The previous mark was 47 by Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas, who put together his streak from 1956-60. Though Brees’ streak extends over parts of four seasons, it is a total number of games exactly equal to three regular-season campaigns.
So, something’s gotta give, as they say, and most analysts – even some inside One Buccaneer Place – would admit that Brees is the favorite to keep his going, even if the Tampa Bay defense can put up a good showing against the Saints’ top-ranked passing attack.
“You’re not going to stop Drew Brees, but you need to do what you can do to slow him down,” said Bucs Head Coach Greg Schiano. “They are scoring points as they always do. I think our entire team is very aware of the challenge and excited about a division game and all those things.”
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who has trained with Brees during the offseason the past few years and counts the Saints quarterback as a friend, thinks the Pro Bowl passer has been as good as ever this season, despite New Orleans’ 1-4 record.
“Honestly, with the Saints, we have to disrupt #9,” said McCoy. “Everything runs through him, everything they do. We’ve got to be on it. I don’t feel like Drew was ever out of his rhythm. If you go back and look at the numbers, Drew always got his numbers. It was just kind of a team thing. If you just look at him, he was never out of his element and he was always doing his numbers.
“It’s tough test, just like last week when we faced the number-one rushing team in the league. This guy, he gets it done with his arm. But don’t let him fool you – he’s an athlete, too. If he has to move around, he will. We’ve got to be on in all facets of the defense.”
For the record, the Buccaneers’ team record for consecutive games without allowing a touchdown pass is five, orginally set in 1985 (by a defense that still gave up points by the truckload) and then matched in 1998 and 2002. That ’02 squad was clearly the best pass defense of that trio, perhaps one of the best in NFL history, considering it allowed just 10 touchdown passes all year and secured 31 interceptions. The five-game streak lasted from Week Two (at Baltimore) through Week Six (vs. Cleveland), and the Bucs won all five games.