Maybe it’s because they’re playing them Sunday, but you can add the Tampa Bay Bucs to those impressed by the New Orleans Saints defense in their season-opening win against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
The Bucs struggled on offense in an 18-17 loss to the New York Jets last week and on Sunday will face a Saints defense whose philosophy is quite similar considering Jets coach Rex Ryan and Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan are twins.
Both were mentored by their father, longtime defensive guru Buddy Ryan.
“There are similarities,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said Wednesday during a conference call. “Obviously, they come from the same tree. But two things come into play: some tweaks and changes over the years and personnel.
“Any good coach is going to fit the scheme. The philosophy is the same, but they are going to fit the scheme with the personnel that they have. I think both Rex and Rob have done that with their defenses.”
At the same time Rex Ryan and the Jets were holding Schiano’s offense to 250 total yards in the Meadowlands, Rob Ryan and the Saints were doing a good job controlling the Falcons high-powered offense — especially over the final three quarters.
After giving up 10 points and 123 total yards in the opening quarter, the Saints settled down and held the Falcons to seven points and just 244 yards in the final three periods.
Seventy-seven of those yards came on the Falcons’ final drive before Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro tipped a pass for tight end Tony Gonzalez, and Roman Harper came up with an interception with 43 seconds left.
“I think they played well on Sunday and I was impressed with not only the scheme, but the new additions and the way guys played,” Schiano said. “I know some guys were injured, which makes it even more impressive.”
Schiano alluded to how the Saints were playing without three of their four projected starters at linebacker in their new 3-4 scheme and lost nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley and defensive end Tyrunn Walker during the game.
Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Patrick Robinson also were injured, but Lewis returned in the second half.
“I think Rob is very much established in what he likes to do defensively, and you can see how he adjusts things when there were some injuries, how he adjusted a little bit,” Schiano said.
“He is a brilliant defensive mind, and I think he’s got those guys playing and believing in him. We have our hands full there. We didn’t exactly light the world on fire against his brother’s defense.”
“For me, this is the first time watching this (new 3-4),” said quarterback Josh Freeman. “They get after it. … They play with a lot of intensity and a lot of passion. They did an awesome job putting pressure on the quarterback. When it came down to it at the end of the game, they made plays.”
Schiano was deeply disappointed in his team’s offensive performance after the Bucs gained just 65 rushing yards and 185 net passing yards against the Jets.
Running back Doug Martin, one of the league’s top young backs, averaged just 2.6 yards per carry on 24 attempts, and Freeman hit on 15 of 31 passes for 210 yards. He threw one touchdown, but was intercepted once and sacked three times and finished with a passer rating of 68.0.
“I don’t think it is just Josh. I think it’s our whole offense,” Schiano said. “We just need to be more consistent, get in a rhythm and perform up to our capabilities. We have a lot of loose edges, frayed edges, that we have to get cleaned up.
“We have to shine it up a little bit,” he said. “We are not far off, but the part that we are off is critical.”