It was a low point in the Buccaneers' season, but it seemed to have galvanized them. They subsequently went on an absolute tear, which included beating the Saints on the road in the playoffs and then winning the Super Bowl. Since that night in Tampa Bay, the team has fielded the best offense in football. Their .141 expected points added (EPA) per play from Week 10 of 2020 to Week 7 of 2021 is the best mark in football. The Buccaneers are unstoppable.
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The Super Bowl champions were rolling through their competition en route to a 6-1 start to the 2021 season, and they had a chance to take a two-game divisional lead on the Saints in Week 8. But New Orleans, led by backup quarterback Trevor Siemian after Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending injury early on, clawed its way to a 36-27 victory that shook up the NFC South playoff picture.
Following the win, the Saints' defense ranks fourth in overall efficiency, at -.107 EPA per play this season. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen’s defense has put Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady in the blender since his move to Tampa Bay. The Bucs have played 28 games in the Brady era, and the Saints have held them to their lowest, fourth-lowest and ninth-lowest EPA per play totals on offense over that span.
On Sunday afternoon in New Orleans, it was Allen’s willingness to alter his original game plan that won the Saints the game.
New Orleans' 2021 defense has looked a little different than the 2020 version. Allen has switched to a more man-heavy approach this season. Last year, the Saints ranked 14th in their rate of Cover 1 usage, and they have moved up to fifth this year. What all of this Cover 1 usage has done is make New Orleans more traditional in its pre-snap alignments. The defense used the third-most two-high safety shells before the snap in 2020, as it played its varieties of Cover 4. This year, the Saints ranked 14th coming into Week 8.