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Tom Brady’s touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman with less than eight minutes remaining gave the Bucs their first lead, and they pulled away for a 20-10 win over the Saints in an emotionally fueled game Sunday at the Superdome in New Orleans.
The victory ended the Bucs’ seven-game regular-season losing streak to the Saints and was Brady’s first in five regular-season games against New Orleans since joining Tampa Bay before the 2020 season.
The Bucs took control, scoring 17 straight points, after an early fourth-quarter melee between the teams resulted in the ejections of Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans and New Orleans cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
With the score tied 3-3, Jamel Dean intercepted Jameis Winston in the end zone to give the Bucs possession. Brady then led Tampa Bay on an 80-yard scoring drive culminating with his 28-yard pass to Perriman to put Tampa Bay ahead 10-3 with 7:41 left.
Dean intercepted Winston again on the Saints’ next drive to give the Bucs the ball right back.
Again, they cashed in, as Ryan Succop’s 47-yard field goal extended the Bucs’ lead to 10 points.
On the Saints’ next possession, Mike Edwards picked off a Winston pass and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown, extending Tampa Bay’s advantage to 20-3.
The Saints got as close as 20-10 on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Winston to Michael Thomas with 3:02 to play.
Winston connected with Chris Olave on a deep pass with about 2-1/2 minutes remaining, but Olave fumbled as he went to the ground and Carlton Davis recovered, resulting in New Orleans’ fifth turnover of the game.
Prior to Brady’s touchdown pass, field goals by Succop and Will Lutz had been all of the scoring through three-plus quarters.
Lutz’s 31-yard field goal on New Orleans’ first possession opened the scoring. Succop tied things with a 47-yarder with just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Saints appeared to be driving for a go-ahead score late in the third quarter, but Bucs safety Logan Ryan forced a Mark Ingram fumble that outside linebacker Carl Nassib recovered at the Tampa Bay 10.
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The Bucs played without wide receivers Chris Godwin (strained hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee), and left tackle Donovan Smith (hyperextended elbow), who were injured during last weekend’s season-opening victory over the Cowboys.
Left tackle Josh Wells, who started in place of Smith, sustained a calf injury during the first half and was replaced by Brandon Walton. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks left with a foot injury.
Here’s how it happened:
Done for the day
Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore were ejected following a melee that broke out between the teams at the start of the fourth quarter.
The sequence started when a Tom Brady pass for Scotty Miller deep down the right sideline on third down was incomplete. Brady, seemingly thinking Miller had been interfered with, ran down the field to scream at the officials, and players began jawing at each other.
Bucs running back Leonard Fournette appeared to make the first contact with Lattimore, and when Lattimore shoved Fournette’s facemask, Evans sprinted across the field and laid out Lattimore.
It wasn’t the first time Evans has gone after the Saints cornerback.
He was suspended for a game in 2017 after a blindside hit on Lattimore on the sideline. Lattimore had shoved Winston, then the Bucs quarterback, after Winston came onto the field and poked him with a finger to the back of the helmet. Evans ran across the field and hit Lattimore from behind, knocking him to the ground.
Bending, but not breaking
No sooner had the Bucs tied the game than the Saints were back on the move.
An 11-yard pass from Jameis Winston to Michael Thomas to the New Orleans 36 got things going.
A 12-yard Mark Ingram run up the middle moved the ball into Tampa Bay territory
The Saints advanced to the 20 on three Dwayne Washington runs.
But that was as far as they got, as Bucs defensive back Logan Ryan forced an Ingram fumble that linebacker Carl Nassib recovered at the Tampa Bay 10.
The Saints seemed to force a punt when they stuffed Leonard Fournette on third-and-1 from the 19, but a penalty for too many men on the field gifted Tampa Bay a first down.
They got their stop three plays later, when a Brady pass for Scotty Miller was incomplete.
Finding their footing
A third-down conversion near midfield halfway through the third quarter seemed to give the Bucs some life.
After a replay review overturned a 4-yard pass to Breshad Perriman, setting up third-and-8, a Brady pass into the flat for Perriman picked up 10 yards and a first down at the Saints 45.
A 10-yard pass from Brady to Russell Gage moved the ball to the 35.
The drive stalled at the 29 when a Perriman reception on third-and-11 was 4 yards short of a first down.
But the Bucs didn’t come away empty-handed, as Ryan Succop’s 47-yard field goal tied the game at 3 with 6:44 remaining in the quarter.
An unnecessary roughness penalty against Bucs linebacker Lavonte David extended a Saints drive just before halftime.
David was penalized for a shoulder hit to the helmet of New Orleans receiver Chris Olave after a 4-yard reception on third-and-5 was short of a first down.
But the 15-yard penalty gave the Saints a first down at the Bucs 45 with 1:27 to play in the half.
Yet again, Tampa Bay’s defense held as Antoine Winfield Jr. sacked Winston, forcing a New Orleans punt.
Pressing their luck
The Bucs’ defense twice forced the Saints into third-and-long situations during a late second-quarter possession but let them up on each occasion.
Dropping back into his own end zone, Jameis Winston found Michael Thomas for 13 yards and a first down in front of cornerback Carlton Davis on third-and-10 from the New Orleans 7.
