On a day when it was reported that the Glazers have discussed with Super Bowl-winning head coach Bill Cowher his interest level in coming to Tampa Bay in 2010, the Buccaneers current head coach, Raheem Morris, made the biggest statement in wanting to keep the job. That came in the form of a stunning, 20-17 overtime victory at New Orleans after trailing 17-0 just before halftime.
Yes, beating the Saints, the NFC’s top team that came in with a 13-1 record, will make a statement to the Glazers. A closer look finds that the Buccaneers are now winners of two straight games with back-to-back victories coming on the road no less.
After the victory, Morris responded to a report from NFL.com suggesting that Cowher would return to coaching and could replace him in Tampa Bay.
“I have a great relationship with my owners,” Morris said in his post-game press conference. “The thing I know about those guys is they didn’t hire me last year in a meeting. The thing I know about these guys is I’ve had a seven-year relationship with them. They interviewed me for seven years, and I’ve been around these guys. So, I’m pretty sure if I was getting popped, fired or whatever you want to call it, my owners would come tell me like men because that’s who they are and that’s what they want to be. I’m sure Bill Cowher [wants this job]. Everybody wants this job – it’s the best in football. I want it, too.”
Tampa Bay has improved to 3-12 on the season, and while the chances of Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is the top 2010 NFL Draft prospect, coming to the Buccaneers seem less likely, the prospects of Morris remaining as Tampa Bay’s head coach seem more likely after Sunday’s surprise win. Morris said his young, inexperienced football team has suddenly become quite fond of winning.
“They are starting to get there and they like winning,” Morris said. “They found that out last week. They found that out against Green Bay, but they weren’t really sure yet. This team has some talent. It has some ability. I’m just proud of them. They went out and they fought. I’m completely exhausted right now. That was a great Saints team.”
The Bucs actually got into a shootout with the prolific Saints offense and prevailed. For the third time this season, the Bucs eclipsed 400 yards of total offense. Tampa Bay out-gained New Orleans 439-373 yards in the game en route to ripping off 20 straight points to stun the Saints.
Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson remained committed to the run throughout the game and rushed for a season-high 176 yards, led by Cadillac Williams, who had 129 yards, including a key, 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, on 24 carries.
“It feels good to come out and be able to run the ball like we did,” said Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who was 21-of-31 for 271 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. “I didn’t play extremely well, but my teammates picked me up and we got it done in the end.
“We never panicked. Everybody knew we were in this game. We’ve been fighting back all year. It’s good to have a win.”
Tampa Bay also received a huge, 77-yard punt return for a touchdown from Micheal Spurlock with 2:25 left in regulation to tie the game at 17-17.
“We go get Micheal Spurlock and he provides us the play that put us in this thing and gave us hope – the punt return that gave us life,” Morris said.
The Saints’ best drive of the second half came on their final possession of the fourth quarter. But after driving down to the Tampa Bay 19, Garrett Hartley’s 37-yard field goal was wide left with nine seconds left.
That gave the Bucs new life. In overtime, the Bucs won the coin toss and marched 48 yards in 11 plays before Connor Barth nailed a 47-yard game-winner with 8:06 left in the game.
That wouldn’t have happened if not for a stout effort by the Morris-led defense, which shutout the Saints in the second half and held Drew Brees and Co. to just 170 yards while the Bucs gained 250 yards and scored 17 points after halftime.
“The Saints – let’s not kid ourselves – this is the best offensive football team arguably in the National Football League,” Morris said. “We didn’t handle it well early. We were getting diced in the first half and we had to go back to the drawing board. I had to talk to my guys and settle them down. They believe in me and I believe in them. We went out there and made some adjustments and did some different things. We mixed it up a little bit. We were able to get some pressure on them a little bit. It was really helpful for us in the game.”
Tampa Bay has a chance to get some real momentum heading into the offseason if it can beat Atlanta next Sunday at home in the 2009 regular season finale. A win next week probably quells the Cowher rumors, too.
The Saints running backs took it to the Buccaneers on the first drive of the game, although wide receiver Robert Meachem got things started with a 7-yard end around. Mike Bell rushed for 14 yards on two carries. Reggie Bush had two catches for 16 yards and Thomas rushed for 23 yards on three carries, including an 8-yard touchdown run. With 6:47 left in the first quarter, New Orleans led 7-0.
