Most people expected complete domination of one team over another today. What was unexpected was that Tampa Bay was the team doing the dominating.
At no point today did New Orleans look like they could win the game. And while the Garcia to Galloway Connection (135 yards, 2 TDs) put points on the board it was the defense which I found impressive. This was the swarming, playmaking defense we have come to expect in Tampa Bay. One of the hallmarks of the Bucs defense has been their tackling and the way defenders swarmed to the ball. These hallmarks were the backbone the defense's "bend but don't break" philosophy, which was missing last year. But through just two games it is obvious this team is playing with more fire as evidenced by the number of defenders flying to the ball. Barrett Ruud in particular had an outstanding game, forcing two fumbles and recovering one of those while also totaling a team high nine tackles. No question Ruud was the MVP of today's game, even more so than Joey Galloway and his two touchdowns.
+ Ruud, who as I mentioned above was all over the place
+ Garcia to Galloway, almost half of Garcia's 444 passing yards have gone to Galloway (207)
+ the rest of the defense: Derrick Brooks, Cato June, Ronde Barber, Phillip Buchanon, Jermaine Phillips all looked good
+ Cadillac, who picked up 2 TDs, more than he had all last season
+ that block downfield by Michael Clayton which leveled the Saints safety and freed Galloway to get to the endzone
+ 110 degree heat, which seemed to affect the Saints more so than the Bucs
+ #1 in the NFC South!
- O-line run blocking, sure the Saints have a good d-line but the Bucs invested a good deal in their o-line to open up holes for Caddy. Today they struggled to do that
- Pass rush, which is still not up to par for the Bucs. The Hawks and Saints have done a good job of taking Gaines Adams out of the game but once Adams gets comfortable this defense will be scary
- Garcia diving head-first to gain a first down when he just suffered a concussion last week
Overall this game will be a great boost on confidence for a young team heading into a difficult part of their schedule (St Louis, @ Carolina, @ Indy). To be honest, I did not think the Bucs would win today, not because I don't believe the team is talented enough but because I thought they needed more time for both the offensive and defensive units to gel. It's only one game but if they can improve on today's performance (which they should) this is a team which can compete for the division title with Carolina. It's 2005 all over again!
The next three weeks (St Louis, @ Carolina, @ Indy) will be important tests for this team. Obviously the Panthers and the Colts will be tough and the Bucs would be lucky to come away from that road trip with one win. But the Rams are a very good offensive team who are better than their 0-2 record would indicate. The Bucs defense will need to play with the same passion they brought today if the team expects to win next week.