The Buccaneers have gone against two heavyweight teams this year in Pittsburgh and New Orleans and have suffered two defeats by knockouts. On Sunday, the Saints used the Bucs as a punching bag, winning 31-6 in a game that closely resembled Tampa Bay’s 38-13 loss to Pittsburgh three weeks ago.
“Bring your boxing gloves when you play division rivalries,” said Bucs wide receiver Micheal Spurlock, whose fourth quarter touchdown catch prevented Tampa Bay from being shut out. “The Saints came out today and threw more punches than we did and landed more punches. We’ll get to them at the end of the season. We have a lot of football left to play.”
For the third straight game, the Bucs defense did not record a sack, gave up a touchdown pass of at least 40 yards and was gashed by a running back for 143 yards or more. After surrendering 143 yards rushing to Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall and 144 yards rushing to Cincinnati’s Cedric Benson, the Bucs embarrassingly allowed unheralded running back Chris Ivory to rush for 158 yards on 15 carries (10.5 avg.).
The Bucs run defense, which came into the game ranked 30th against the run, allowed the Saints, who were the 31st-ranked rushing team, to rush for 212 yards on 32 carries (6.6 avg.). Tampa Bay’s defense allowed 475 yards and New Orleans didn’t even have to punt until 12 minutes were left in the fourth quarter.
“Tackling is just a part of our practicing and getting better at it,” said Bucs head coach and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. “Today we didn’t tackle well. Today we didn’t do a good job of playing run defense. Today they exposed us by running the football on us and we were exposed by not being able to run the football. That’s one of those things you deal and you get better as you go. They did a nice job with some schemes, they did a nice job with getting some fits and we did a bad job with tackling. We just have to go back to what we believe in, our fundamental core beliefs in tackling, hunting, our hitting and everything we need to do.”
Tampa Bay was equally as bad defending the pass. Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman spent some time working out with Saints signal caller Drew Brees over the summer hoping to pick up some tricks. But when the two quarterbacks squared off against each other on Sunday, the master schooled the student as Brees destroyed the Tampa Bay defense and Freeman was largely ineffective.
Brees was 21-of-32 for 263 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in carving up the Buccaneers secondary. Freeman was a pedestrian 25-of-43 yards for 219 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, but was out of sync with Mike Williams all day and failed to generate big plays on third down. When Brees got the Saints two quick touchdowns on scoring drives that covered 94 and 80 yards, Freeman and the Bucs were relegated to throwing the ball the rest of the game.
Rookie wide receiver Mike Williams was held in check by the Saints, catching four passes for 45 yards. The same could be said of tight end Kellen Winslow, who caught seven passes, but gained only 43 yards.
“You know New Orleans is going to come in and put up some points, but as an offense, you realize you have to match them," said Freeman. "It might be one of those games one day, and the next day the defense might come out and shut someone out. You never know how the game is going to go. It’s terrible, I feel awful losing, losing to a division opponent, especially losing to the Saints. We’ll prepare and get ready for the next one.”
Tampa Bay’s running game, which has struggled mightily all year, was a non-factor again on Sunday. The Bucs totaled just 42 yards on 18 carries (2.3 avg.), led by Cadillac Williams’ paltry 18 yards on 10 carries (1.8 avg.).
“I don’t even know,” said Williams, who did catch seven passes for 63 yards. “It’s been five games and the run game is invisible right now. I don’t know. I’m lost.”
It didn’t help the fact that starting fullback Earnest Graham injured his hamstring in the first quarter and did not return. Adding insult to injury, backup running back Kareem Huggins had seven yards on three carries (2.3 avg.), but hurt his knee while catching a 7-yard pass and looks like he will be out for some time.
You know it’s a bad day for Tampa Bay when kicker Connor Barth, who was perfect on the season and had made 13 of his last 14 field goals (92.8 percent) dating back to last year, had both of his field goal attempts hit the right upright.
New Orleans got on the scoreboard first with Brees driving the Saints 94 yards for a touchdown. Brees was 4-of-4 for 65 yards and hit wide receiver Lance Moore with a 41-yard touchdown pass over cornerback Aqib Talib down the right sidelines. Ivory got the Saints out of the shadow of their own goalposts with an 18-yard run to start the drive. He also ripped off a 7-yard run later in the drive. With 7:13 left in the first quarter, New Orleans jumped out to 7-0 lead.
Brees’ magic continued on New Orleans’ next drive. The Saints drove 80 yards in nine plays with Brees going 4-of-5 for 66 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown pass to Robert Meachem, who beat Talib and free safety Cody Grimm in Cover 2 down the right sidelines. With 14:09 left in the second quarter, Tampa Bay trailed 14-0.
