In what was essentially the Buccaneers’ final chance to right the ship of the season, they failed miserably by dropping their second division game in a row, this time in New Orleans at the hands of the Saints by a score of 30-10.
The Saints won the toss and elected to take the ball first, as you would expect from a Sean Payton-Drew Brees led team. The Saints offense drove the ball down the field, converting on two-of-three third downs and got themselves into field goal range. After a 41-yard field goal by Saints kicker Wil Lutz, the home team opened the score with a 3-0 lead.
The Bucs, who were looking to change the momentum of their early offensive woes, followed the Saints’ point-scoring drive with a three-and-out. But, the drama wasn’t done there as the Bucs’ punt was blocked – their first punt that was blocked of the season. The Saints picked it up for a touchdown. But, even after that, the craziness continued as Ryan Smith then blocked the Saints’ PAT to follow. After all that, the Saints led 9-0 early in the first quarter.
The Bucs and Saints would then go back and forth with a few punts until the Saints got the ball back to start the second quarter. After a 10-play 60-yard drive that looked like it had points written all over it, Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith and linebacker Lavonte David combined to force a fumble on Saints running back Alvin Kamara to switch possessions. The Bucs then went 40 yards in 10 plays of their own to finally get on the scoreboard via the foot of Patrick Murray on a 50-yard field goal.
But, all that did was wake the Saints offense up even more. On a 7-play, 93-yard drive that included a 33-yard pass to Coby Flener and a 33-yard touchdown pass to Kamara, the Saints scored and extended their lead to 16-3 as an answer.
That’s how things went into the half.
The Bucs received the ball to start the second half, but went just three-and-out. Quarterback Jameis Winston was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick to start the second half due to his shoulder injury limiting what his arm could do. The Bucs offense looked lackluster with Winston in the game in the first half, and there was no reason further risk more injury if he couldn’t get it done in the first half, so the switch was made.
After that first three-and-out, the Saints’ rout was on. The Saints marched down the field and scored a touchdown after the Bucs punted on that first drive. They forced a fumble and recovered on the Bucs next possession after that and the Saints again scored a touchdown on that next drive as well.
Following the score going to 30-3, the Bucs frustrations started to show, and that all boiled over in the form of a throw down between Bucs receiver Mike Evans and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Winston, who was on the sideline, tried to point and may have purposefully poked Lattimore near the sideline. Lattimore turned and got in Winston’s face, and that’s when Evans had seen enough, as he came in flying to hit Lattimore to the ground. Both team came to thew air of their guy, but it was calmed down after that. Neither player was ejected.
As you would expect with such an event after a blow out, both teams were pretty simple in what they did to follow, not wanting tensions to rise any higher in a game that was already over.
Unfortunately, there was still harm to be had in the game. After the scuffle, Bucs starting defensive end William Gholston went down with a neck injury and was carted off the field. Gholston was able to move his legs and arms, but was very still as they carted him off.
The Bucs weren’t totally willing to lay down, however, as Fitzpatrick and tight end Luke Stocker did connect on a short touchdown pass in the fourth quarter following a muffled punt by the Saints that was recovered by the Buccaneers.
But, in the end, it was meaningless and the score ended with a 30-10 final.
Jameis Winston finished the game (the half) 7-for-13 with 67 yards passing. In relief, Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the game 8-for-15 with 68 yards and a touchdown. The Bucs really struggled to get the run game going, and a big part of those struggles stemmed from the offensive line. Doug Martin started the game, but only amassed seven yards on eight carries. Peyton Barber ended up leading the team in carries and rushing yards with 34 yards on 11 carries. DeSean Jackson led the Buccaneers in receiving yards with just 25 on two catches. Mike Evans, Cameron Brate, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard all ended the game with just one catch.
On defense, Ryan Smith and Robert McClain started as the team’s outside corners while Vernon Hargreaves started in the slot. Lavonte David was the team’s best defensive player with seven tackles, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. Smith led the team in tackles with nine.