New Orleans tacked on another touchdown in the first quarter to grab a 14-0 lead with 1:32 left in the quarter following an interception by Darren Sharper, who returned the pick 21 yards to the New Orleans 49. After the Saints picked up a first down, Meachem hauled in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Brees.
The Saints added another score on their next drive, which covered 93 yards in 10 plays. A 26-yard run by Pierre Thomas, who finished with 60 yards on 10 six carries, and a personal foul facemask on cornerback Ronde Barber tacked on 15 more yards to set up the Saints at the Tampa Bay 20-yard line. When Marques Colston was tackled a yard shy of the first down marker on the 10-yard line, Hartley was brought on to attempt a 28-yard field goal, which he made. With 6:39 left in the second quarter, New Orleans increased its lead to 17-0.
The Bucs were able to get on the scoreboard right before halftime on an eight-play, 52-yard scoring drive. Freeman came out hot on this drive, completing 6-of-7 passes for 52 yards. Williams was the recipient of three of those passes for a total of 19 yards. Kellen Winslow had a 12-yard catch, Antonio Bryant had an 11-yard catch and Michael Clayton, who returned after missing four weeks with a knee sprain, had a 10-yard gain. Since the drive started with 1:45 left in the first half, time was an issue. Tampa Bay ran out of time as it got down to the New Orleans 16 and on third-and-3, the Bucs had to settle for a 34-yard field goal from Barth.
The Bucs had a promising drive midway through the third quarter come to an end with an interception by Tracy Porter in the end zone on a pass intended for Bryant. On Tampa Bay’s next possession, the Bucs embarked on what was perhaps their most impressive drive of the season. Starting at the Bucs’ own 2-yard line, Freeman hit Graham with a 10-yard pass on second-and-11. On third-and-1 from the 11, Freeman’s slant pass to Brian Clark was on the money and covered 15 yards. On third-and-7 from the Tampa Bay 29, Winslow caught a Freeman pass in stride and rambled for 35 yards down to the New Orleans 36. After a 5-yard penalty on Jeremy Trueblood, Freeman zipped an 18-yard pass to Maurice Stovall down to the New Orleans 23. On the next play, Williams scampered 23 yards off left guard for a touchdown. With 13:14 left, the Bucs trailed the Saints 17-10.
New Orleans was driving into Tampa Bay territory on its next possession, but on second-and-12 from its own 45, Geno Hayes stripped Colston of the football at the Buccaneers’ 39. Barber had the recovery for Tampa Bay. Graham got the drive started with an 8-yard gain on first down, followed by a 5-yard run by Williams. On second-and-7 from the New Orleans 45, Winslow picked up 17 yards on a pass from Freeman. The rookie quarterback then hit tight end Jerramy Stevens for a 9-yard gain down to the 19. But after three shots to pick up one yard failed, the Bucs turned the ball over on fourth down after Freeman’s pass for Graham was deflected.
Tampa Bay tied the game at 17-17 on a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown by Spurlock, and just when it appeared that Brees would lead the Saints to the game-winning field goal, Hartley’s 37-yard field goal attempt was wide left with nine seconds left and the game went into overtime.
After the Bucs won the coin toss in overtime, they drove the ball down for the game-winning field goal thanks in part to Freeman scrambling for eight yards on third-and-5 from the Tampa Bay 47.WINSLOW SETS ANOTHER RECORD
A week after Kellen Winslow set a franchise record for the most catches by a tight end in a single season, he set another one on Sunday in New Orleans. Winslow passed tight end Jimmie Giles for the most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season. Giles had 786 yards in 1981. Winslow needed just 35 yards over the next two games to surpass Giles and did so with 76 yards receiving on Sunday. Winslow has 72 catches for 828 yards receiving on the season.HAYES BENCHED TO START GAME DUE TO TARDINESS
Buccaneers linebacker Geno Hayes was replaced by Matt McCoy in the starting lineup on the first series, but later came into the game and wound up as the Bucs' leading tackler with 10 stops in addition to a sack in the third quarter and a key forced fumble in the fourth quarter.
