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Bucs hope to move Brees out of the way of their playoff dreams

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No quarterback has beaten the Tampa Bay Bucs as much as Drew Brees.

Now, he has a chance to do it two times in three weeks in an effort to derail the team’s playoff hopes.

Brees, the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, is 14-7 against the Bucs and has won eight of the last nine meetings.

Lifetime, he has a 96.1 rating against Tampa Bay.

“Me and Drew (Brees) have a little personal rivalry because we train together, so we always do little competitions while we’re training and stuff,” said Bucs’ defensive lineman Gerald McCoy. “So when you get in-season to your true profession, it’s really like – me being a D-lineman, him being a quarterback, it’s always fun. I’ve got the utmost respect for him. Him being one of the best, year-in and year-out, that’s why he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Everything runs through him. If we have any shot of winning, we’ve got to disrupt him. There’s no stopping Drew Brees. People have proven that.”

The key, said McCoy, was to get into Brees’ face.

“Drew is not the biggest guy, so he’s got those big linemen in front of him,” McCoy said. “You don’t always have to hit Drew, you don’t always have to sack him. If you get those big guys in his face – if you notice, a lot of times he makes those throws downfield, he’s looking up. You get those big guys, get that pressure up the middle, it disrupts him. But it doesn’t matter man. You can’t stop him, I’m just going to say that. You can’t stop him, but you can try and disrupt him enough to limit the amount of time they’re on the field.”

Bucs’ defensive coordinator Mike Smith says playing against Brees is always a challenge.

“He’s a tough out, there’s no doubt about it. The thing that Drew has got is a very good understanding of how people play defense,” said Smith. “(I have) not been around him, but I’ve tried to find out as much as I can. He spends a lot of time studying film, he knows what you’re going to be in, so this is a lot like last week. When you play these good quarterbacks, you’ve got to try to not tell them what you’re doing pre-snap. And he’s probably one of the toughest outs in all the league. Their numbers are just unbelievable right now, in terms of what they’re doing offensively. It’s going to be very important for us, we know that they’re going to get their completions. We’ve got to make sure that when the opportunity comes that we win it down here and we win it down there. They’re completing 70 percent of their passes, they’re very good in the red zone, so don’t want to give up explosive plays and when we get down in the red zone, we’ve got to either turn the ball over, or force them to kick a field goal.”

 “It becomes a match of what you’re doing and what they’re trying to get done. I think Drew does a very good job – he’s one of the few quarterbacks that still, he calls the fronts out, he does the points, he’s calling the protections, he’s getting them into the right protections, does a lot with hand signals. So they’re a lot like a lot of these really good offenses, they want to be in their best play possible and it’s going to be very important for us to give him a different look than what he’s seen because they’ve scouted us over the last five or six weeks and they know what we’ve done. So it’s going to be important for us to give him some different looks.

Bucs’ head coach Dirk Koetter said it was Brees’ accuracy that set him apart.

“His accuracy on downfield throws – there’s teams in this league that are based more around quick game. We’re not really like that, we’re more of a vertical passing team, as are the Saints. And in the vertical passing game, the seam throws, the whole-shot throws against two-deep, back-shoulder throws, those are a much bigger part of it and that to me is where he’s second to none, in that area.”

The Bucs play the Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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