It doesn’t matter what the records are or where we might be in the football calendar. Anytime you play against the Saints in the Superdome, you know it’s going to be a tough task. That’s what the Bucs had on their plate as they traveled to New Orleans with an early lead on the NFC South on the line.
The Bucs received the opening kickoff, and let’s just say that things could have gotten off to a better start. After a nice first play run by running back Peyton Barber, the Bucs offense couldn’t get much going. It nearly went to disaster when Winston threw an interception to safety Marcus Williams, but a delay of game on the Buccaneers actually saved them and the team was able to just punt it away.
The Saints, led by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, couldn’t get much going on their first drive either, and after just six plays and 33 yards they, too, were forced to punt it away.
Following a Bucs three-and-out, the Saints took over and orchestrated the first long drive of the day. After nine plays and 53 yards, they were able to get into field goal range and break the scoreless tie with a short 29-yard field goal off the foot of kicker Will Lutz.
The Bucs offensive struggled continued n their next drive, as it was another three-and-out straight back to the Saints. However, instead of yielding even more momentum to the home team, Bridgewater threw an interception to Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting. This was the rookie’s first interception of his career, and the offense did their part to make the most of it with a 2-play, 20-yard drive that ended in six points. The gave Tampa the lead at 7-3.
The Saints, as is often the case, did not go quietly after being down on the scoreboard. In response to Tampa’s score, Bridgewater drove New Orleans down the field 75 yards in nine plays to get a score of their own. Bridgewater connected with wide receiver Michael Thomas, and this gave them the lead 10-7.
Winston and the Bucs offense began to settle in when they took the ball down three points. A few good runs by Ronald Jones and a nifty end around run by wide receiver Scotty Miller put the Bucs in scoring range. Unfortunately the score was only for three, but that did tie the game up 10-10.
Instead of finding a lull in the game, these teams continued to go back-and-forth on the scoreboard, and the Saints answers the Bucs score with a great one of their own. After Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis was ejected from the game due to a helmet-to-helmet hit, it became very tough to handle all the Saints receiving weapons. At the end of an 8-play 75-yard drive, Bridgewater found tight end Jared Cook in the end zone for six points, and one extra point later, a 17-10 lead.
That’s how the game would go to the half.
New Orleans received the ball for the second half and didn’t take long to do damage with it. In just three pays, the Saints drove the ball 75 yards down the field for another touchdown, this time to wide receiver Ted Ginn — the third different receiving player to score on the day. And just like that the Bucs were down 24-10.
When the Bucs took the field following going down two scores, they showed the Saints that there are two ways to get the ball down the field. Though their way wasn’t as quick as the Saints’ 3-play scoring drive, Tampa Bay’s next drive of 17 plays also went the distance of 75 yards and also ended in six points, as running back Peyton Barber scampered into the end zone on a short carry near the goal line. The score then became just a 24-17 lead for the Saints.
After back-to-back punts, one by each team, the Saints really started to control the clock and move the ball. On a 13-play drive that went 67 yards and took up nearly 6:30 of game clock, Bridgewater hooked up with Thomas in the end zone yet again to bring the score to 31-17. This was Bridgewater’s fourth touchdown pass of the game.
The Bucs couldn’t get anything going on their next drive, and after a three-and-out that included a sack on Winston, they were forced to punt it back with under 10 minutes to go in the game. The Saints went on a three-and-out of their own on their next possession, but when the Buccaneers got the ball back, New Orleans pass rush got to Winston three times in one drive and Tampa Bay had to punt it away.
The Saints then took over up two scores with five minutes remaining. As they had all game, they protected the ball and controlled the clock. Though they sustained a long drive, they did eventually give the ball back to the Bucs with just over a minute left. The Bucs would drive all the way down the field and Winston would hook up with Godwin for one more touchdown, brining the score to 31-24.
But unfortunately that’s as close as Tampa would get, and the game would end in a 31-24 Saints victory.