New Orleans, La. - The New Orleans Saints go on the road to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late afternoon game this Sunday, with kickoff scheduled for 3:05 p.m.
The Saints swept the Bucs last season, including a 41-0 win in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but this is a new season.
Coming off of an opening-weekend victory against Atlanta, the Saints are attempting to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2010. Meanwhile, the Bucs will be looking to rebound from a last-second 18-17 loss at the New York Jets.
A stingy Tampa defense allowed only 304 total yards, but a costly 15-yard personal foul put the Jets in position for a game-winning field goal. Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman completed 15 of 31 passes for 210 yards, while running back Doug Martin was limited to 65 yards on 24 carries. The Voice of the Saints, Jim Henderson, sums up what he perceives as the Bucs' weak points.
"Counting the preseason, the Bucs' offense has scored seven touchdowns in five games," Henderson said. "They have some problems: Their offensive line is in disarray with Carl Nicks out and David Joseph having just come back to the lineup after an injury. They haven't been able to manufacture much of a pass rush with the front four. That has been a sticking point."
The other factor to consider Sunday will be the elements. While the Saints enjoyed the comfort of the air-conditioned Dome this past Sunday, they'll be playing in the heat and humidity of south Florida this coming weekend.
"We're going to see what kind of shape the Saints are in to go down there in Tampa, which figures to be a very hot game on Sunday," Henderson said. "A lot of Saints fans will make this trip. I think the Saints are in the best condition that I've seen them in quite some time and that'll be a big part of Sunday's game."
While Tampa struggled in New York, the Saints picked up a victory over the Atlanta Falcons, thanks in large part to a revitalized defense. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's 3-4 system proved effective and opportunistic against the Falcons' high-octane offense, forcing two turnovers, one of which led to a Saints touchdown and another that sealed the win. The Saints also allowed the Falcons to convert only 3 of 11 third-down conversions.
Roman Harper, in particular, seemed to thrive in the new system, leading the way defensively for the Saints with a fumble recovery and the game-clinching interception. He became the first Saint to record an interception and fumble recovery in the same contest since 2002.
"Certainly what causes you to believe in somebody's philosophy is success," Henderson said. "It was important for the Saints to have that early success Sunday, and I think they've seen it in preseason, and I think the talent level is coming on. This is a young defense in many ways, and I think this is a defense that can get better and better."
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