Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

December 07, 2018 at 6:34 pm.

Extra days helped Saints put Dallas loss behind them

The New Orleans Saints will try to bounce back from their second loss of the season by beating the team that gave them their first loss.

They have an extended week to recover from a 13-10 loss at Dallas on Nov. 29 and prepare to play at Tampa Bay on Sunday. The Buccaneers beat the Saints 48-40 in the season opener sept. 9 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

New Orleans won its next 10 games in a row before losing to the Cowboys.

If the loss to the Bucs wasn’t enough to get the Saints’ attention for the rematch, the lackluster performance against the Cowboys likely did the trick.

“Sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war,” quarterback Drew Brees said after practice Wednesday. “You learn a lot from something like that.

“I don’t think we were getting ahead of ourselves or anything like that. I just think we honestly just had a bad day and you turn on the film and it’s glaringly obvious where we failed and (we need to) make sure that that doesn’t happen again.”

Tampa Bay started 2-0, then lost seven of eight before winning its last two.

Since the first meeting, the Bucs have changed defensive coordinators – firing Mike Smith and replacing him with linebackers coach Mark Duffner – and Jameis Winston, who was suspended for the first meeting, has regained the starting quarterback position from Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“Obviously, a lot’s taken place since then,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said Wednesday. “You’re watching a lot of other tape, not just the tape of your past game.”

The Saints offense was outstanding in the first meeting, compiling 475 yards, but they couldn’t keep up with the Bucs, who gained 529.

In the seven games since the change at coordinator, Tampa Bay has ranked second in the NFL in sacks (behind only the Saints), tied for third in third-down conversion percentage and 10th in passing yards per game. The Bucs have made at least four sacks in each of the last three games.

“There are some coverage things that appear to be different, more at a percentage or rate, (but) not necessarily a whole new type of scheme,” Payton said. “The scheme hadn’t changed and I think it’s always hard to do (that) in the middle of the season.

“Now relative to down and distance and tendencies and when they’re calling certain fronts or coverages, some of that’s moved in a certain direction one way or another, but overall you’re still seeing what you know structurally at least in that defense.”

Winston has had a passer rating of more than 100 and thrown for at least two touchdowns in each of the last three games.

“They are throwing the ball as well as anyone in the league,” Payton said. “They are moving the ball as well as anyone. They are first in third-down percentage. They present a number of challenges. Jameis is buying some time with his feet. He’s (become) a stronger player in the pocket, a little bit more difficult to sack.”

SERIES HISTORY: 54th regular-season meeting. Saints lead series, 32-21, including a 14-9 mark in Tampa. The Buccaneers have won the last two meetings, prevailing 48-40 in the season opener in the Superdome and 31-24 in the regular-season finale in Tampa last New Year’s Eve. Tampa’s first NFL victory was a 33-14 triumph in the first meeting in 1977 in the Superdome. The Bucs had lost their first 26 NFL game before that.