On a day of big plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, what was the biggest in their 48-40 season-opening win over the Saints in New Orleans?
Our Bucs coverage team weighs in:
It was the first big play.
It was that 58-yard bomb from Ryan Fitzpatrick to DeSean Jackson for Tampa Bay's first score, which sent a message: Not today. We are attacking. We are fearless.
That it came from Jackson, who didn't do this at all last season, meant that much more. Different kind of day, different kind of Bucs.
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Biggest play? Oddly enough, not an offensive one. But it was a score.
Justin Evans picked up a fumble and raced 34 yards to give the Bucs a 31-17 lead in the second quarter. Up until then, the offenses were trading haymakers and not only did this play stop the Saints offense, it tacked points on the board for the Bucs. The game was never truly close after that.
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The fourth play of the game for the Bucs offense: Fitzpatrick's 58-yard touchdown pass to Jackson.
The Bucs immediately answered the Saints and tied the game at 7-7. But it sent a message, too — that the Bucs weren't going to be content to just run the ball and throw only when they had to. They were going to be aggressive. They didn't relent, and it worked.
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The Bucs' first big play was the biggest.
The 58-yard pass to DeSean Jackson forced the Saints to honor the deep ball, unload the box and open up the running lanes.
If there's an argument to be made for keeping Fitzpatrick in the lineup after Jameis Winston's suspension, it'll start with his ability to go long to Jackson.
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No one in pewter wants to think about what would have happened if Fitzpatrick had not run for a first down on that third-and-11 right before the two-minute warning.
Yes, the Saints were out of timeouts. But one of the best openers — and perhaps the best offensive performance — in Bucs history was about to be spoiled if their 35-year-old quarterback hadn't tucked it and taken off.
Fitzpatrick made all the right moves Sunday, including this last one.
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