Monday, September 26, 2022

NFL Week 2 stats to know: Can Tom Brady finally figure out the Saints?

Here are two stat lines for your consideration, going back to 2020:

  • Player A: 25-5 record, 78 touchdown passes, 17 interceptions, 105.9 passer rating
  • Player B: 0-4 record, 6 touchdown passes 8 interceptions, 71.5 passer rating

Player A is Tom Brady against every team he’s faced in the regular season — except one — since joining the Buccaneers. Player B is Tom Brady against that one team: the Saints.

New Orleans’ spell over Brady since 2020 is one of the more mystifying things the seven-time Super Bowl champion has dealt with in his career. He’ll try to solve it again Sunday. Here are the stats to know.

Buccaneers at Saints

winston-g.jpg

Getty Images

When the Buccaneers have the ball …

The numbers above are pretty self-explanatory for Brady, but they don’t necessarily provide a reason why he has had trouble with the Saints. So let’s look into it.

One thing that has historically bothered Brady is pressure, as my colleague Doug Clawson pointed out last week. That’s in part what makes the Saints so good. Take a look at how Brady’s fared under pressure since joining Tampa Bay.

Tom Brady Since 2020

vs Saints

vs Any Other Team

Sack rate

7.4%

2.6%

Pressure rate

32.2%

20.9%

Pressure rate when not blitzed

31.4%

19.3%

Passer rating when pressured

23.7

68.4

Passer rating when not blitzed

73.2

103.4

What does this tell us? The Saints don’t need to blitz to pressure Brady, a massive advantage for any defense but especially for the uber-aggressive New Orleans defense. Since 2020, Brady has a 4 percent interception rate against four or fewer rushers when facing the Saints; he has a 1.2 percent interception rate against four or fewer rushers when facing any other team. Furthermore, the Saints have been able to effectively play man coverage behind those non-blitzes

Tom Brady Against 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers and Man Coverage Since 2020

vs Saints

vs Any Other Team

TD-Int

2-3

21-2

Int rate

8.8%

1.0%

Expected points added per dropback

-0.44

0.47

It’s not a complicated formula: The Saints are good enough up front to get pressure without blitzing, and when you can do that and play man-to-man coverage behind it, you’re tough to beat. Given the absence of Chris Godwin and the likely bigger role for Julio Jones, Brady may want to hold onto the ball longer to give downfield threats like Jones and Mike Evans more deep chances. 

Whether he’ll be able to do that against a Saints defense that has frustrated him time and time again is another question.

When the Saints have the ball …

Jameis Winston has always been a quarterback with which you have to live with both the highs and the lows. Remember his 33-touchdown, 30-interception 2019 season? The highs haven’t been quite as high and the lows haven’t been nearly as low in his time as the Saints starter, but they’re still there.

Jameis Winston Since 2021

NFL Rank<<

Passer rating

104.2

2nd

TD-Int Ratio

5.33

2nd

Yds per comp

12.2

3rd

Off-target pct

15.9%

37th

Pressure rate faced

40.5%

35th

>> Out of 38 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 150 passes

Basically, Winston has nearly cut out the interceptions completely — a major reason why he’s been able to revive his career as a starter — but he’s still a player who looks to throw the ball downfield, often with varying accuracy. And because he likes deep passes, he puts a lot of pressure on his offensive line. Since the start of last season, Winston has taken 2.75 seconds to throw from the pocket, the longest of any player.

That could be a challenge against Tampa Bay. The Bucs defense looked terrific in Week 1 against Dallas, allowing just three points and 4.7 yards per pass attempt. Since the start of last season, Tampa Bay has blitzed on 35.2% of dropbacks, second-highest in the NFL, and pressured quarterbacks on 33.5 percent of dropbacks, fifth-highest in the NFL.

This is also somewhat of a revenge game for Winston, who tore his ACL on a horse collar tackle by Devin White when these teams met in Week 8 last year. While Winston only attempted 10 passes in the contest before the injury, it’s clear the Saints knew the sort of pressure the Buccaneers like to bring and tried to combat it.

Jameis Winston in 2021

vs Buccaneers

vs Any Other Teams

Avg yds downfield per pass att

1.8

8.8

Pct of passes to RB or TE

60%

44%

Pressure rate

28.6%

43.4%

Pct of throws out in under 2.5 sec

70%

29.8%

The Saints wanted to get the ball out of Winston’s hands — often to running backs and tight ends, especially given the team’s dearth at wide receiver last year. This is obviously a tiny sample size, but it wouldn’t be all too surprising to see a similar strategy employed again Sunday. This season, the Saints have a bevy of players who can get open quickly — Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave chief among them — and if Winston can take what the defense gives him, it could open up more intermediate and deep shots later in the game.

How to watch

Date: Sunday, Sept. 18 | Time: 1 p.m. ET

Location: Caesars Superdome (New Orleans)

TV: Fox | Stream: fuboTV (click here)

Follow: CBS Sports App

Odds: Saints +2.5, O/U 44.5

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