TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one win away from advancing to the NFC Conference Championship game. For that to happen, the Bucs must play much better than they did against the New Orleans Saints earlier this season.
The Saints beat the Bucs twice during the regular season. Now, Drew Brees and the Saints have a chance to go for the hat trick. New Orleans beat up Tom Brady in those two wins, picking him off five times and sacking him six times.
“I think they’re a good defense,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “We’ve got to block them better and I think we know what we’re doing a whole lot better now than we did then.”
The Bucs have looked like a different team on offense over their last five games when compared to the two losses against the Saints this season.
In the two losses with New Orleans, the Bucs averaged 13 points per game, 349 yards, and turned the ball over a total of six times.
In Tampa Bay’s last five games, all wins, they’ve averaged 35.8 points per game, 439.8 yards per game, and only turned the ball over five times. Proof for the Bucs to believe they can beat a Saints team that has had their number.
“We added (Antonio Brown.) It was his first game when we played them,” wide receiver Mike Evans said. “We’ve been learning as the season has gone on. We’re finding more about ourselves each week. This season has been difficult for everybody.”
Tampa Bay will get some help on defense this week. Linebacker Devin White and defensive tackle Steve McLendon returned to practice from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Running back Ronald Jones III was out with a quad injury Wednesday, but hope to return to practice Thursday.
“I feel like we’re getting healthier,” Evans said. “Our roster, I feel like, is the most talented roster in the league. We started off as a good team because we just have a lot of great players on our team. But now, we’re forming into a great team. We’ve just got to keep going each week, battling, finding ways to get better, and finding ways to win tough games.”
“On any given Sunday, any team can win,” wide receiver Chris Godwin said. “If we focus on ourselves, go out, and handle business, like us. I like where we stand, I like my guys.”
The Buccaneers and Saints kick off at 6:40 p.m. ET on Sunday.