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Saints and Sinners: Week 11 at Buccaneers

After a perplexing performance at home against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 10, the Saints bounced back on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a convincing 34-17 victory on Sunday. The win completed the season sweep of the Bucs, marking the first time since 2014 in which the black and gold accomplished that feat. The games in Raymond James Stadium always tend to be tough for the Saints, as well, but not this time. New Orleans showed up with an all-around complete performance, so there was not many negatives to be upset about. Only two players found their way to the Sinners list, but neither played particularly “bad”. I’ll detail why they are there later, but let’s start with the abundance of good performances we saw in Sunday’s win.

Saints

Michael Thomas

Same old. Same old. 8 receptions, 114 yards, and a touchdown. Just a normal week for the best receiver in the NFL, but he deserves to be mentioned for his latest milestone. Thomas became the fastest receiver to reach 400 career catches in NFL history. His 94 receptions this year are still ahead of the pace to break Marvin Harrison’s single season record of 143 receptions in 2002.

Jared Cook

Cook’s stat line of 2 receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown doesn’t jump off of the page, but he deserves to be mentioned for his phenomenal touchdown catch. Drew Brees was rolling to his right and threw the ball high and to the back of the endzone where it could only be caught by his guy or it would go over everyone’s heads. Cook leaped up, while being blanketed in coverage, and snagged the ball out of the air, then held on as he crashed down straight on to his back. The play was an example of why the big tight end received his contract in New Orleans and why he will play a crucial role down the stretch in to the post season.

Nick Easton

Seeing the field for the first time since 2017, Easton stepped in at left guard for the injured Andrus Peat and flat out dominated. He was the highest graded player on the offense by Pro Football Focus, finally getting a chance to show why the Saints signed him to a four year deal after Max Unger’s retirement. Seeing Easton perform so well was a big relief, because Will Clapp struggled against Atlanta after he stepped in for Peat.

Ryan Ramczyk

  • JJ Watt
  • Jadaveon Clowney
  • Demarcus Lawrence
  • Khalil Mack
  • Shaquil Barrett x2

I have told y’all before and I will tell y’all again. Every time Ramczyk shuts down one of the league’s premier pass rushers, I am going to name his list of bodies this season. He has now shut out Barrett twice this year, who is the NFL’s leader in sacks. His only stat was one quarterback hit, which came while being blocked by Josh Hill. He did absolutely nothing when being handled by Ramczyk. The third year right tackle continues to flat out dominate.

Cam Jordan

Anyone who saw Jameis Winston’s cheap shove to Cam Jordan’s head late in the Week 5 matchup between these two teams was looking forward to this rematch. It was late in the game when the Buccaneers came to New Orleans where Winston shoved Jordan’s head in to the ground as he was getting up off of the turf. To Cam’s credit, he played it cool and did not retaliate, likely thinking that he would get his chance for legal payback in this game. He did just that, sacking Winston 1.5 times, getting 4 QB hits, and creating 9 pressures. NINE. Jordan was a monster on Sunday, making life very difficult on the immature quarterback for Tampa Bay.

Demario Davis

Saying that Demario Davis was everywhere is a fairly common occurrence, but Sunday was somehow different. He was truly EVERYWHERE. Davis led the team in tackles, as he often does, but also had 4 passes defended, including an incredibly athletic interception. I would try to describe the play, but I would do it no justice. Just do yourself a favor and go watch his interception from Sunday. Davis continues to be the heart and center of this impressive Saints defense.

Secondary

All four starters in the secondary earned their way here. Eli Apple. PJ Williams. Vonn Bell. Marcus Williams. With Marshon Lattimore out, the matchup against two of the NFL’s top three leaders in receiving seemed daunting. Instead, Apple and Williams locked down Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Bell finally made his first career interception, while Williams continued his stellar third year with a pick-6 that capped off the dominant win.

Sinners

AJ Klein

Like I said in the opening, neither of these guys played “bad”, but when you have such a good team performance like the Saints did on Sunday, the few bad plays stand out a little more. For Klein, it was a mental error that allowed Tampa Bay to score their first touchdown on a 3rd and goal. He was supposed to provide inside help for Demario Davis on Peyton Barber out of the backfield, but he got out of position and left the middle of the field wide open for an easy touchdown strike that got the Buccaneers on the scoreboard for the first time. You don’t see veterans like Klein make mistakes like that very often, so I am not concerned going forward.

Chauncy Gardner-Johnson

We have been singing the praises of the rookie all season, so I believe it’s only fair to point out that this was probably his worst game so far. Like Klein, I still would not say that he played “bad”, but CJGJ looked more like a rookie than he has all year. He got beat a few times in coverage, particularly on a 48 yard reception by Scotty Miller that set up Tampa Bay’s first touchdown that we just talked about with Klein. Gardner-Johnson also got called for a key penalty on a 3rd down that you would prefer not to see. With all of that being said, if this is the worst we see from the standout rookie, Sean Payton, Dennis Allen, his teammates, and all of us will take it and run with it. I have no doubt that CJGJ will bounce right back.

Conclusion

That will do it for this one, folks. Anytime you sweep a division opponent, it is cause for praise. The win got the Saints to 8-2 and put them firmly in control of the NFC South, while right in the mix for the race for the #1 seed in the NFC. The black and gold will return home to welcome the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. A win would put New Orleans four games ahead in the division with just five games left in the season, setting them up on the brink of clinching the South.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @DCBilliotJr for daily Saints talk and live tweeting of each and every game!