Since the start of the 2012 season the Buccaneers have beaten the Saints just once. That was a year ago during a Week 2 visit to New Orleans in which the Bucs sacked quarterback Drew Brees four times.
Keep that number in mind.
Since the start of the 2012 season Brees has been sacked four times or more 13 times. The Saints record in those games is 4-9, including 1-5 over the course of the last two years.
You can no doubt see where we’re headed with this.
One of the keys to beating any team, but especially those with elite-level quarterbacks, is to get to the passer and consistently harass him and take him down. A lot.
That point has not been lost on the Bucs. They know they’re going to have to get to Brees to have a chance to win this week and there’s reason to believe they can do that.
Though the Bucs rank 11th overall in sacks with 29, 20 of those have come in the seven games they’ve played since their Week 6 bye, which is the third-most in the league over that span.
Only Carolina (22) and the Giants (21) have recorded more sacks than the Bucs since Week 7 began, and Brees has already fallen to one of those teams, in part because of its ability to take him down.
The Panthers got to Brees for three sacks, the most for any team against the Saints this year, during a Week 11 victory in Charlotte that extended another sack trend.
Since the start of the 2012 season Brees has been sacked three times or more in a game 15 times. The Saints record in those games is just 6-9, so even a three-sack game could put the Bucs on the winning track.
By the way, the Bucs are currently on track to match their 2015 sack total of 38. However, if they can maintain the pace they’ve been on the last seven games they’ll reach the 40-sack mark for the first time since 2004.
Again, there’s nothing to suggest they can’t do that. After all, the Bucs have finally gotten healthy up front, where Gerald McCoy, Robert Ayers and Clinton McDonald have all been battling injuries.
And McCoy remains one of the most dominant pass-rushing tackles in the game. His seven sacks this year, which include four in the last five games, are the most among NFL D-tackles this year.
Rookie Noah Spence, meanwhile, has 5.5 sacks, the third most among all rookies no matter their position. With a little help from their friends, McCoy and Spence could both reach double digits this year.
That, of course, would be an achievement all in itself. The Bucs haven’t had one player record more than 10 sacks in a season since Simeon Rice had 14 in 2005.