"He missed the bus," Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said. "We went back and got him. The time zone got him."
This marks the second time this season that Hayes did not get a start because he was late. Hayes was also late to the stadium for the Bucs' game against Dallas in Week 1 and was replaced by McCoy in the lineup.PEWTERREPORT.COM PLAYER OF THE GAME
The spark that ignited Tampa Bay in its 20-17 overtime win at New Orleans was Micheal Spurlock’s 77-yard punt return for a touchdown, which was the fifth-longest in team history. That play came with 2:25 left in the fourth quarter. Spurlock received great blocks from linebackers Quincy Black and Adam Hayward before eluding safeties Herana-Daze Jones and Chris Reis for the score. That touchdown tied the game at 17-17 and allowed the Bucs to have a chance at winning the game in overtime. For his efforts, Spurlock is the PewterReport.com Player of the Game.
Spurlock, who played four games with the San Francisco 49ers and a season with the Florida Tuskers this year in the UFL, became only the second player in team history to return a kick and a punt for a touchdown as a Buccaneer. On December 17, 2006 versus Atlanta, Spurlock made Buccaneers history by becoming the first player in team history to return a kickoff for a touchdown on a 90-yard score against the Falcons. Only Clifton Smith, who returned a punt and a kick for a touchdown last year has accomplished that feat.IT WAS OVER WHEN…
After Garrett Hartley’s 37-yard missed field goal with nine seconds left, Sunday’s game was there for either team to win in overtime. Team captain Ronde Barber called “tails” on the coin flip and got the ball back for his offense to start overtime. Tampa Bay marched 48 yards on 11 plays with running back Cadillac Williams accounting for 40 yards on nine carries. On fourth-and-4 from the New Orleans’ 29, Connor Barth’s 47-yard field goal was good and the Bucs stunned the Saints.STATS THAT COUNT
Weakside linebacker Geno Hayes, who didn’t start on Sunday due to be late for the team bus, recorded his second sack of his career and also forced a fumble in the fourth quarter in addition to recording a team-high 10 tackles. … Running back Cadillac Williams had his first 100-yard game since November 19, 2006 when he eclipsed the century mark against Washington. The Bucs are now 11-0 when Williams has 22 carries or more. … Sunday’s win by Tampa Bay marked the second time in NFL history that a 12-loss team defeated a 13-win team. In 2006, the Seattle Seahawks (13-1) lost to the Green Bay Packers (2-12). … The Bucs’ 98-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter tied the franchise record, which was set on December 30, 2007 against Carolina.SUNDAY’S STARTING LINEUPS
The announced Tampa Bay starting lineup for Sunday’s game was as follows:BUCS STARTING OFFENSE
WR Maurice Stovall
LT Donald Penn
LG Jeremy Zuttah
C Jeff Faine
RG Davin Joseph
RT Jeremy Trueblood
TE Jerramy Stevens
WR Antonio Bryant
FB Earnest Graham
RB Cadillac Williams
QB Josh FreemanBUCS STARTING DEFENSE
RE Stylez G. White
DT Ryan Sims
DT Chris Hovan
LE Jimmy Wilkerson
WLB Matt McCoy
MLB Barrett Ruud
SLB Quincy Black
LCB Aqib Talib
RCB Ronde Barber
FS Tanard Jackson
SS Sabby PiscitelliMISSING IN ACTION
Here is a list of Tampa Bay players that were declared inactive for Sunday’s game:
QB Rudy Carpenter (emergency QB)
RB Kareem Huggins
WR Mario Urrutia
WR Terrence Nunn
WR Mark Bradley
OT James Lee
G Shawn Murphy
DE Michael BennettBUCS IN-GAME INJURIES
Defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson injured his left knee in the first quarter during New Orleans’ first drive. He did not return and was replaced by rookie Kyle Moore for the rest of the game. Fullback Earnest Graham injured his right ankle in overtime and was replaced by rookie fullback Chris Pressley.KICKOFF CONDITIONS
The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Saints game at The Superdome was 70,021. The kickoff temperature was 53 degrees in the domed stadium.UP NEXT
The Buccaneers (3-12) travel back home to play the Atlanta Falcons (8-7) at Raymond James Stadium on January 3. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. and will be televised on Fox.
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