Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Raheem Morris and QB Josh Freeman talked to the New Orleans media this morning about Sunday's matchup with New Orleans and their 3-1 start, equaling their win total of 2009 in October. Below is a transcript of the conference calls:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Raheem Morris
When this game came up on the schedule probably a lot of people didn't expect the Buccaneers to be ahead of the Saints in the standings. Is that something that took you by surprise?
"No, I don't think you can even say we're ahead of the Saints. They've played one more game than us. . We're going to be competing against a very good football team. They're an offensive juggernaut. They got a great defensive scheme. I think it's a good matchup game for our division. It's an exciting game no matter what's going on. The records never tell the story of the game. It's never a factor. It's always a fun, entertaining game."
Do you think you'll see a sense of urgency from the Saints coming off of a loss?
"They're a well-coached team. They always have a sense of urgency. Unfortunately things bounced the wrong way for them last week. They'll be looking to bounce back and they'll come out here doing what they've able to do. We got to be ready to defend them and stop their defensive attack and also on special teams as well."
Have you seen teams using cover two defenses against them and defending them so they can't have the long pass?
"People do different things. You have to mix it up a little bit. When you're playing a guy as talented as Drew Brees. They make a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage. They're able to change their plays. You can't just go out there and say you're going to play Tampa two against the Saints because they'll slice and dice you and get a bunch of yards against you. They have a different game plan every time coming in. You better be prepared every time you go out there and play them."
What's your take on the NFC and how wide open it is right now?
"It's really like that every single year. Every once in a while you have a team that really steps up and is undefeated at this point at 5-0 or 6-0. Really, the league is like this every single year, we just fail to notice it a lot of times. There's always the guys that come up and make plays and always the guys that are finishing. There's the unexpected. Teams that were 6-0 last year were the Denver Broncos and some other teams. This year a couple teams moving up are Kansas City and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There's parity in our league."
When a team like the Saints loses some playmakers like Reggie Bush and Darren Sharper, does the line become that close?
"I think you have to say that. 3-2 is not that bad of a record. It's early in the season. These guys are consistent. When you lose a couple of your playmakers you lose a couple of key guys. Hopefully it works to our advantage. We love playing against Reggie Bush. We love to go against Darren Sharper. They're very skillful players. They also have backups that go in and get the job done as well. We have to be prepared against everybody. You have to be prepared to play against the best players that are playing every week."
What's working really well for you guys this year?
"We're formulating our team. We're trying to play better. We want to play hard and consistent. We're trying to play smart ball. The only way you can play juggernauts like this that you're going to face is to play that way. That will give us an advantage and that will help us stay in the game at the end."
Are you proud of what your quarterback has been doing?
"He's been cool under pressure. He's got a ways to go. He's wise beyond his years. He's been comfortable, he's been clutch, he's been a closer, really impressive when he's been in. In terms of the NFC he got player of the week honors. It's something he can build on and something he can be like your guy. It's just going to help him out the rest of his career."
What do you attribute your high number of interceptions to? Do you have some ball hawks back there?
"I tell our DB's all the time that when technique and opportunity meet that's when you have turnovers. Right now, technique and opportunity are meeting at the point of confrontation at the back end and they're cashing in on a bunch of interceptions. I think we have some plays that we've left out there and can have more. They see that. They're hungry. It's no different than what you were last year when you won the Super Bowl last year. They made plays when they had opportunities and they counted. Hopefully we can do those things this season and follow in the footsteps of the Saints."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman
Can you talk about what you have done to improve as a team?
"We had a really big offseason. With our offensive coordinator and the addition of Alex Van Pelt. We got a lot of quality work in since then. I understand blitz packages. I understand schematically what we're trying to do as an offense a lot better, the drop backs. I feel a lot more comfortable in the pocket. I've also been more accurate."
Did you see the potential of this start from your team heading into the start of the regular season?
"For sure. We're young. We have talented players, a lot of guys that are willing to work hard and lay it on the line. When you have that combination, you feel like you can go out and it's a matter of executing on Sundays and not making any crucial mistakes that cause us to lose games. Fortunately we've been put in some situations where we've had an opportunity to win the game at the end and we've taken advantage of them."
Is being ahead of the Saints in the standings prior to this meeting something you wouldn't have envisioned?
"I have no idea. You start of the year. Everybody starts out at 0-0 and it's what you do afterwards that makes a mark. Obviously we have known what kind of team the Saints are. After winning the Super Bowl, they're still a very talented team and we have to work extremely hard to prepare for them."
What in particular make their defense a challenge for you guys?
It's a number of things. Interceptions, their ability to disguise coverages and mix up coverages in the secondary, blitz and drop into coverage at the same time. They really do a great job of disguising it. You have to get into a rhythm fast until you get used to it. It's something we've had to spend some time on."
Did you spend some time working out with Drew Brees in the offseason and did you get to know him a little bit?
"Yes, our offensive coordinator Greg Olson coached Drew in college. He has an ongoing relationship with him. He presented it to Josh Johnson and me the opportunity to go out to San Diego and work out with Drew for a week. It was just a great opportunity to go out, get some work in and learn something from a great quarterback. Being able to go out there was a good experience. You get an opportunity to spend time with Drew Brees, who has been successful in the league for a very long period of time. Me a young, quarterback, you like to spend time (with a veteran). You have Alex Van Pelt our quarterbacks coach who played in the NFL for a while, but we don't really have a veteran quarterback (on our team) in the league who has done it like Drew has. It was an opportunity to go out and be around his work ethic and be around his personality. It was definitely a good experience.
Was that win you got in the Superdome last year a confidence builder for your team?
"It was a good win. To be honest, we went in there and offensively didn't have a very good half from the perspective of scoring in the first half. The Saints got off to a hot start like they usually do. I think we drove down for two minutes and got a field goal and it was 17-3 at the half. In the second half our defense shut them out and we were able to generate some offense. We had the huge play with Michael Spurlock. Yes, for a young team, a win builds confidence, playing one of the best teams in the league that ended up being the best team in the league last year, to come away with the win that was big for a young, up and coming team."
What is the atmosphere like among the fans? Are you starting to have people excited?
"I don't know. I definitely think we're getting some more fan excitement because at this time last year we were 0-4 and it took us 16weeks to get to three wins. It's definitely a better football team and we're learning on the fly."