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Bucs defense makes a stand against Saints

Quick hits

. G Carl Nicks, still recovering from the staph infection MRSA, was inactive and did not play.

. WR Vincent Jackson had a pair of dropped passes early but finished with five receptions for 77 yards.

. Saints TE Jimmy Graham apparently didn't get the No Fly Zone memo, catching 10 passes for 179 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown that gave New Orleans a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter.

. Bucs punter Michael Koenen followed his outstanding performance against the Jets in the season opener with a mediocre one Sunday, averaging 40.8 yards a kick that including kicks of 31 yards and 36 yards.

. The Bucs announced a paid attendance of 60,870.

Obscured in the Bucs' 16-14 loss to New Orleans was a strong game by second-year running back Doug Martin, who matched his career high with 29 carries and went for 144 yards, the second-best total in his young NFL career. Martin was especially good in the third quarter -- when he earned 61 yards on nine carries -- but came up just short as the Bucs tried to salt away the final minutes of the game with a 14-13 lead. Martin converted a key third-and-2 for a first down in New Orleans territory with 2:24 left, and had another chance on a third-and-6 after the Saints had used their last time out. Martin got the ball but was stopped for a 3-yard gain, forcing a punt that gave the Saints their shot at the comeback victory. The only game better in Martin's 18 career games was his 251-yard effort in last year's win against Oakland. It's also the most rushing yards in a game by any NFL player in the first two weeks of the season entering Sunday night's Seahawks-49ers game. "I thought we ran the ball very well today," said coach Greg Schiano, whose team outrushed the Saints 160-75. "I thought Doug and the offensive line, I thought it was a good effort that way." Martin has now rushed for a 100-yard game against all three of the Bucs' divisional opponents, having done so against the Falcons and Panthers as a rookie. Of Martin's six career 100-yard games, Sunday was just his second at home, following a 128-yard effort against Philadelphia last season.

. Saints TE Jimmy Graham, 26, has established himself as one of the game's most dynamic tight ends -- and toughest matchups. And on Sunday, Graham had a monster game, racking up 10 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound former Hurricane exploited the middle of the field, including eight catches for 156 yards - in the first half. "He's a huge mismatch," Saints WR Marques Colston said. "A big guy that can run, especially through the middle of the defense. He was awesome." There was Graham's 56-yard touchdown late in the first quarter, when he was left uncovered, and a key 15-yard reception on the first play of the Saints winning scoring drive. "We're looking all week on matchups, and we knew we'd have a lot of two-shell coverage and on third down we'd have a lot of man to man," Graham said. "And Drew (Brees) was on tonight. Me and him were on tonight."

 



. Bucs fans who had waited all offseason to see Tampa Bay's offense in person had to wait a little longer — 69 minutes longer to be exact, as the game was suspended with 10:30 left in the first quarter due to lightning and inclement weather around the stadium.

After New Orleans drove for a field goal on its opening drive, the Bucs offense had taken the field for their first play, from their 20. But as heavy rains, lightning and gusts of wind swept in, the teams returned to their locker rooms and fans were asked to seek shelter in the concourse areas of the stadium.

The teams returned to the field an hour later and the game resumed at 5:28 p.m. Counting the delay, the game lasted 4 hours and 31 minutes.

The NFL's season opening Broncos-Ravens game was delayed by lightning last week, and Sunday's Seahawks-49ers game also had an early delay due to lightning.

Nice starting point

. It took former Florida State LB Dekoda Watson 47 games to get his first NFL interception, but the fourth-year pro set the tone for a strong defensive night, picking off a pass from Drew Brees in the first quarter.

Watson dropped back in coverage and leaped to catch a pass intended for Saints WR Lance Moore. It was Brees' first pass after a 69-minute weather delay, and Watson's interception sparked the Bucs offense. Tampa Bay took advantage of the field position and drove 35 yards, capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to Kevin Ogletree for a 7-3 lead.

In two wins against the Bucs last season, Brees threw just one interception, but Bucs linebackers came up with two Sunday, including Mason Foster's 85-yard return for a touchdown.

