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Bucs-Saints: Grading Tampa Bay’s 28-14 loss to New Orleans

The Bucs lose from ahead to the Saints. And that is that.
Bucs defensive back Andrew Adams (26) sits after the New Orleans Saints score a touchdown during the fourth quarter. [TAILYR IRVINE   |   Times]
Bucs defensive back Andrew Adams (26) sits after the New Orleans Saints score a touchdown during the fourth quarter. [TAILYR IRVINE | Times]
Published Dec. 9, 2018
Updated Dec. 10, 2018

TAMPA – For a half, it was the Bucs who looked like they were 10-2 and the Saints who looked like they were 5-7. We were beginning to think their Christmas pajamas had magic power. They lost going away. Pinpricks became blood gushers. The Saints looked like a playoff team, and the Bucs looked like a team ready for the pine box.

A nationwide manhunt is on for the guy who let New Orleans' backup quarterback in clean to block that Bryan Anger punt. But it took more than that for the floodgates to open. There would be no stunner like in the opener in New Orleans. The Bucs fell off the cliff for good in a 28-14 lose-from-ahead embarrassment.

Jameis Winston and his team won the first half 14-3. They lost the second half 25-0. Do the math. They showed more fight on the sideline than they did on the field. It didn't add up for Dirk Koetter and his team. Too many mistakes, penalties, not enough plays from Winston and the offense to keep the defense off the field. The Bucs are down to three games remaining and not much more than that.

Remember when?

When the Bucs shocked Sean Payton, Drew Brees and the Saints in New Orleans in Week 1, receivers were open everywhere and scoring at will behind the arm of the Mighty Fitz, who threw for 417 yards and became America's football darling. DeSean Jackson caught two long touchdown passes. Mike Evans had 147 yards receiving. So much for that. No Fitz on Sunday. Jackson? Not active. GRADE: F

Not enough

Winston did not lose this game, but he did nothing to win it. He completed fewer than half his passes and managed only 213 yards passing. He had a few shining moments, like that deep ball to Evans on the TD drive to start the game. But he missed on a lot of plays, too many. His turnover-free football ended when he was intercepted on the Bucs' final play from scrimmage. GRADE: D

No Answer

The Bucs were awful after halftime, especially on offense. They made 14 first downs in the first half, just six after that. They had 196 yards of offense at halftime, but just 83 after that. The Saints didn't even switch their coverages. Winston and the offense — and Koetter and offensive coordinator Todd Monken simply had no answers in the second 30 minutes, wasting a great defensive showing. You're not beating New Orleans with 14 points. We thought the Bucs learned that the first time around. GRADE: F

A door left open

It's easy to point to the third-quarter blocked punt by New Orleans reserve quarterback Tayson Hill as the game-changer. And it was bad. Was it Bucs backup linebacker Cameron Lynch who missed on Hill or was it a team coverage thing? No matter. The Bucs fell away from there. But it was earlier, to start the second half, when the seed was planted. The Saints turned the ball over to start the third quarter, as Carl Nassib sacked Drew Brees, whose fumble was recovered by Jason Pierre-Paul. First-and-10 Bucs at the New Orleans 27. And they came away with nothing. Three-and-out and a missed field goal by Cairo Santos. And the loss was on. GRADE: F

Same old brick wall

As  always, the Bucs could not run the ball. They finished with 105 yards rushing, but 47 of those yards came from Winston. Peyton Barber, the team's No. 1 back, finished with 14 carries for just 42 yards. It has been a problem for the Bucs all season, and next season isn't looking much better. GRADE: F

Steel-cage nonsense

A low point in this game came late in the second quarter, when Winston and center Ryan Jensen had to be restrained as they jawed at each other on the sideline after a particularly gruesome offensive series, which saw bad boy Jensen penalized two more times, including a flag for unnecessary roughness. Everything was patched up, but it was bad optics in a bad loss. By the way, the offensive line was awful all day, penalties everywhere and Winston was sacked four times. GRADE: F

Welcome to the franchise!

Santos hadn't missed a kick as a Buc until Sunday. Then he went and missed on two field-goal tries and both misses were costly. GRADE: F

Not enough, Part II

Defensive end Carl Nassib has been a great pickup for the Bucs, this after the Browns didn't even want the guy. Nassib delivered Sunday with a sack and forced fumble. And linebacker Adarius Taylor had a good game, with six tackles and an interception off Brees that set up the Bucs' second touchdown, another one for Cameron Brate. The Bucs won the takeway battle over New Orleans, 2-1, but still lost. GRADE: A

Where was everybody?

The announced attendance at Raymond James Stadium was 53, 495, but there were scads of empty seats. Yes, it rained heavily in the morning, and the Bucs lost, but Tampa Bay has cemented its growing reputation as a fair-weather fan base. Losing will do that. GRADE: D