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Live updates: Tom Brady era with the Bucs starts with a loss

The Saints reel off back-to-back scoring drives to start the final quarter and put the Bucs on their heels.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs off the field after the Buccaneers 34-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 in New Orleans.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs off the field after the Buccaneers 34-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 in New Orleans. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sep. 13, 2020
Updated Sep. 13, 2020

NEW ORLEANS — The Bucs showed flashes of promise in Sunday’s season opener against the Saints. But a multitude of miscues led to a 34-23 loss to their NFC South rival.

Receiver Mike Evans, hampered by hamstring issues leading up to Sunday, scored on a 2-yard pass — his only catch of the game — with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Bucs a bit of a late spark.

Tampa Bay tried for a two-point conversion, but the Tom Brady throw to Evans was incomplete. Instead of getting a stop on the next series, the Saints marched into the red zone, running out most of the clock.

Final stats for Brady: 23 of 36 passing for 239 yards and two touchdowns. He also was intercepted twice and sacked three times.

Saints in control

After pulling within a touchdown at the end of the third quarter, the Bucs relapsed, allowing a Saints scoring drive to start the fourth.

Drew Brees has been the more consistent quarterback this game. He capped a six-play, 61-yard drive with a 5-yard toss to Emmanuel Sanders to extend New Orleans' lead to 31-17 with 11:38 to play.

Brees has thrown two touchdowns and no interceptions; Tom Brady has a rushing score and TD toss, but has been picked off twice, both leading to Saints points. One reason the Bucs wanted a veteran like Brady under center: fewer turnovers.

And there was more bad news for the Bucs after the Saints' first fourth-quarter scoring drive: Tampa Bay mishandled the short kickoff, with the Saints recovering at the Bucs' 18-yard line.

New Orleans didn’t score a touchdown, but did convert a 21-yard field goal to go up 34-17.

Tampa Bay converts a kick. Really.

The third quarter started ugly for the Bucs at the Superdome.

Tampa Bay, trailing 17-7 entering the quarter, got the ball to start, then promptly gave it back to the Saints. Janoris Jenkins intercepted Tom Brady, who threw behind Justin Watson. Jenkins romped 35 yards for a score.

But Brady shrugged off that miscue, wasting no time in leading the Bucs on a scoring drive. He threw his first touchdown as a Buc, finding tight end O.J. Howard (9 yards) in the back of the end zone. A 21-yard run by Ronald Jones helped set up that score and the Bucs trailed 24-14.

With 2:22 remaining in the third quarter, Ryan Succop redeemed himself, kicking a 38-yard field goal to pull the Bucs within a touchdown.

Strong start, forgettable second quarter

First half: Tom Brady’s first drive was efficient, balanced and ended with a touchdown Sunday afternoon. Brady led the Bucs down the field against a stout Saints defense, 85 yards on nine plays over 4:53, ending the drive with a 2-yard quarterback sneak through the middle and into the end zone.

After scoring, Brady emphatically spiked the ball, and the Tompa Bay Bucs era began with an exclamation point. But momentum quickly turned the Saints’ way in the second quarter.

New Orleans tied things up at 7, thanks to a Drew Brees third-down, 12-yard pass to Alvin Kamara. The drive covered 64 yards.

When the Bucs got the ball back, Brady was promptly intercepted, setting up the Saints' go-ahead scoring drive. It was Kamara again, this time on a 6-yard run. Saints 14, Bucs 7.

And stop us if you’ve heard this before: After a Bucs drive stalled when Brady was sacked (Donovan Smith is not going to get hugs and high-fives at halftime), Ryan Succop’s 54-yard field goal was blocked with less than three minutes to play in the quarter.

New Orleans, meanwhile, connected on its own field-goal try, a 34-yarder with 44 seconds to play in the half to go up 17-7. Defensive miscues by Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh gave the Saints favorable field position on the drive.

The Bucs actually ran the ball seven times on their opening drive. Running back Ronald Jones ran for 12 yards on five carries and wide receiver Scotty Miller had one rush for 6 yards.

The key play on the drive was a 29-yard pass from Brady to a wide open Chris Godwin that moved the Bucs past midfield.

 Tom Brady (12), right, is hugged by wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) as center Ryan Jensen (66) comes over to celebrate Brady's first-quarter touchdown.
Tom Brady (12), right, is hugged by wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) as center Ryan Jensen (66) comes over to celebrate Brady's first-quarter touchdown. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The Bucs also were the beneficiaries of two pass interference calls on the Saints, including one on a deep ball to Mike Evans on a sideline route that gained 23 yards and put the Bucs at the 16-yard line.

Brady was 2-for-2 for 37 yards and the touchdown run.

But the Saints came back in the second quarter to tie things up at 7, thanks to a Drew Brees third-down, 12-yard pass to Alvin Kamara. The drive covered 64 yards.

When the Bucs got the ball back, Brady was promptly intercepted, setting up the Saints' go-ahead scoring drive. It was Kamara again, this time on a 6-yard run. Saints 14, Bucs 7.