"We have a promising linebacker corps. I'm not trying to brag on us, but we've got a lot of potential," Watson said. "We have to continue to make plays, stick together and discipline ourselves."

Leaning left

. Veteran K Rian Lindell had a chance to give the Bucs a much-needed extra cushion late in Sunday's game, but his 47-yard attempt with 1:06 sailed wide left, and Tampa Bay's lead remained just 14-13. That proved costly as QB Drew Brees led New Orleans to the winning field goal as time expired. Lindell, who hit a clutch 37-yarder in the final minute to give the Bucs the lead in their season-opening loss, made no excuses. "I didn't do my part," Lindell said. "I didn't hit it obviously like I wanted to. I wasn't worried about the distance. It didn't go straight."



The Bucs continued to be plagued by penalties, especially personal fouls. They had three in their season-opening loss to the Jets, with S Dashon Goldson and LB Lavonte David each fined for their hits. And on Sunday, Tampa Bay was flagged for three more personal fouls on hits. In the second quarter, DE Adrian Clayborn sacked Drew Brees, forcing a fumble, but was called for unnecessary roughness, his hit ruled too high. Three plays later, Goldson was flagged for unnecessary roughness for his hit over the middle on RB Darren Sproles. Goldson, who was fined $30,000 for a hit on Jets TE Jeff Cumberland in Week 1, acknowledge the Bucs could get targeted by referees as repeat offenders but believes they're just playing physical football. "It hurts us as a football team, but that's who we are," Goldson said. "The NFL has its own rules, but we're just trying to play football. We're not worried about those penalties, we're really not. That's just football. We learn how to tackle when we're young and been doing this for a long time." Late in the second quarter, S Ahmad Black was called for his helmet-to-helmet hit on TE Jimmy Graham. "We're not going to stop and grab their jersey and pull them down," Black said. "We're going to play football like we've been playing. We can try to change it a little bit so we don't get any fines or make our team get flagged. But we're playing football." Graham said getting hit like that is the "nature of the position." "All is well," Graham said. "I'm a big guy, 270 (pounds). So I can take hits like that." But after taking 13 penalties in Week 1, the Bucs had 10 for 118 yards Sunday. They lead the league in number of penalties and yards (220). Coach Greg Schiano said they'll continue to emphasize hitting in the "strike zone." "We've been through stretches like this, and then it kind of balances out usually," Schiano said. "Hopefully, that'll occur."

Beating up Brees

. For the second straight week, the Bucs had a strong pass rush, including utilizing their linebackers in blitzes. They sacked QB Drew Brees four times, and hit him often, giving them nine sacks in two weeks. LB Lavonte David had 1½ sacks, and DT Gerald McCoy added one. "We got some good licks on him," S Dashon Goldson said. "We got some sacks, some rushed throws. That's what we've got to do week in and week out. That's what it's going to take."

A stout defense kept the Bucs in the game, and never more so than at the end of the first half, when the Bucs stopped the Saints four times inside the 2-yard line.

New Orleans looked as if it had taken a 17-7 lead on a touchdown pass to TE Jimmy Graham, but replay showed he was down at the 1-yard line. From there, the Bucs stepped up, forcing a Drew Brees incompletion, then S Dashon Goldson and LB Mason Foster dropped RB Mark Ingram for a 1-yard loss. From the 2, New Orleans ran again, with DBs Darrelle Revis and Ahmad Black stopping Pierre Thomas for no gain.

The Saints lined up for a fourth and goal at the 2, but after a timeout, they came back out for a short field goal. The kick was good, but the Bucs' Leonard Johnson was offside, moving the ball back to the 1-yard line. The Saints decided not to take the field goal (and what would have been a 13-7 lead) and run the ball on fourth down, but Ingram was stopped for no gain, with LBs Lavonte David and Foster stopping him just short of the end zone. The replay official reviewed the spot of the ball, but the call was upheld on review.

"That was just good defense," Goldson said. "It solidified who we are and what we can do in this league. We played sound fundamentals, everybody playing their responsibility, everybody swarming to the ball."

