Saints vs. Buccaneers: Keys to the Game

They must protect this house!! - Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the latest "biggest game of the season" on tap for the New Orleans Saints tomorrow, HansDat knew he had to make an appearance with his long-absent Hot Reads to clue you in on exactly what it will take to snap the team's two-game losing streak and march right into the playoffs.

Hansdatshotread_medium

Buccaneers vs Saints coverage

Bucs Nation

Buc you and the horse you rode in on.

Where do you keep your Buccan' ears? Right on the sides of my Buccan' head!

What the Buc is going on here?

Good afternoon, Saints fans and CSC faithful, I'm baaaack! Since I'm in between semesters, here are your Hot Reads to get you through the single most important Saints game of 2013 (since last week). In case you've forgotten how I love the Hot Links, please be sure to click on anything that looks even remotely like it might be a clever link-pun-jpg-gif-video. You won't be disappointed, I promise. Or if you are, you can lodge your complaint in the comment section below and I'll just delete that s*** right away.

Despite their bumbling, stumbling, and crumbling to disappointing defeat in games they should have or could have won in the last two weeks, the New Orleans Saints still hold their playoff fate in the palms of their hands as they take the field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in NFL Week 17 action. And with the game getting "flexed" back to the late slot, we'll know whether they are playing for the Wild Card berth, or the larger prize of the #2 seed and first-round bye. So we've got that going for us, which is nice! Wouldn't you say so, Carl?


Some folks are feeling great anxiety and dread about this game (poor Ralph) given the magnitude of importance it carries, stacked up against the team's recent performances, and I tend to lean that way, too, at times, in regard to the Saints. But today I'm consciously choosing to shift my focus to a more positive angle, and let myself feel excited anticipation and optimism about what is possible for the Saints to accomplish with a good performance on the field.

I am SMELLING GREATNESS, and see our boys FINISHING STRONG to EARN IT (a playoff berth).

Now take my hand and come with me as I walk you through each of my Hot Reads to show you the surefire path to a Saints victory...

Primary Option

Two-fifths of the offensive line made the Pro Bowl. Drew Brees has been sacked more times than ever in his NFL career, and there's still one game to play. For the love of all that's J1000, just do your job and PROTECT DREW BREES. He needs time to throw. It's just that effing simple. Time to throw comes from better pass blocking, better run blocking and run play-calling commitment that leads to a legitimately "considered" running game that eliminates all out blitzing all the time.

What I'd Like To See: Terron "Stretch" Armstead needs to get some more help from his teammates and also ride the learning curve to new and improved heights of success this week on Breesus' blind side. Better overall run blocking and run play-calling would help by providing an effective running game that grinds out the yards when needed. Oh, hey and another thing, Meat. Give up one sack or less and get no more than one penalty called on you this week, max, ok?

Checkdown # 1

After mucking around for a couple of weeks, it's time for PAYTON TO GET HER GROOVE BACK. The Tampa Bay defense is just about as middle of the road as it gets as for as yards allowed against both the pass (16th, 229.1 ypg) and the rush (17th, 110.9 ypg), so Payton's early exploratory play calling, aggressiveness, and situational awareness are of paramount importance as this game unfolds.

What I'd Like To See: Vintage Sean Payton Offense that probes the defense early through a variety of run/pass play selections to determine what's going to work against what the defense is focusing on. Once that has been sorted out, smash it with FIRE over and over, and then when they least expect it, switch it up and run something different to exploit the adjustments made to cover what's been working well so far. And please truly live up to your motto of "sticking with who has the hot hand" in the running game as a bludgeon like no other.

Checkdown # 2

Despite all my hopes of a blowout, this game may come down to the wire. So, if it comes to that, somebody needs to STEP UP and make a play or the Saints will STEP DOWN and BOW OUT of the 2013 season. Twice this season, on the road, no one has done this down the stretch and two winnable games were lost (@ New England and @ Carolina). NEVERMORE must this happen.

What I'd Like To See: If it gets down to gut-check time, somebody on either side of the ball, please check your gut and find the intestinal fortitude to make an effing play to close out the game. Even better would be a complementary effort of all phases that seals the deal. This could come along the lines of: a late scoring drive by the offense to take the lead, followed by a stuffed kick return by the special teams (inside the 20 when the Bucs try to make something happen), and then a three-and-out by the defense. The cherry on the sundae would be the O-line and RBs then enforcing their will and grinding out the clock with rush after rush. But I'd be ok with just one or two parts kicking in at go time, as long as it allows the team to close out the game with a win.

Safety Valve

GET UP EARLY AND KEEP THE PEDAL DOWN. I mentioned this earlier in a thread somewhere, and cannot stress the importance of it enough. This is a home game and getting the crowd fired up from the get go can help out tremendously as the game progresses with the Saints building up a big lead in the first half.

What I'd Like To See: Make this happen by succeeding in one of two areas in which it seems this year that the Saints have faltered a bit in 2013 - finishing big scoring plays AND scoring TDs in the red zone, which is a lethal combination that I intuit has contributed much to the scoring dip of 2013.

RZ TD %

RZ TDs/game

Avg. Points Per Game

2012

68.4

2.4

28.8

2013

53.7

1.9

24.8

Sorry that I don't have hard stats on big plays that end in the RZ and then lead to FGs instead of TDs in 2013, but I think you can agree that there is some logic to that thinking. So, you can also agree that if the Saints can either hit big scoring plays (2 or more) or get that red zone TD percentage up close to 70%, as long as the defense plays to their proven 2013 average levels, that could give the Saints a big lead early, setting things up for a four-quarter hometown beatdown.

* * *

And there it is, folks! My recipe for a Buccaneers Blowout. What do you think? Did I miss anything? Am I so far off course that I need a sextant and a compass and a better map to find my way to Treasure Island? What are your Hot Reads?

Also ripe for discussion: It's never too early to discuss what are you wearing, eating, and drinking for the game? Gear up, everyone - TOMORROW'S GAMEDAY and IT'S ON!!!

Here's a classic holiday rant from Clark Griswold to showcase the level of emotion I'm carrying into the game (albeit on a more positive angle).

Hallelujah!! Holy S***!! Where's the tylenol?

I know I won't be coming out flat and without spirit against the Bucs tomorrow...


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