The last time the Bucs won five straight, the rest of the season went pretty well.

That year was 2002 and that team won Tampa Bay’s first and only Super Bowl title. This team has work to do to get to that level, but they’re on the right path.

The Bucs never trailed Sunday and picked up its fifth win in a row by keeping the New Orleans Saints at arm’s length until the clock hit triple zeros. And for the second week in a row, it was backup-turned-starter Keith Tandy sealing the victory with a late-game interception.

Clinging to a 16-11 lead with less than a minute remaining, Tandy stepped in front of a Drew Brees pass at midfield and set up a raucous celebration on the field and in the stands. Starting in place of injured strong safety Chris Conte, Tandy nabbed San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers with about three minutes to go.

Sunday’s win improved Tampa Bay to 3-4 at home and allowed the Bucs to keep pace with the Atlanta Falcons atop the NFC South standings at 8-5. The Falcons smashed the Los Angeles Rams, 42-14.

Appearing to have all the makings of a high-scoring shootout between quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Brees, Sunday ended up being a battle of field position played between the 20s.

Neither team managed to crack 300 yards of total offense, with New Orleans edging Tampa Bay, 294-270. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the Bucs held the Saints to just three Will Lutz field goals and a safety. It was the first time in 22 career games against Tampa Bay that Brees didn’t get at least one touchdown.

What the Bucs defense also did to Brees was make life miserable for a second straight week. The future Hall of Famer matched a couple numbers from last week’s loss against Detroit that he wishes he didn’t – zero touchdowns and three interceptions.

Prior to Tandy’s game-sealer, the Bucs recorded a pair of tip-drill interceptions. The first came early in the second quarter when linebacker Kwon Alexander got his hand on a pass and rookie Vernon Hargreaves III secured his first career pick as a pro. The defense struck again early in the third quarter and it was Tandy that tipped a ball for cornerback Brent Grimes to grab his third interception.

As good as Tampa Bay’s defense looked at the end of the game in relation to the Saints’ lack of offensive productivity, it was even better early on. New Orleans managed just 11 net yards in the first quarter and it didn’t get its initial first down until a facemask penalty against Bucs linebacker Lavonte David early in the second quarter. Three snaps after that infraction, Hargreaves was intercepting Brees and helping set up kicker Roberto Aguayo’s second of three field goals.

That second converted kick put Tampa Bay up 13-0 with 8:26 left in the second quarter. The Bucs were well on their way to an easy win – until they weren’t.

A big reason for that was Tampa Bay’s struggles to maximize scoring opportunities by stalling out deep in New Orleans’ end of the field. The Bucs’ opened Sunday’s scoring on their second drive with a 41-yard Aguayo field goal, but they had a first down at the 23. The field goal drive following Hargreaves’ pick stalled out at the 21 after a failed third-and-1 attempt.

Tampa Bay’s lone touchdown of the day came when running back Doug Martin dived across the goal line from a yard out early in the second quarter to pull ahead 10-0.

The reliance on field goals instead of touchdowns started to look more and more troubling as the game progressed. Beginning with a 42-yard Lutz field goal in the second quarter, New Orleans scored the next 11 points and got within two points at 13-11 late in the third.

A critical moment in that swing of momentum came Lutz’s initial field goal. New return man Josh Huff let a short kickoff bouncing toward the left corner of the end zone hit him in the facemask and go out of bounds at the half yard line. The Bucs tried to run up the middle with Martin and the Saints stuffed him for a safety. That came with 5:20 left in the half and New Orleans drained the clock on its ensuing field goal drive.

While Huff did the Bucs offense no favors with his blunder, it was Tampa Bay punter Bryan Anger’s success pinning the Brees and the Saints back deep that played an even bigger role in the 16-11 win. Two of Angers’ four punts didn’t just land inside the 20, they were inside the 5 in the fourth quarter.

The Bucs needed all the defense and special teams help they could get on a day where little went right offensively. Of the team’s 270 total net yards, only 104 came after halftime.

Winston completed 16 of 26 passes for 184 yards and failed to throw a touchdown for the second time this season. What the second-year pro also didn’t do, however, was throw an interception. The Bucs didn’t commit a single turnover and won that battle inside the battle, 3-0.

Although the Saints entered Sunday with the league’s 26th ranked defense, the unit’s held its 12 previous opponents to an average of 97.9 yards rushing. True to form, the Bucs didn’t find much room to run. New Orleans bottled up Martin for 66 yards and the touchdown on 23 carries (2.9-yard average) and Tampa Bay finished with 104 on 35 attempts.

Tight end Cameron Brate finished as the team’s leading receiver with four catches for 47 yards, followed up by receiver Mike Evans’ four-catch, 42-yard day.

These two teams will tangle again on Christmas Eve in New Orleans after the Bucs travel to take on the Dallas Cowboys next weekend. Tampa Bay’s season wraps up with a home date against the Carolina Panthers.

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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Morgan
Morgan
5 years ago

Finally. Bucs’ fans deserve some success after a lot of suffering. Hope the Bucs can keep it up.

