Rick Stroud has an instant analysis here.
(Update, 2:45 fourth quarter)
The Bucs’ comeback hopes were faint to start with. They had played from behind all day.
Tampa Bay’s win probability went from less than a 2 percent chance of winning to zip when New Orleans intercepted Jameis Winston on consecutive possessions, returning one for a touchdown and P.J. Williams picking off Winston in the end zone with 2:52 to play.
Just when the defense showed up
(Update, 5:07 fourth quarter)
Just when the Bucs defense showed up, forcing a punt on three of four Saints possessions.
Just when hope had re-entered the discussion on an otherwise dreary afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.
Saints safety Marcus Williams returned Jameis Winston’s third interception of the day 55 yards for a touchdown and a 34-17 New Orleans lead. Watch:
Welcome back to the end zone, Chris Godwin
(Update, end third quarter)
Chris Godwin hadn’t scored since the Bucs’ last game against the Saints before breaking loose on a 30-yard catch and run late in the third quarter.
Only the Saints have stopped the Saints
(Update, 5:27 third quarter)
Drew Brees’ third touchdown pass, a 6-yarder to Ted Ginn, reinforced an important fact.
The Bucs have done nothing to stop the Saints Sunday. Nothing.
The Saints have punted once. All that’s stopped them from scoring more touchdowns are their own red-zone penalties.
Brees is 22 of 28 passing for 192 yards and a 131 quarterback rating.
About that fifth-round draft pick ...
(Update, 11:13 third quarter)
Matt Gay’s 55-yard field goal on the first possession of the second half was impressive, and enough to keep Tampa Bay within range.
It’s also worth taking a second to make note of Gay’s success:
The rookie kicker has made 15 of 16 field-goal attempts since that fateful and decisive miss at the end of the Bucs’ 32-31 loss to the New York Giants on Sept. 22.
Bookmark the last possession of the first half
If the Bucs come up a little short, that last drive will have been very costly.
Dominated thoroughly for most of two quarters, the Bucs got the ball near midfield 1:43 before intermission and managed to get into field-goal position. In the process, we even discovered Jameis Winston is ambidextrous.
Alas, there would be no field-goal attempt.
Winston tried to force the ball to a well-covered Chris Godwin and threw it right to Saints linebacker Kiko Alonso, who couldn’t catch it. But Saints safety Von Bell could, grabbing the tipped ball at New Orleans 16.
It was Winston’s second interception of the game, and this one definitely was his doing. Worth noting: The Bucs have lost 16 of the 20 games in which opponents have intercepted Winston twice or more times.
We have a Scotty Miller sighting
(Update, 3:34 second quarter)
Miller, the Bucs rookie receiver from Bowling Green, beat Chauncey Gardner-Johnson deep on a play that was originally ruled a touchdown, which would have been the first of Miller’s NFL career. Upon review, Miller’s catch for 48 yards gave the Bucs a first-and-goal at the 1.
It was eventful from there. Winston’s first-down pass was incomplete to Chris Godwin.
On second down, he bobbled a snap that was either early or quick. Whatever, Winston recovered and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Peyton Barber.
A lopsided first half
The Saints have run 25 plays in Bucs territory.
The Bucs have run 10 plays for 11 yards.
A scan of Raymond James Stadium reveals more Saints black than Bucs red.
This afternoon is not going well for Tampa Bay, especially after Alvin Kamara turned a line-drive punt into a 27-yard return that triggered another New Orleans scoring drive. Tight end Jared Cook capped it with a 3-yard touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone.
Another Bucs game, another ugly early turnover.
This time it was tight end O.J. Howard allowing the ball to go through his hands for a Saints interception at the Tampa Bay 16.
Drew Brees hit Michael Thomas for a touchdown pass on the next play for a 13-0 New Orleans lead. This is not the start Tampa Bay desired.
New Orleans’ advantage in total yards: 144-6.
New Orleans’ advantage in time of possession: 13:19-1:41.
Worth remembering: The Bucs turned it over early last week against Arizona, setting up a Cardinals field goal. But Tampa Bay rallied for a 30-27 victory over Arizona.
Did the Bucs stop the Saints or the Saints stop themselves?
(Update, 0:54 first quarter)
The Saints own a 20-3 advantage in plays. They’ve had the ball for all but 54 seconds, and only a 6-0 lead to show for it.
Glass-half-full interpretation: The Bucs defense stiffened.
Glass-half-empty interpretation: This is going to be a long afternoon for the Bucs.
A holding-penalty nullified Alvin Kamara’s touchdown run on New Orleans’ second possession. Will Lutz’s 26-yard field goal made it 6-0.
Mike Edwards’ redemption
We may remember the opening drive of this game for how Bucs rookie safety Mike Edwards redeemed himself.
Burned by tight end Jared Cook for a 30-yard reception deep into Bucs territory, Edwards blitzed and sacked Saints hybrid player Taysom Hill for a 9-yard loss on second down. Then, after consecutive offsides penalties against Tampa Bay (I am not making this up), Edwards tackled Alvin Kamara in open field short of a first down.
New Orleans settled for Will Lutz’s 44-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Contact Mike Sherman at email@example.com. Follow @mikesherma