The New Orleans Saints (13-4) play host to their NFC South Division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5) in the NFC's Divisional Round of the 2021 Playoffs. This will be the third matchup between the two sides this season. New Orleans won both matchups in Week 1 and Week 9 by the scores of 34-23 and 38-3.
In what could be Drew Brees' final game inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Saints should have a nearly full arsenal on both sides of the ball. For Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, they will be without a key piece on the offensive line and potentially running back Ronald Jones II.
The Saints News Network Krewe shares their biggest keys to moving on to the NFC Championship Game.
Biggest Key to Saints Victory: Keep a Clean Pocket For Drew Brees
Brees has been sacked only 13 times in 13 games this season, none against a formidable Chicago pass rush last Sunday. Tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead have eliminated the NFL's best edge rushers throughout their careers and have had outstanding success against Tampa Bay pass rushers Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. New Orleans must give Brees a clean interior pocket to find his receivers. Erik McCoy has developed into one of the league's better centers, but all eyes will be on guards Andrus Peat and rookie 1st round choice Cesar Ruiz. Peat and Ruiz have struggled in pass protection at times and will be challenged by Ndamukong Suh and blitzes from Devin White inside.
The New Orleans wideouts had some success in the second matchup between these teams this season and must give their quarterback a quick open target, while Kamara faces a key matchup against the Buccaneer linebackers in the open field. There has been much speculation that Brees will retire at season’s end. If the Saints are to extend that season at least one more game, they must protect their legendary quarterback against the fierce Tampa Bay pass rush to allow him to find his now healthy playmakers.
Kyle T. Mosley
Biggest Key to Saints Victory: FOCUS & EXECUTION!
It's simple for New Orleans. Focus and Execution. The Saints' offense and defense are highly efficient when they can execute the play calls from head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.
The blocking from the offensive line both in the passing and running phases must be solid on offense. Defensively, the interior personnel with defensive tackle rotation of David Onyemata, Sheldon Rankins, Malcom Brown, and Shy Tuttle must be able to make Tom Brady uncomfortable "early and often!"
The Saints need to execute well in all phases, but I must highlight the receiving corps in this matchup. New Orleans may be down Taysom Hill and Latavius Murray, then protecting Brees and the receivers getting separation will be critical. Watch tight ends Cook, Hill, and Trautman to be huge on third downs and in the red zone.
Biggest Key to Saints Victory: Play Your Game, Keep Out the Noise
Much is made of the 'playing a whole time for the third time in a year' narrative, but the reality is that sweeping teams facing those situations are 14-7 in them. The Saints have a killer roster, and they know what's at stake. Yes, they may be without Latavius Murray and Taysom Hill, but the depth is one of the things that have helped them have a successful year.
The pressure is on both teams to limit the mistakes and make every play count, and this is presumably the last time we see Drew Brees in the Superdome throwing the football. The Saints have worked too hard and have been playing too well to just come out and play flat or get dominated by Tom Brady. Do what has been working, add some new wrinkles, control the game from the very start, and don't let Tampa get out in front.
Dr. Carla Antoine
Biggest Key to Saints Victory: Flawless Defense & Fiery Offensive Line
The Saints with Drew Brees will always find a way to score. The keys to victory over the Buccaneers will rest in the hands of a flawless defense and fiery offensive line. The Saints defeated the Bears with the most dominant defensive performance in Saints playoff history. Thus, advancing to the divisional round for the third time in four seasons. New Orleans set franchise records for fewest points (9) and yards (239) allowed in a playoff game in Saints history.
With the Saints' phenomenal defense, the Bears ran only 13 plays in Saints territory and did not convert a third down until the last two minutes of play. The keys to victory against Tampa Bay will be at a repeat flawless performance by the defense, offensive line turning up the pressure heat on Tom Brady, and a healthy Saints team with a full complement of receivers.
Biggest Key to Saints Victory: Turn Up the Heat On Brady
New Orleans was a continuous thorn in the side of Tom Brady in 2020. The constant pressure got to Brady in both matchups as he threw a combined 5 interceptions and posted a QBR 23.5 through the two contests. The Saints will have a full healthy defensive unit with Trey Hendrickson not carrying an injury designation on Friday's final injury report.
The Saints' front seven gave Brady no space or time to breathe in the regular season sacking him 6 times and tallying 18 QB hits in the two divisional matchups. In order to book a trip to Green Bay to battle for an NFC Championship, New Orleans will have to make Brady feel the heat, force bad throws, and take advantage of mistakes from one of the league's all-time greats.
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