For the third time in a row, the New Orleans Saints defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on “Sunday Night Football” in a regular season game in which the Buccaneers were heavily favored. The 9-0 win marked four times in a row the Saints have beaten the Buccaneers in the regular season. Since Tom Brady joined, the Saints are 4-0 against Tampa Bay in the regular season. For whatever anyone wants to say about the time these teams met in the playoffs, it’s clear Dennis Allen knows something the rest of the NFL doesn’t about Brady.
The Saints entered this game without Sean Payton and before the game, everyone but Drew Brees on NBC’s crew picked the Buccaneers to win. The Saints responded with an utter beatdown of the Tampa Bay offense, holding the Buccaneers to 301 yards of total offense and forcing two turnovers, including a Brady fumble within field goal range in the third quarter. The Buccaneers never fully recovered from that particular misstep and the game felt solidified from that point onward.
The bizarre thing is, for as bad as the Buccaneers offense was, the Saints’ offense was almost inarguably WORSE. They had 212 yards of total offense, 11 first downs, and completed under 50 percent of their passes. This game was a slog in every way and that suits the Saints just fine, particularly as the offense didn’t turn the ball over.
The Buccaneers lost several key players on their offense, including Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. While players tried to pick up the slack, the Saints defense was relentless. Brady was sacked four times on third down, with Cameron Jordan picking up two to get to 100.5 in his career. Hill and the Saints kept forcing the defense to win the game and the defense continued to answer the call, shutting out a Brady-led team for the first time since 2006 to bring the Saints to 7-7, firmly back in the playoff race.
Below is a live quarter-by-quarter description of how the game unfolded:
The Saints start the game with the ball, as the Buccaneers give it to them on their own 25. Drew Brees was the only analyst to pick the Saints in the pregame.
Alvin Kamara picks up where he left off last week, picking up an early first down on second and short after Taysom Hill completes his first pass to Marquez Callaway.
Saints are forced to punt on the ensuing set of downs after falling behind the sticks. Blake Gillikin’s punt puts the Buccaneers at their own 21. Saints defense answers by doing what it does all season. After a Marshon Lattimore interception was waved off, they force a punt in return.
Saints take the lead on the ensuing possession, propelled by a 40-yard completion to Callaway from Hill. Hill caught the Buccaneers creeping up and put a perfectly placed ball on Callaway, getting the ball down to the Bucs’ 24. The drive stalled after a Mark Ingram loss and a Callaway drop, with Brett Maher hitting a 39-yard field goal to put the Saints ahead early.
NO: 3 - TB: 0
Saints force another punt against the Buccaneers despite a 22-yard completion from Tom Brady to Chris Godwin. Cameron Jordan logs his 99.5th career sack to force another Buccaneers punt. Easop Winston breaks a nice return down the sideline. Saints take over from their own 43.
Saints drive the ball down the Buccaneers 12, end the quarter 4th & 2 after a completion to Tre’Quan Smith. Hill has another connection with Callaway on 1st & 20 after a hold, this one for 33 yards. Saints will look to hold momentum in the second quarter.
In an anti-climactic start to the quarter, Saints try to draw the Buccaneers offside on 4th & 2. Maher comes in and hits 35-yard field goal attempt to put the Saints up 6-0. Dennis Allen unsurprisingly has a lot of faith in his defense.
NO: 6 - TB: 0
Saints force another punt on the next possession after a Rob Gronkowski drop, but of greater importance, Godwin stays down after being table-topped by P.J. Williams on third down. Thankfully he gets off under his own power, albeit with a very pronounced limp. Winston takes a fair catch at the 10 on the following punt.
Saints go 3-and-out on the next drive. Mark Ingram hasn’t been able to get anything going on the ground for New Orleans thus far, and the Buccaneers defense is as amped as the Saints. On the ensuing punt, the Buccaneers get to their own 48. It is Brady and the Buccaneer offense’s best starting field position thus far.
Saints defense bends but doesn’t break. Ryan Succop misses a 45-yard field goal attempt, keeping the score 6-0 for the Saints. Jordan logs his second sack of the game (which puts him at 100.5 for his career) with a strong move on Tristan Wirfs.
On the ensuing possession, Saints are forced to punt again. Hill misses Kamara on an option route to lead to fourth down. Gillikin puts the Buccaneers at their own 18 as they try to get on the board.
At the 2-minute warning, the Buccaneers are trying a philosophy change offensively and giving Leonard Fournette carries. So far, the Saints defense is up to the challenge. Out of the 2-minute warning, the Saints pick up yet another sack on third down, this time courtesy of Marcus Davenport. Buccaneers pin the Saints at the 1-yard line on the punt.
Saints take a 6-0 lead into the half after a 5-yard push from Hill takes the Saints out of the danger zone. It’s the first time this season the Buccaneers have been shut out in a half. They’ll get the ball back to start the second half.
The offensive gameplan for the Saints seems to be a bit incoherent, but that’s to be expected when Sean Payton isn’t coaching. Taysom Hill is playing a good, patient game and he’s had a couple of great passes to Callaway. The story, however, is the defense. Tom Brady hasn’t looked comfortable all game, and Cameron Jordan logged two sacks while Marcus Davenport picked up another. The offense needing to settle for field goals in the first half is a hard pill to swallow against an offense as potent as Tampa Bay’s, but the Saints needed to muddy this game up to stay in it. So far, they’ve been able to do so, and Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are out for the second half due to injuries.
The Buccaneers aren’t lamp shading their gameplan. They started the half with three touches to Fournette. Brady missed a deep pass to Jaelon Darden, who was blanketed by Lattimore. David Onyemata got pressure up the middle. The Saints defensive line is causing a ton of problems for Brady and the Buccaneers on third down.
The ping-pong match continues, as the Buccaneers force a Saints 3-and-out. Hill is struggling on 3rd & 5+ so far. Saints special teams does its part on Gillkin’s punt, putting Tampa Bay on its own 20. The Saints then force a 3-and-out of their own and will get the ball back at their own 28. Both offenses are more or less stagnant.
Saints hold the Buccaneers on fourth down on the next possession, with Malcolm Jenkins and Gronkowski hand-fighting the whole way down the field. The Saints offense keeps asking the defense to stop the Bucs, and the defense keeps answering the call.
Buccaneers get something cooking after another Saints punt. Ronald Jones breaks off a 30-yard run on the counter. But an attempt by Brady to run on third down leads to a fumble forced by Jordan. That’s now six points left on the board by the Buccaneers — a turnover inside the 30 and a missed field goal by Succop.
After a Saints 3-and-out, the Buccaneers do the same. This game has entered theater of the absurd territory.
Right on cue, the Saints manage to hold a drive. Starting with a bootleg from Hill to Callaway to put Callaway over 100 yards, Hill runs a read option and completes a great checkdown to Callaway. The drive stalls, and Maher is able to hit a 42-yard field goal to make it a two-possession game.
NO: 9 - TB: 0
On the next drive, the Saints pick up their fourth third-down sack. This time, Onyemata folds the pocket in on Brady to force yet another 3-and-out.
After another Saints 3-and-out, Blake Gillikin’s eight punt is his best of the night. He pins the Buccaneers inside the 5-yard line with about five minutes left.
The Buccaneers try to make some headway, but C.J. Gardner-Johnson abruptly ends the drive with an interception of Brady. Brady’s frustration is boiling over. Buccaneers’ frustration is boiling over as well, as Gillikin gets roughed after the following inevitable 3-and-out.
The Saints didn’t score, but the Buccaneers more or less conceded the game on the following drive, giving the Saints a 9-0 victory.
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