Running game remains grounded
The man in the middle of Tampa Bay's ongoing mystery says he has no clues. After yet another unproductive Sunday afternoon, RB Cadillac Williams sat at his locker and stared straight ahead. The Saints limited Williams to 18 yards on 10 carries en route to a 31-6 rout that accentuated all of Tampa Bay's weaknesses.

"It's been five games and the run game has been invisible,'' said Williams, averaging only 2.5 yards on his 76 rushing attempts this season. "Right now, I'm lost.''As a team, the Bucs are averaging only 3.6 yards per carry and they are desperately seeking some balance to alleviate QB Josh Freeman's growing burden.

"All we can do is keep chopping wood,'' RT Jeremy Trueblood said. "Eventually, the tree will fall.''Except for Earnest Graham's 61-yard run at Cincinnati in Week 5 or Freeman's hidden yardage on scrambles, Tampa Bay's ground game has been stuffed repeatedly.

"We went down early and we had some miscommunication,'' G Davin Joseph said. "It's a long journey, but we didn't do anything today as an offense to help ourselves.''One potential alternative, first-year RB Kareem Huggins, was carted out of the stadium Sunday wearing a brace on his right knee. Graham aggravated a hamstring injury and LeGarrette Blount was inactive.

"The Saints are the defending champs and it was a division game,'' Williams said. "For us to put up an effort like that is inexcusable.''

Stir it up
Second-year S Malcolm Jenkins prompted a fourth-quarter altercation along the Bucs sideline with a dive at Freeman's knees after No.?5 had gone out of bounds. Jenkins received a pair of unnecessary roughness penalties one for the late hit and the other for subsequently throwing a punch at Tampa Bay's quarterback.

"I kind of started slowing down and he sped up,'' Freeman said. "I had a foot out of bounds and I think it was a cheap shot at my knees.''Jenkins offered no apologies.

"I've never seen anybody get a penalty for 30 yards before,'' he said. "A couple guys grabbed me up and pushed me around, I pushed back and they threw another flag on me. It happens.''Williams was the first Bucs player into the fray defending Freeman, but Trueblood was also eager to retaliate.

"I was right there,'' Trueblood said. "The way this league protects quarterbacks, Jenkins has got to know better than to go at a guy's legs. I'm not calling him a cheap player, but he's got to know better.''Joseph already is looking forward to the Jan. 2 rematch at New Orleans in the regular-season finale. "We're going to beat them the right way the next time between the hash marks,'' Joseph said.

Blown coverage
Aqib Talib has a knack for making big plays but is seemingly developing a habit of getting burned downfield. Saints WR Lance Moore torched Talib for a 41-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Moore ran down the sideline past Talib and QB Drew Brees found him in stride.

However, Raheem Morris took the blame for Talib's mistake. "We had a bust on that play. It was a bust. It was on me," Morris said. "You can put that one on me."

Tampa Bay was in a Cover 2 defense when Brees threw a pass to Robert Meachem, who found a soft spot in the zone. Talib was in the vicinity but did not receive help from S Cody Grimm. The result was a 42-yard TD reception by Meachem.

"That wasn't the coverage we wanted, but I still felt like there was an opportunity on that side of the field with one of those guys," Brees said. "Meachem did a good job of getting by Talib and getting far enough to the sideline and away from the safety and we were able to put one in there. Obviously he did a good job of getting the ball, breaking a tackle and getting into the end zone."

Extra points
Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber set an NFL record for cornerbacks by starting his 172nd consecutive game, surpassing the streak set by Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau.

Connor Barth hit the right upright on field-goal attempts of 40 and 47 yards, ending his streak of 12 consecutive conversions.

The Saints put together four scoring drives of at least 77 yards in their first five possessions.

In his NFL debut, Robert Malone averaged 45.7 yards on three punts, placing two inside the New Orleans 20.

Jeremy Zuttah started his first pro game at center for Tampa Bay, replacing the injured Jeff Faine. "I had my ups and downs,'' Zuttah said. "Some things will come with more experience.''

About the writer
Ira Kaufman has long been both a great writer for The Tampa Tribune and friend to the Bucs UK and BUCPOWER.COM. He writes on all sports for the paper but during the NFL season offers his stories on not just the Buccaneers, but also the NFL in general.
About the writer
Anwar Richardson has been writing Buccaneer stories for The Tampa Tribune for several seasons and adds additional depth on the players and coaches on the roster.