The Saints kept pouring it on in the first half with Ivory doing most of the damage on the ground. He ripped off a 33-yard run and backed that up with three straight runs of 4, 8 and 16 yards. He totaled 62 yards on four carries and went into halftime with 81 yards on eight carries. The drive stalled at the Tampa Bay 10-yard line when Brees’ pass to Jimmy Graham was incomplete. Garrett Hartley’s 27-yard field goal was good, and with 4:33 left in the second quarter, New Orleans’ lead increased to 17-0.
Freeman and Mike Williams teamed up twice for 21 yards to get the Bucs into field goal range, but Barth’s 40-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright with less than two minutes before halftime. The Saints tried to add more points to their lead but Grimm picked off Brees to end a promising New Orleans drive at the end of the second quarter.
New Orleans drove down to the Tampa Bay 15-yard line, but Hartley’s 33-yard field goal attempt was no good. With 8:51 left in the third quarter, the Bucs still trailed 17-0.
A Cadillac Williams fumble at the Tampa Bay 46 keyed another New Orleans touchdown drive that ended with Brees hitting fullback Heath Evans for a 4-yard scoring reception while middle linebacker Barrett Ruud trailed in coverage. With 1:23 left in the third quarter, the Saints had built a 24-0 lead.
The Bucs finally put some points on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter when Freeman hit Micheal Spurlock with a 2-yard touchdown pass to cap off a 14-play, 88-yard scoring drive. Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins helped the Bucs out with a double personal foul on a late hit on Freeman out of bounds on third down. That gave Tampa Bay a 30-yard gain in addition to Freeman’s 3-yard scamper. The Bucs attempted a 2-point conversion, but Freeman’s pass to Mike Williams was batted away. With 5:35 left in the game, New Orleans’ lead had been trimmed to 24-6.
New Orleans added another score late in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Ladell Betts to push the score to 31-6 with 1:54.
The Bucs will try to rebound at home next week against the upstart St. Louis Rams, which have been off to a surprising, 3-3 start to the 2010 season.STATS THAT COUNT
Rookie punter Robert Malone’s first punt as a Buccaneer was 54-yarder down to the New Orleans 6. Malone finished the game with a 45.7-yard average and a 40-yard net. Malone had two punts inside the 20 and one touchback. … Rookie free safety Cody Grimm picked off his second pass in as many games. … Backup quarterback Josh Johnson replaced Josh Freeman late in the game and has seen action in each of the last three games. Johnson was 2-of-4 for 17 yards with one run for 11 yards. … Tampa Bay’s offensive line did not give up a sack during Freeman’s 45 pass attempts. It was only when Johnson came into the game that the line surrendered a sack. … Rookie cornerback Myron Lewis, Tampa Bay’s third-round pick in the 2010 draft, saw his first NFL action on Sunday. … Ronde Barber made NFL history on Sunday by surpassing Dick LeBeau for starting the most consecutive games at cornerback. Barber has now started 172 straight games. … The Bucs were 6-of-15 (40 percent) on third down. This marks the fifth straight game the team has converted at least 40 percent of their third down attempts. Tampa Bay was also 2-of-3 (67 percent) on fourth down against New Orleans. … Safety Sean Jones and cornerback Ronde Barber led the team in tackles with eight.SUNDAY’S STARTING LINEUPS
The announced Tampa Bay starting lineup for Sunday’s game was as follows:BUCS STARTING OFFENSE
WR Mike Williams
LT Donald Penn
LG Keydrick Vincent
C Jeremy Zuttah
RG Davin Joseph
RT Jeremy Trueblood
TE Kellen Winslow
TE John Gilmore
WR Sammie Stroughter
RB Cadillac Williams
QB Josh FreemanBUCS STARTING DEFENSE
LE Tim Crowder
DT Gerald McCoy
DT Roy Miller
RE Stylez G. White
WLB Geno Hayes
MLB Barrett Ruud
SLB Quincy Black
LCB Aqib Talib
RCB Ronde Barber
FS Cody Grimm
SS Sean JonesBUCS’ GAMEDAY INACTIVES
Here is a list of Tampa Bay players that did play in Sunday’s game:
QB Rudy Carpenter
C Jeff Faine
DE Kyle Moore
RB LeGarrette Blount
RB Kregg Lumpkin
FB Chris Pressley
WR Maurice Stovall
CB Elbert MackBUCS IN-GAME INJURIES
Bucs fullback Earnest Graham suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter and did not return. He was replaced in the lineup by rookie Erik Lorig. After the game, Graham said he should be healed up by next Sunday.
Backup running back Kareem Huggins suffered a right knee injury in the third quarter and did not return. His injury is believed to be a serious one that will cause him to miss several weeks or even the rest of the season.KICKOFF CONDITIONS
The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Saints game at Raymond James Stadium was 51,759. The kickoff temperature was 81 degrees under sunny skies with 48 percent humidity. UP NEXT
The Buccaneers (3-2) will stay at home to Raymond James Stadium to face the St. Louis Rams (3-3) on Sunday, October 24. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET and will not be televised locally due to the game being blacked out.
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