And stop us if you’ve heard this before: After a Bucs drive stalled when Brady was sacked (Donovan Smith is not going to get hugs and high-fives at halftime), Ryan Succop’s 54-yard field goal was blocked with less than three minutes to play in the quarter.

‘End Racism’

Pregame: Before today’s Bucs season opener against the Saints (4:25 p.m., Fox), players and coaches locked arms and stood together in a single line as Lift Every Voice and Sing played

The Bucs were on the field alone some 20 minutes before kickoff as Alicia Keys' rendition of the song known as the Black national anthem played on the Superdome sound system.

Several Bucs players wore "End Racism" shirts during warmups.
Several Bucs players wore "End Racism" shirts during warmups. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The Saints were not on the field at the time, which came right after the Bucs broke their team huddle following warmups inside an empty Superdome.

Bucs coach Bruce Arians locked arms with receiver Chris Godwin on his left and linebacker Devin White on his right.

During pregame, the Bucs wore shirts that said “One team: Injustice Against One of Us is Injustice Against All of Us” on the front and “End Racism” on the back.

The Saints wore shirts that said “#SAYHERNAME,” a reference to the death of Breonna Taylor.

Now this is fan devotion

3:30 p.m. Would you travel to New Orleans, knowing you wouldn’t be able to set foot in the Superdome, just to be near the Bucs as they take the field with Tom Brady under center?

Devon Garnett and four friends certainly thought the Bucs were worth the trip, even if they’re watching the game from their Airbnb. “I go hard for my teams,” said Garnett, who also drove 15 hours to watch the Rays play in Game 5 of the ALDS last year in Houston. Read more here.

Evans in the lineup

3:15 p.m. The big pregame story was whether Tom Brady would have his No. 1 receiving target available. A hamstring injury sidelined Mike Evans for most of last week. But good news: he is active after taking a few early reps at the Superdome.

All is quiet

10 a.m.: It is strange to see downtown New Orleans desolate any time, let alone just hours before the Saints' home opener.

But the buzz that would normally be surrounding the Superdome doesn’t exist about five hours before game time, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bucs' season opener in New Orleans is one of the most anticipated Week 1 games — but you wouldn’t know it from the outside.

No fans will be allowed in the Superdome today, and city officials have told fans to stay away. No tailgating is allowed outside in public lots. Normally, fans would be pulling into parking lots at this time.

The Superdome parking lots are empty. Access to the stadium’s concourse-level entrances, and well as the Champions Square plaza outside the stadium (think Thunder Alley at Amalie Arena, but bigger), are cut off by steel barricades.

The city is empty. You’ll find an occasional Saints jersey, but it’s mostly people walking their dogs and doing their morning workouts.

While the Bucs play the Saints in the Superdome, the rest of New Orleans will be preparing for the arrival of Tropical Storm Sally, which could be upgraded to a Category 2 hurricane tomorrow.

Some areas, including Plaquemines Parish, have already started mandatory evacuations. Sandbags are being distributed throughout the area.

In fact, at the downtown Hyatt Regency, just a few steps from the Superdome, sandbags have already been placed at the front entrance.

More ways to follow us

Follow our new Bucs Instagram account at @TampaBayTimesBucs

Follow our writers on Twitter in New Orleans at @NFLStroud, @EddieInTheYard and @Romano_TBTimes

A little light reading

Here’s some of our content leading up to today’s game, and there’s a lot

Main stories

Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees: A matchup for the ageless

Bucs defense seeking redemption for last year’s losses to the Saints.

As long as Tom Brady has the ball, the Bucs are running his offense

Bucs rookie Antoine Winfield, Jr. ready for his first start

Special section stories

The Tampa Bay Times' 2020 Bucs season preview cover.
The Tampa Bay Times' 2020 Bucs season preview cover. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

Bucs a destination team, instant contender? That’s the Tom Brady effect

Wait for it: Bucs stint may make or break Tom Brady’s legacy

Bucs about to learn the price of winning with Tom Brady

NFL’s best receiving tandem helped attract Tom Brady to Bucs

Bucs believe first-rounder Tristan Wirfs is ‘the real deal’

For Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Bucs winning will net attention they deserve

Devin White, quarterback of the Bucs defense, sets his own high standard

Offseason of change leads to more empowered NFL players

Sinatra, nudists, Bern’s and upsets: A history of Tampa Bay’s Super Bowls

Quick hits

Report: Saints were in play for Tom Brady until Drew Brees decided to return

Mike Evans' status upgraded to questionable

Dad still schools Bucs rookie Antoine Winfield, Jr.

Saints coach Sean Payton loves TB12 water, but hates the spam

Rob Gronkowski: Superdome’s artificial noise can’t compare to “obnoxious” simulation

Why will Bucs' Bruce Arians will wear shades in the Superdome?

The story of Sean Payton, Cameron Brate and ‘The Boys of Fall

Leonard Fournette: For the first time in my life, I really have a quarterback

From chosen to the chalkboard: Josh Rosen joins the Bucs to learn from the GOAT