TAMPA — At the risk of belaboring the point of the Bucs’ regular-season futility against the Saints, their skid spans two presidents.
Which is to say, Donald Trump was in the White House, and a guy who resembled Ulysses S. Grant was Tampa Bay’s quarterback the last time the Bucs had a non-playoff win against New Orleans.
One must hearken to the 2018 opener to find the Bucs’ last regular-season triumph against their NFC South nemesis. On that surreal September afternoon, journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick had a career game (417 passing yards, four touchdowns) as the Bucs tied the franchise single-game record for points in a 48-40 victory.
Also on that day, a gallon of gas was selling for an average of $2.91, USF football was enjoying a 2-0 start after a 49-38 home win against Georgia Tech, and Anthony Fauci was a mostly anonymous bureaucrat in Washington D.C.
Of course, the reasons for this extended swoon have been well chronicled and hypothesized. But as the Bucs attempt to end it this Sunday at Caesars Superdome, we thought we’d dissect each defeat a bit more, assessing every individual loss on its own demerit.
Saints 28, Bucs 14 (Dec. 9, 2018)
Key story line: The Saints sacked Jameis Winston four times and hit him on 10 other occasions.
Stat of the day: Winston’s 47.3 completion rate (18-for-38) was the second-worst of his career.
Pivotal play: With the Bucs ahead 14-3 late in the third at Raymond James Stadium, Taysom Hill blocked a Bryan Anger punt, setting up Drew Brees’ 1-yard TD flip to fullback Zach Line. Alvin Kamara ran in the two-point conversion.
Parting shot: “We’re fighting and competing our butts off and when that happens, guys get hot. Like I’ve said before, me and Jameis cleared the air right away. He went his way, I went my way. We came back and talked in like two seconds and everything was good.” — Bucs center Ryan Jensen, who got in a heated sideline confrontation with Winston in the second quarter
Saints 31, Bucs 24 (Oct. 6, 2019)
Key story line: In his third start in place of injured franchise quarterback Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater dissected the Bucs secondary for 314 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Stat of the day: Targeted only three times, receiver Mike Evans finished with no catches for only the second time in his career.
Pivotal play: On the second half’s opening play, Saints receiver Michael Thomas appeared to push off cornerback Vernon Hargreaves with both hands before hauling in a 42-yard Bridgewater pass. No interference was called, and the Saints scored two plays later for a 24-10 lead at home.
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Parting shot: “We still are too soft. We’re too soft. I don’t know how else to put it. When we’re in press-man, we have some guys who are getting after it and we have some guys who are soft.” — Bucs coach Bruce Arians (regarding the Bucs secondary)
Saints 34, Bucs 17 (Nov. 17, 2019)
Key story line: The Saints intercepted Jameis Winston four times, sending Tampa Bay to its fifth loss in six contests.
Stat of the day: While Winston attempted 51 passes (completing 30), the Bucs’ running backs combined for 13 yards on six carries.
Pivotal play: Down by 10 with five minutes remaining at RayJay, Winston badly overthrew Mike Evans on a downfield route, and Marcus Williams snagged it for an easy 55-yard pick-six.
Parting shot: “He’s a talented, talented guy, but it’s not showing up on Sundays.” — Bucs coach Bruce Arians on tight end O.J. Howard, who couldn’t secure a Winston pass in the first half and had it popped loose on a hit by safety Marcus Williams, resulting in a Demario Davis interception
Saints 34, Bucs 23 (Sept. 13, 2020)
Key story line: Making his pewter debut inside a massive echo chamber (no fans were permitted in Mercedes-Benz Superdome due to COVID-19), Tom Brady was sacked three times and threw two interceptions.
Stat of the day: Targeted only four times, Mike Evans finished with one reception, a 2-yard TD catch with 2:41 to play.
Pivotal play: His team trailing by 10 on the second half’s opening drive, Brady threw a short pass to the sideline that was picked by Janoris Jenkins and returned for a 36-yard touchdown.
Parting shot: “They were bad throws. That’s what it comes down to. Bad throws. Can’t do it.” — Brady
Saints 38, Bucs 3 (Nov. 8, 2020)
Key story line: Before an NBC Sunday night audience, the Saints scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions, forcing the Bucs to abandon the run and allowing visiting New Orleans to tee off on Tom Brady (three sacks, three interceptions).
Stat of the night: The Bucs’ five rushing attempts (for 8 yards) were the fewest in an NFL regular-season game.
Pivotal play: We’ll give you three of them, in succession. In one putrid third-period sequence, Brady was sacked by Trey Hendrickson three consecutive times.
Parting shot: “We couldn’t make a play to save our lives.” — outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett
Saints 36, Bucs 27 (Oct. 31, 2021)
Key story line: In his first start against his former team, Saints quarterback Jameis Winston sustained a season-ending knee injury on a Devin White horse-collar tackle. It was one of 11 penalties (for 99 yards) whistled against the visiting Bucs.
Stat of the day: While the Bucs were mired in self-infliction, the Saints were whistled for only two penalties and committed no turnovers.
Pivotal play: Trailing by two with 1:36 remaining, Tom Brady’s throw for Chris Godwin was intercepted by P.J. Williams and returned for a 40-yard touchdown.
Parting shot: “That was an embarrassing display of football. We talked about what it was going to take to win, and to play like that obviously starts with me. Obviously, we weren’t ready to play. Penalties. Turnovers. You’re not beating anybody that way.” — Bucs coach Bruce Arians
Saints 9, Bucs 0 (Dec. 19, 2021)
Key story line: Chris Godwin (knee), Mike Evans (hamstring), Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and Lavonte David (Lisfranc) all exited the game at some point with injuries. Godwin tore two knee ligaments and would miss the rest of the season.
Stat of the night: The shutout defeat was the Bucs’ first since a 41-0 loss at New Orleans in 2012.
Pivotal play: The home team down by six late in the third, Tom Brady fumbled near the Saints’ 20 after being tackled by Cam Jordan on a scramble. The Bucs never reached Saints territory again.
Parting shot: “The young guys, I was hoping they would step up more at receiver. Overall, we just dropped too many balls, too, when we did have some guys open. They did a good job. They played that hard man–to–man, and we did not do a very good job of getting open.” — Bucs coach Bruce Arians
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