The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints are just one example of a intra-divisional rivalry going off the rails. In years past, this game has been a contentious slugfest between elite defenses and although both teams are currently sitting at even records this season, 2023 is certainly no exception. Typically, when you get a heated rivalry between two teams, there is going to be a lot of heat both on and off the field and this weeks matchup was no exception.
Buccaneers Offensive Tackle Puts New Orleans on Blast
The New Orleans defense had an absolute field day on Sunday as they held the usually consistent offense of Tampa Bay to 349 total yards on offense. One of the biggest victories throughout the game for New Orleans was their ability to get pressure on Tampa Bay quarterback Baker Mayfield. While the team only managed to get one sack, they were in Mayfield’s face for what felt like the entire afternoon.
Well, Tampa Bay left tackle Tristan Wirfs had some strong opinions on what the New Orleans defense was doing throughout the game when he was interviewed after the contest.
#Bucs T Tristan Wirfs says he’s tired of the #Saints taking late hits on QB Baker Mayfield. Sunday it was Tyrann Mathieu who bruised Mayfield’s ribs and was flagged for roughing the passer. pic.twitter.com/FLhlUOUoEb
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) January 1, 2024
The first hit that Wirfs mentioned was a late hit by Nathan Shepherd earlier in the season and then he was livid with a late hit made by New Orleans safety Tyrann Mathieu during the game. As a former left tackle, I can sympathize that when someone takes a shot at the quarterback even remotely after the whistle, you have to protect your guy.
It should be noted that Mayfield injured his ribs on the hit from Mathieu but continued playing throughout the game. Offensive lineman protecting their quarterback isn’t anything new but this sort of accusation after a game is certainly not a common occurrence.
The last game of the season will be huge for each team as Tampa Bay is currently tied with New Orleans at 8-8. Tampa Bay holds the tie breaker but if they were to lose against the Carolina Panthers in Week 18, New Orleans would be capable of winning the division with a victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The Buccaneers had been riding a hot streak of four straight wins before getting toasted in the intra-divisional rivalry game against New Orleans.
A playoff berth may not be a major victory as the winner of the division will almost certainly play the Philadelphia Eagles in round one of the playoffs. Unless they were to pull off a major upset in Philadelphia’s absolutely disastrous run of form, a Super Bowl Berth is highly unlikely for either team.
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