METAIRIE, La. — The nadir of Tampa Bay’s season in 2012 might have come in Week 15, when the New Orleans Saints shut out the Bucs 41-0.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns and finished with a 124.6 QB rating as New Orleans cruised to 447 yards of total offense.
It was New Orleans’ first pitched shutout since 1995 and first home shutout since 1991.
As the year finished, the Bucs ended as the league’s worst pass defense, allowing more yards through the air than any other team.
So Tampa Bay did what any logical organization would – it upgraded in the secondary.
Like, really upgraded.
“Yeah,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “They got a little bit of a facelift there.”
The unit Brees will be facing is vastly different than the one he saw in ’12. Instead of Anthony Gaitor and E.J. Biggers at cornerback and Ronde Barber and Mark Barron at safety, the Bucs have upgraded at three of those positions.
Both corners are new with Darrelle Revis and Jonathan Banks taking over. And Tampa Bay signed Dashon Goldson from San Francisco.
“Anytime that you have an issue back there, I would think that one of their main goals would be to improve their secondary and that’s exactly what they did,” Saints receiver Lance Moore said.
Revis might be the biggest upgrade the Saints will face in the division this season. After a year off to recover from anterior cruciate ligament surgery, Revis’ first game with the Bucs came in the season opener against the Jets. He finished with only a tackle as he was limited to 71 percent of Tampa’s defensive plays.
Still, Brees is well aware of Revis’ reputation and ability. While the Saints and Brees won’t throw specifically away from Revis, they’ll be cognizant of his placement.
“I would say there are times where maybe there’s a corner and you just know he defends this certain route or this certain concept or this play very, very well,” Brees said. “All things being equal, let’s go away from him. You’d definitely say there’s a Revis Rule as it pertains to some of those things. You want to avoid (giving) him those opportunities as much as you can.”
Since 2007, when Revis entered the league with the Jets, he has 19 interceptions and 99 passes defensed.
But as much as Revis is a known entity, Goldson’s presence could be the biggest boon to Tampa’s defensive unit. Moore gets this.
“Funny, you watch him on film and they’ll be playing Cover-2 and he’s one of the deep safeties and he’s making tackles on run plays at the line of scrimmage,” Moore said. “That’s not necessarily something you see all the time. He’s extremely physical.”
Moore knows from personal experience just how physical Goldson plays in the back end. In New Orleans’ 31-21 loss to San Francisco a year ago, the safety rammed Moore, sending the receiver out of the game for a time.
Goldson has started 82 games in his career and has intercepted 14 passes. But he has forced six fumbles and recovered two others. He has 278 tackles in seven seasons.
So far, Tampa likely is enjoying the result. After one game, the Bucs are the 12th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. And they’re even better in yards allowed per pass play, ranking ninth at 5.49 yards.
“They’ve got a lot of talented players back there,” Brees said. “You can see that on film. They play with a lot of confidence and they’ve got great skills. Something for us to obviously be aware of when we game plan. Just force us to be even more efficient and detailed.”