A few plays later, an offensive pass interference penalty against Thomas, who pushed off Davis, created another third-and-10.
But Winston used a hard count to trick linebacker Devin White into a neutral zone infraction, making it third-and-5. An 8-yard pass from Winston to Chris Olave picked up the first down.
But the Saints could only press their luck so far, as linebacker Shaquil Barrett sacked Winston on third-and-2 from the New Orleans 41, forcing a fumble. The Saints recovered the ball but were forced to punt.
Turnover on downs
The Bucs again drove deep into Saints territory on their second possession, moving 68 yards to the New Orleans 9 before turning the ball over on downs.
Defensive end Carl Granderson dropped Leonard Fournette for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the 8.
Tampa Bay moved downfield quickly, as Tom Brady found Mike Evans for 41 yards down the right sideline on third-and-4, giving the Bucs a first down at the New Orleans 30. A 14-yard Fournette run moved the ball to the 16.
A swing pass from Brady to Fournette on third-and-8 from the 15 gained 7 yards, setting up the fourth-down play on which Fournette was stopped.
Again, the loss of possession didn’t hurt the Bucs, as the defense held. Jameis Winston overthrew Chris Olave deep downfield on third-and-6 from the New Orleans 13, forcing a punt.
No harm done
The first break of the game went the Saints way, as a bad exchange between center Robert Hainsey and quarterback Tom Brady on the Bucs’ first possession resulted in a fumble that linebacker Demario Davis recovered at the New Orleans 25.
Brady appeared to close his hands before fully receiving the ball.
The Bucs didn’t muster much on first and second downs on the drive, but they converted two third downs before the fumble on third-and-1.
A 33-yard pass from Brady to Scotty Miller on third-and-9 gave Tampa Bay a first down at its 48-yard line.
Brady later found Mike Evans over the middle for 13 yards on third-and-6, giving the Bucs a first down at the Saints’ 35.
After the turnover, Bucs linebacker Lavonte David sacked Jameis Winston on third-and-5 from the New Orleans 30, but Keanu Neal was penalized for unnecessary roughness, giving the Saints a first down at their 37.
Still, the turnover didn’t wind up hurting the Bucs, as linebacker Shaquil Barrett stopped Taysom Hill for a 2-yard loss, forcing a punt.
Moving at will
The Saints’ offensive line opened up huge holes as New Orleans drove deep into Bucs territory on its opening drive.
Mark Ingram carried three times for 23 yards. James Winston found running back Tony Jones for 7 yards.
A 13-yard pass from Winston to wide receiver Michael Thomas moved the ball to the Tampa Bay 33.
Taysom Hill picked up 13 yards up the middle to the 17 on a quarterback draw.
But the drive stalled at the 12 after a pass to Ingram for no gain, 5-yard pass to Jones and Winston incompletion forced the Saints to settle for a 31-yard Will Lutz field goal and 3-0 lead.
Caught in their grasp
They have lost in Tampa and in New Orleans.
They have lost to Drew Brees and Jameis Winston. Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill.
They have lost high-scoring games (36-27) and low-scoring ones (9-0).
No matter the circumstance, the Saints have had the Bucs’ number over the past four regular seasons, winning seven of the eight meetings.
Things haven’t improved much since Tom Brady’s arrival, as Tampa Bay has dropped all four regular-season contests to New Orleans, though the Bucs did beat the Saints in a 2021 division-round playoff game.
So, what gives?
Penalties and turnovers have been factors, for sure. But the Bucs also have struggled to establish the run, and the Saints’ ability to consistently apply pressure while rushing only four linemen has given them an edge. Tight coverage on the back end has allowed New Orleans’ pass rushers to get to the quarterback. It’s a scheme that seems to give Brady and his teammates fits.
Will this be the year the Bucs’ finally end the Saints’ hold over them?
There were encouraging signs in last week’s season-opening victory over the Cowboys.
A rebuilt offensive line was physical at the line of scrimmage, paving the way for 152 rushing yards, including 127 by Leonard Fournette. The Bucs avoided penalties for the most part, and a more conservative gameplan limited risk, resulting in only one turnover in the 19-3 win.
On the other side of the ball, a suffocating defense limited a Dallas offense that led the NFL in scoring in 2021 to a single field goal. Tampa Bay kept the running game in check and got to the quarterback four times.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the Saints had to rally from a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Falcons 27-26 in their opener. Winston led a couple of touchdown drives before New Orleans won on Will Lutz’s 51-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining.
Are the Bucs better positioned to beat the Saints this season? Did Atlanta expose some vulnerabilities in New Orleans that Tampa Bay can exploit?
We’ll get some answers today.
They’ve been a long time coming.
Julio Jones, Donovan Smith won’t play
Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith and receiver Julio Jones, both of whom suffered injuries in last weekend’s season opener against the Cowboys, are inactive and won’t play today against the Saints.
Other inactive players: quarterback Kyle Trask, running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, tight end Kyle Rudolph, cornerback Zyon McCollum and receiver Chris Godwin. Perennial Pro Bowl tailback Alvin Kamara (ribs) is among the inactive players for the Saints.
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A little light reading
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