The quarterback run the Bucs utilized on a third down late in the second quarter at the Saints' 23-yard line seemed like a curious decision, at best. But players said the play had success against the scout team in practice last week. • On the third-and-4 play, the Bucs ran to the right side with backup Josh Johnson at quarterback. Johnson was stopped after a 1-yard gain, leaving the Bucs to kick a field goal that left them down 14-3. • So, how did a play the team was so confident in go so wrong? Johnson explained. "It was basically dependent on whether we (blocked) the defensive end," he said. "The way (the Saints) set their front, they overloaded their (defensive) line on that side and it was going to be a little harder for our guys to reach him. But until you get tackled, I don't think you can get stopped. • "They made a good play. The end got up the field, so I just tried to cut it back in and get something positive and protect the points. And we were able to get some points out of it, so that was good." • Starter Josh Freeman added: "We missed one block and … next thing you know, it's a mess."
. Coach and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris shook up his linebacker corps, inserting Adam Hayward, left, into the starting lineup on the strong side, moving Quincy Black, center, to the weak side and benching Geno Hayes, right, the former starter on the weak side. Mason Foster, as usual, started in the middle. The move was made in an effort to get better performance out of the group. "We needed some better play out of the (weakside) linebacker position," Morris said. Hayes conceded: "I just have to be more consistent. Got to keep it moving." Hayes, who said he only played on special teams Sunday, had started 24 consecutive games, but Morris likely became weary of the on-again, off-again nature of his play. Black said he was comfortable playing wherever he was asked to contribute. "I play linebacker," he said. "That stuff doesn't matter. That's just a label."
For the second consecutive season, Gerald McCoy's season will end on injured reserve because of a torn biceps muscle. • Sunday was a day filled with optimism and relief for the defensive tackle, who returned after a two-game absence because of an ankle injury. But in the first quarter, McCoy suffered a torn biceps muscle. • McCoy, the third overall pick in 2010, suffered a torn biceps in his left arm last season; now he has a torn right biceps. • "Hey, stuff like that happens, man," DT Brian Price said. "I feel bad for him because he had the same injury last year, just on the other arm. My heart goes out to him because I know how hard it is being on (injured reserve). I just hope he gets better. • "We can't count our losses and be sorry for ourselves. We just have to keep pushing." • Having to play the majority of the game without its most important defensive lineman, the middle of the Bucs defense was exploited against the run. By game's end, the Bucs had given up 195 rushing yards. • Compounding the problem, backup DT Frank Okam didn't make the trip to New Orleans, remaining in Tampa because of a calf injury. That left the Bucs with just two other true defensive tackles: Price and Roy Miller. • Coach Raheem Morris substituted ends Da'Quan Bowers and George Johnson periodically, but neither is suited to play on running downs against much bigger interior offensive linemen. • "We had guys like Bowers and George come in, but they'd just come in for about one or two plays and then get back out there," Price said. • Still, the Bucs will have to face this reality. And it won't be easy. • "It's unfortunate," CB Ronde Barber said. "You hate to see that happen, especially with a young player. We're a different team without him."
. RB LeGarrette Blount returned Sunday from a two-game absence, and what began as a promising day didn't have its desired ending.
The Bucs handed the ball to Blount with regularity early in the game, taking into account the Saints' run defense has been abysmal and that star LB Jonathan Vilma was out with an injury. During one first-quarter series, Blount ran for 15, 8 and 7 yards on consecutive plays.
But a growing deficit on the scoreboard prevented Tampa Bay from continuing to go to Blount later in the game, and he finished with 72 yards on 13 carries (5.5 per carry).
Blount, who was expected to take on more of a third-down role given the season-ending injury to Earnest Graham, yielded to Kregg Lumpkin on most passing downs.
. The Bucs had 365 yards of total offense, including 281 passing from QB Josh Freeman. But those yards didn't come where Tampa Bay needed them most: when in striking distance. "You've got to score touchdowns when you play the Saints," coach Raheem Morris said. The Bucs gave up the ball on downs at the New Orleans 29 in the first quarter. They settled for field goals after marching to the Saints' 22-yard line, 30-yard line and 7-yard line later in the game. The Bucs continue to be one of the poorest red-zone teams in the NFL.
In the teams' first meeting, one reason the Bucs had so much success forcing Saints QB Drew Brees into so many poor decisions was the defensive success against the run. The Bucs limited the Saints to 70 rushing yards in a 26-20 win in Week 6, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry. • Things couldn't have been more different Sunday. The Saints ran with abandon, gaining 195 yards and averaging an astounding 7.0 yards per carry. That left the deadly accurate Brees with manageable third-down situations and spelled doom for the Bucs. • Even with RB Mark Ingram out, the Saints ran their share of power runs with Chris Ivory, playing his first game since coming off the physically unable to perform list (foot). He ran for 67 yards on 15 carries. • Pierre Thomas ran inside and outside with equal success, averaging 8.3 yards per carry with 66 yards on eight carries. Darren Sproles, who hurt the Bucs on the ground and as a receiver, added a 35-yard run and a 21-yard touchdown catch. • "We have a lot of things to fix, and thank God we have more time this season to take care of them," Bucs DT Brian Price said.
. Saints QB Drew Brees threw for 258 yards and leads the league with 3,004, becoming the first player to pass for at least 3,000 yards through the first nine games of a season. He held the previous mark through nine games (2,985 in 2008).
. WR/KR Preston Parker, top, had 117 all-purpose yards, including 56 receiving and a 45-yard kickoff return.
. TE Kellen Winslow, bottom, extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one catch to 84.
Barber's pick doesn't pay
. With the Bucs down 17-3 and unable to put together any consistent rhythm on offense or defense, they seemed to get a break on Ronde Barber's interception of Saints QB Drew Brees. Barber jumped in front of a flare pass intended for Darren Sproles for his second interception of the season (and 42nd of his career) but Barber was unable to keep his feet or he might have taken it 33 yards into the end zone.
Still, the Bucs had their best starting position of the day with a chance to cut the Saints' lead to one touchdown. It sounded good, but it was not to be.
The Bucs' drive was short-circuited by a roughness penalty called on RB LeGarrette Blount that left Tampa Bay with a third-and-24 situation that it did not convert. Connor Barth eventually kicked a 48-yard field goal.
"Those are things that good teams take advantage of," Barber said of his interception. In this case, the Bucs couldn't do that.
Porter improving after hit
. Saints CB Tracy Porter, injured early in the game during a scary collision with Bucs WR Mike Williams, was taken to the hospital with chest and neck pain. But tests showed no major damage, and he was back in the locker room after the game.