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Buccaneers-Saints, Week 5: What we learned

Thomas Bassinger: The New Orleans defense challenged Jameis Winston like no other defense this season. Plus, stopping Michael Thomas apparently wasn’t in the game plan.
No place like home: In his past two games against the Bucs in New Orleans, Saints receiver Michael Thomas has caught 27 of 30 targets for 362 yards and three touchdowns. [BILL FEIG | Associated Press]
Published Oct. 6
Updated Oct. 7

Observations from the Buccaneers’ 31-24 loss to the Saints on Sunday in New Orleans:

1. A week ago, there was much to celebrate in Tampa Bay sports. The Rays had clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2013. The Bucs had upset the defending NFC champions. Now? The Rays are in danger of getting swept out of the postseason, and the Bucs have lost ground in their division, falling to third place.

2. The Saints defensive line absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage. New Orleans sacked Jameis Winston six times, the most he had been sacked since Christmas Eve 2017. Marcus Davenport, who has emerged as one of the most disruptive edge rushers in the NFL, led the way with two.

3. The Bucs held one playmaker in check (Alvin Kamara) but were torched by another (Michael Thomas). Thomas caught 11 of 13 targets for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

4. On Thomas’ second touchdown, which put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter, he forced two missed tackles. Tackling had been an area in which the Tampa Bay defense had made strides this season. “We’ve been better,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said last week. “We can still work on tackling every week, which we do every time in practice. We can wrap up a few more we’re giving away. They’re not big misses, but they’re misses to where (opponents) get 3 or 4 extra yards.”

5. Meanwhile, the Saints shut out Mike Evans. Evans had caught a pass in 65 straight games, a streak that began more than four years ago.

6. Chris Godwin maintained his 100-catch pace. He caught seven passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns, though the second touchdown didn’t make a material difference in the outcome of the game. It was his seventh 100-yard game and third multi-touchdown game.

7. Carlton Davis’ ejection was a game-changer. Davis, who has been the Bucs’ best cornerback, was disqualified after his helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints tight end Jared Cook late in the second quarter. New Orleans went on to score a go-ahead touchdown and never relinquished the lead.

8. The game’s turning point: when the Saints scored a touchdown on their final possession of the first half and their first possession of the second half.

9. Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw four touchdown passes, the most he has thrown in a game in four seasons. The last quarterback to throw at least four touchdown passes and one or fewer interceptions against Tampa Bay: Mitchell Trubisky, in a 48-10 Chicago win early last season.

10. Coach Bruce Arians talked last week about wanting his players, specifically Winston, to play fearless. Fearless, the Bucs were not Sunday. They climbed back into the game when they scored a touchdown late in the third quarter that cut the Saints’ lead to 24-17. On their next possession, they gave the game right back. They began with drive with a false start and a 2-yard run on first and 15. An 11-yard pass to Bobo Wilson got them to third and 2, but they failed to convert. On fourth and 2 from the Tampa Bay 43-yard line, the Bucs chose to punt rather than go for it. The Saints answered by stringing together a 13-play, 91-yard touchdown drive.

11. New Orleans’ 91-yard drive was the longest touchdown drive Tampa Bay had surrendered since Week 13 last season.

12. Through three quarters, Winston threw 17 passes. Bucs running backs had 18 carries (19 if you count a run by receiver Scotty Miller). So much for “balance” being advantageous to the offense.

13. Tampa Bay started slow, recording only five first downs in the first half. On its first possession of the second half, it had seven (including a touchdown).

14. The Bucs offense’s 48-point outburst against the Rams last week might have been a mirage. Tampa Bay scored 28 of those points off its four takeaways. On Sunday, it scored its first touchdown after a Sean Murphy-Bunting interception gave the offense a short field.

15. There was no way that Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who was on pace to generate more than 100 pressures this season, was going to be able to maintain his historic level of production. He didn’t have a single quarterback hit or tackle for loss. Was he limited by the groin injury that kept him out of practice last week?

16. It’s hard to win at New Orleans in October. The Saints have won 14 straight games at home and haven’t lost in nine seasons.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at Follow @tometrics.


  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) makes a pass reception in Cardinals territory during the first quarter of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, November 10, 2019, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Encina’s Early Read: Bucs made adjustments since last New Orleans game, and it’s led to some big receiving days for Mike Evans.
  2. Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick participates in a workout for NFL football scouts and media, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Riverdale, Ga. TODD KIRKLAND  |  AP
    The Bucs aren’t among the teams reported to have attended after a late venue change as the QB and NFL trade accusations.
  3. Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans could soon reach an NFL milestone that only Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss has attained. It could happen Sunday against the Saints. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rick Stroud The Bucs receiver could join his idol by eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards for the sixth straight year
  4. Since he entered the NFL in 2012, no one has made more solo tackles than Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Romano | He has been a tackling savant for eight years, but the Bucs’ constant losing has meant David has never gotten the credit he deserves here and elsewhere.
  5. In his wins, Jameis Winston has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2.3. In his losses, he has a ratio of 1.2. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay has won in only 24 of his starts. Here are the defining characteristics of those wins. (Hint: Winston plays better, but even that’s not enough.)
  6. Bucs receiver Mike Evans (left) has averaged only 3.4 catches and 30.1 yards in five games against Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (right). Evans was held without a catch when last they met in New Orleans on Oct. 6, but Lattimore is out for the Saints' 1 p.m. game against the Bucs Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tampa Bay-New Orleans predictions: Here’s the Tampa Bay Times staff picks.
  7. Fans turn out for the season opener of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019 in Tampa.  MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    Two teams are keeping the Bucs out of the NFL’s attendance basement. One is winless and the other plays in a 30,000-seat soccer stadium.
  8. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has had plenty to say to NFL officials this season. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Rick Stroud: The Bucs coach has a colorful — we mean blue — way of getting his point across to NFL officials
  9. Former Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib, shown in this 2010 file photo, had his own Myles Garrett-type, helmet-swinging incident in a 2009 Bucs practice. ZUPPA, CHRIS  |  St. Petersburg Times
    A volatile defense back took out a teammate bystander in 2009 during a helmet-swinging altercation in practice.
  10. FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick warms up before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears. Spike Lee said on Instagram Sunday, March 19, 2017, that it was "fishy" that Kaepernick, now a free agent, hadn't been signed." (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File) PAPM107 AP
    The Bucs coach said he could see the former 49ers quarterback play again in the NFL in “the right system.” From his words, don’t expect it to be the Bucs.