NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Saints

     

Buccaneers

Buccaneers’ HC Bruce Arians says WR Chris Godwin has cleared the concussion protocol and should be available for Week 4, which he is hoping limits the dropped passes that hindered QB Tom Brady‘s performance.

“Chris passed the protocol. He’s ready to go,” Arians said, via Jenna Laine of ESPN. “The one thing we know is how sure-handed he is. He’s not gonna drop too many if any. I’m looking forward to having him back this week. We dropped about 125 yards’ worth, about seven drops, two touchdowns — three touchdowns really. Tom should have had a 400-yard day if we just catch it.”

Arians also mentioned that he is satisfied with the current running back situation and isn’t ready to name RB Leonard Fournette the starter over RB Ronald Jones despite Fournette’s 103 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

“Not right now. I think everybody’s role is good right now. There’s no need for that. He still doesn’t know enough of this offense yet to be the starter,” Arians said of Fournette. “I love the way it’s at right now. RoJo had a great run for a touchdown. Got us off. Had good blitz pickup. He did screw up the handoff on the draw, but that’s easily correctable. To have Leonard come in fresh-legged in the fourth quarter and pound it like that — very few teams have that combination. Shady did a good job on third down. I know that one catch he’d like to have back that he dropped. I thought our backs played really, really well, other than the handoff fumble.”

Brady said that the team still has work to do in order to perfect their craft this season: “I think we’re going to be building throughout the season…we all realize it’s going to take some time. We’re going to work our ass off to get it right.” (Rick Stroud)

  • Brady is excited to see an NFL franchise in Las Vegas but is still happy he landed with the Buccaneers after an exciting free agency period: “I’m so happy I wound up with the Bucs. It’s just been an amazing six months for my family to be here and getting to work. I’ll probably never be a free agent again. It felt nice to be wanted, kind of like you are recruited in college. It was a really unique experience. I think we’re gonna be building all season. Not having the offseason program, not having preseason games – you’re kinda thrust into the action and every team’s dealing with it so the ones that have real continuity, I think there’s a little bit of an advantage.” (Jenna Laine)
  • The Buccaneer protected K Greg Joseph again on their practice squad, per his agent. (Brett Tessler)

Falcons

Falcons’ WR Russell Gage had a standout performance in Week 2 and says that QB Matt Ryan, some hard work, and his route-running ability gave him the chance to make big plays.

“The goal of the route is that if he’s there and outside, leave him there,” Gage said of his big play in Week 2, via Jason Butt of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “As I came in, I saw the safety. I realized then I was going to take a hit. Great throw by Matt (Ryan), he put the ball on me, which gave me the opportunity to protect myself while I was catching the ball. It was great execution. I understood there was a chance I could throw it. We practiced it once or twice. Then we went out to go ahead and go for it. I was a little nervous but I did have a little experience playing quarterback. I don’t know if I could have envisioned it happening like this. I envisioned working hard. Hard work normally pays off always. I’m thankful, I thank God for this opportunity, the coaching staff, everything. But I don’t know if I really could have envisioned everything to transpire exactly the way it is right now. It just keeps working.”

Ryan had positive things to say about Gage, who performed well in a game where WR Julio Jones was clearly being hampered by a hamstring injury.

“I think he’s certainly exceeded everybody’s expectations,” Ryan said. “He’s played extremely well for us now that he’s had his chance to be a starter. You’re happy to see it because he’s worked so hard, but I think it’s been a slow progression from the time he first got here until now. He is one of those guys who has continued to get better week in and week out and I thought he played one of his best games for us this past week. That’s going to serve us well moving forward because he’s a great outlet for us in the middle of the field with two really exceptional players on the outside, as well.”

  • Falcons’ OC Dirk Koetter said Jones being held to two catches was due to the Cowboys double-teaming him often, but added: “I think there’s something to the hamstring bothering him more than he’s letting on.” (Jason Butt)

Saints

The traditionally high-flying Saints offense was grounded in Week 2. While QB Drew Brees cracked 300 yards passing, it came on 38 attempts and the Saints scored just 17 points. Brees also had an ugly interception and tossed just one touchdown. 

“Are we totally in sync right now? No, We’re not. We’re not even close to what we are capable of. Not even close,” Brees said via Amie Just of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

New Orleans is missing WR Michael Thomas, but both WR Emmanuel Sanders and TE Jared Cook struggled to step up, catching just three passes between them. Sanders was signed to be a strong No. 2 but he has just four catches for 33 yards in two games so far. Overall, the Saints offense is stuck in neutral. 

“The last two weeks, I think it’s been average at best offensively,” Saints HC Sean Payton said via Sam Gordon of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We’re not functioning well enough and taking advantage of some of the opportunities we’ve had.”

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