If this was indeed Drew Brees‘ last professional football game, it certainly did not go the way he would have hoped.
Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense was stifled by Tampa Bay’s man coverage the whole night, with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense doing just enough to come into the Superdome and add to another disappointing playoff decade for the home team.
Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.
STORY OF THE GAME
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more unlucky crew than the Saints in the playoffs since their Super Bowl victory. However, this loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Brees, who could not muster anything through the air in the 30-20 loss.
The Saints' longtime passer completed 19-of-34 passes for 134 yards, one score and three interceptions and finished the game with a 38.1 passer rating. He didn’t even have much in the tank when he was kept clean from pressure, going 18-of-25 for 118 yards and a pick from a clean pocket, per PFF's first review of the broadcast film.
Brees' 4.7 yards per attempt from a clean pocket were never going to be enough to lift the Saints. And not being able to find Michael Thomas did not help matters. In fact, Thomas was shut out tonight, as his four targets amounted to zero catches.
Alvin Kamara ran the ball well, producing 85 yards on 18 carries — with 65 coming after contact — but that was never going to be enough to make up for Brees' inability to push the ball downfield. His quarterback's 6.1-yard average depth of target came with an average time to throw of 2.34 seconds. Contrast that with Tom Brady, who took 2.32 seconds from snap to pass but threw 10.6 yards downfield on average.
Brady and the Bucs capitalized on every one of the Saints' miscues, from the interceptions to the costly Jared Cook fumble. It was far from vintage Brady tonight, but he found the players he wanted to exploit in coverage and milked it for everything he could.
Alex Anzalone was picked on the most, as Brady threw at him seven times, with the linebacker giving up four first downs. He targeted the two Saints linebackers 11 times in total. He wasn’t perfect and even had some turnover luck in the form of a Marshon Lattimore dropped interception and a Marcus Williams catch out of bounds, but he did just enough.
Bucs right tackle Tristan Wirfs played 70 snaps in total and looks set for yet another pass-blocking grade above 80.0. The Iowa product didn't lose a single rep in pass protection tonight, per PFF's first review of the game film.
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay's fifth-round receiver, also flashed tonight, albeit in a rotational role. He came down with the catch of the night early in the fourth quarter, his only catch of the game, but it looks as though he played well enough on his 14 offensive snaps to take home a career-high PFF receiving grade.
Saints rookie guard Cesar Ruiz acquitted himself well in pass protection, giving up a single pressure on first review. He struggled to make holes in the run game, however.
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