The stop kept the Bucs within a field goal at halftime, and it was the high mark of a red-zone effort that saw the Saints held to no touchdowns and three field goals in four trips inside the Tampa Bay 20.

Obscured in the Bucs' 16-14 loss to New Orleans was a strong game by second-year RB Doug Martin, who matched his career high with 29 carries and went for 144 yards, the second-best total in his career. Martin was especially good in the third quarter, when he gained 61 yards on nine carries, but he came up just short as the Bucs tried to salt away the final minutes of the game with a 14-13 lead. Martin converted a third and 2 for a first down in New Orleans territory with 2:24 left, and he had another chance on a third and 6 after the Saints had used their last timeout. Martin was stopped for a 3-yard gain, and a missed field goal gave the Saints their shot at the comeback victory. The only game better in Martin's 18 career games was his 251-yard effort in last year's win at Oakland. It's also the most rushing yards in a game by any NFL player in the first two weeks of the season entering Sunday night's Seahawks-49ers game. "I thought we ran the ball very well," said coach Greg Schiano, whose team outrushed the Saints 160-75. "I thought Doug and the offensive line, I thought it was a good effort that way." Martin now has a 100-yard rushing game against all three of the Bucs' division opponents, having done so against the Falcons and Panthers as a rookie. Of Martin's six career 100-yard games, Sunday was his second at home — he gained 128 against Philadelphia last season.

 

. The Saints' Jimmy Graham has established himself as one of the game's most dynamic tight ends — and toughest matchups. Graham had a monster game, racking up 10 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound former Hurricane exploited the middle of the field, including eight catches for 156 yards — in the first half. "He's a huge mismatch," Saints WR Marques Colston said. "A big guy that can run, especially through the middle of the defense. He was awesome." There was Graham's 56-yard touchdown late in the first quarter, when he was left uncovered, and a key 15-yard reception on the first play of the Saints' winning scoring drive. "We're looking all week on matchups, and we knew we'd have a lot of two-shell coverage and on third down we'd have a lot of man-to -an," Graham said. "And Drew (Brees) was on tonight. Me and him were on tonight."

 

Lindell leans left

. Veteran K Rian Lindell had a chance to give the Bucs a much-needed extra cushion late in the game, but his 47-yarder with 1:06 sailed wide left, and Tampa Bay's lead remained just 14-13. That proved costly as QB Drew Brees led New Orleans to the winning field goal as time expired. Lindell, who hit a clutch 37-yarder in the final minute to give the Bucs the lead in their season-opening loss against the Jets, made no excuses. "I didn't do my part," Lindell said. "I didn't hit it obviously like I wanted to. I wasn't worried about the distance. It didn't go straight."

. Bucs fans who had waited all offseason to see Tampa Bay's offense in person had to wait a little longer — 69 minutes longer to be exact, as the game was suspended with 10:30 left in the first quarter due to lightning and inclement weather around the stadium.

After New Orleans drove for a field goal on its opening drive, the Bucs offense had taken the field for their first play, from their 20. But as heavy rains, lightning and gusts of wind swept in, the teams returned to their locker rooms, and fans were asked to seek shelter in the concourse areas of the stadium.

The teams returned to the field an hour later and the game resumed at 5:28 p.m. Counting the delay, the game lasted 4 hours and 31 minutes.

The NFL's season-opening Broncos-Ravens game was delayed by lightning last week, and Sunday night's Seahawks-49ers game also had an early delay due to lightning.

Quick hits

. G Carl Nicks, still recovering from the staph infection MRSA, was inactive and did not play.

. WR Vincent Jackson had a pair of dropped passes early but finished with five receptions for 77 yards.

. Saints TE Jimmy Graham apparently didn't get the No Fly Zone memo, catching 10 passes for 179 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown that gave New Orleans a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter.

. Bucs P Michael Koenen followed his outstanding performance against the Jets in the season opener with a mediocre one Sunday, averaging 40.8 yards a punt that included kicks of 31 yards and 36 yards.

. The Bucs announced a paid attendance of 60,870.

Bucs defense makes a stand against Saints 09/15/13 [Last modified: Monday, September 16, 2013 12:43am]

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