BucWill13
BucWill13
5 years ago

Has any team ever started 0-4 at Home and then made the playoffs?

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

People rag on Tandy but he’s a ball hawk and gets turnovers. I said that before he started last week.

I knew Bucs wouldn’t score many points today but figured we would win close one.

Any win is a good win.

O line stunk. Donavan smith had 3 penalties. He was horrible.

Just so glad we pulled it out.

Go Bucs!

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  fredster
5 years ago

No, Donovan Smith didn’t stink. One of the three penalties was a totally bullshit call by the ref. Smith was getting his facemask vigorously yanked on by the Saints defender, he natural reacted by pushing back, and he got called unbelievably for “unnecessary roughness”. He was just defending himself. It’s wrong to single out Smith. The entire offense was off, likely because the Saints defense had one of their best games this season. The passing, the running were both off. Jameis was sacked only twice though – which is about the league average. The playcalling was pretty conservative, in my… Read more »

Iowabucfan
Iowabucfan
5 years ago

Amazing team win. Go Bucs!

David DeLeon
David DeLeon
5 years ago

I was nervous all game, the stream was trash most of the game but the defense stepped it up. We used to be the ones who list all these game we have been winning.

The way we are playing we have a chance against any team on Sunday and even Saturday soon!

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

Now it’s on to America’s Team and our chance to shock the NFL! So happy about the 5 straight wins. Looks like oue Offense misses Humpries, Stocker, Dotson afterall. Huge risk today to only have 7 OL Active today; Benenoch and Evans were the non starters. Go Bucs and find a way to win the next one. Now I will have to keep wearing the same Buc shirt I have for the last five games; that’s 5 gamedays, all day! Whew! I’m going to have to hang it our in the garage now!

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

You must stink by now.
“Smells like victory”

chetthevette
chetthevette
5 years ago

Brian Anger
Josh Robinson
Ryan Smith
Alan Cross
These four guys should have statues made of them for the greatest punt in the history of football.
Ryan Smith looked like Mikal Barishnakov.
Absolutely gorgeous play, BRAVO.
ROBERTO Ole’.
GOOD GUYS WIN

Randy H.
Randy H.
Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

Still not sure exactly how they did that. They didn’t show the replay in the stadium.

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
5 years ago

Man, what an ugly win. But, it’s a WIN! The team expects to win every week. The defense won the game. They were sensational. Especially the secondary. They were ball hawks and flying around. How about Berto? Kid rebounded nicely this week. We lose without him. Jameis was just a bit off today and it exposed how fragile we are on offense if he’s not basically perfect. The OL has really regressed the last two weeks. Can’t run block. Can’t hold up on pass pro, so our WR can run their routes. Penalties. QB hits. They gotta get it together… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  RootsCrew
5 years ago

“Ugly” is in the eye of the beholder. I think not in this case. Nothing ugly about the defense playing absolutely fantastic football. Both defenses played very well so both offenses were not dominant. Our offense, despite not being productive after the first quarter, didn’t play ugly. No turnovers, first of all, defines “beauty” for an offense. We also didn’t commit many penalties – only 7 for the game for 65 yards, and one of those for 15 yards was the bullshit penalty against Donovan Smith reacting to the gross yanking on his face mask by the defensive player, but… Read more »

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

I mostly agree with your takes about the Bucs, but like you said, it’s in the eye of the beholder. I’d rather our offense have 350+ yards of offense, 3 TD’s even if that meant a turnover. (In a win obviously) The offense was stuck in the mud yesterday. It simply can’t continue over the last 3 games. I put the blame equally on Dirk, Jameis, WR, & OL for yesterday’s performance. You’re right, the defense play beautifully. They have been lights out over the last 5 games. and 3 of those games were against explosive offenses. I’m very excited… Read more »

Randy H.
Randy H.
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

I am wondering if Anger knew that a free kick is treated as a KO and not a punt? I know a punter, especially under no pressure, wouldn’t deliberately punt the ball out of bounds.

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  Randy H.
5 years ago

I did not know it, I’ve been a fan for 50 years.
Here is a good one
The Jags got called with a delay of game on a kick off!!!! WTF
Did not know you could even do that.

macabee
macabee
5 years ago

Like candy, Tandy is dandy! Me and Willie Wonka agree – The Tandy man can ! lol.

Go Bucs!

kram0789
kram0789
5 years ago

Congratulation Bucs. It was a great win. I thought our offensive line got exposed. The Saints pressured Winston way too often and the running game was stuffed too many times. If we are going to move up to one of the elite teams we need 3 better offensive linemen than we have today. Move Smith to right tackle or guard, keep Ali Marpet, sign or draft a left tackle, center and whichever position Smith does not play.

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

Not true fredster, I along with many others called fir thr Bucs to resign Tandy this year. Also, Smith was called for motion twice, but he wasn’t the revolving door that Phampille was, THE O line really misses Logan Mankins.
AA

scubog
scubog
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

Good observation Dr. D. Problem was in the middle not the edge. Perceptions are not reality.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
5 years ago

A win is a win as they say and that’s what’s important. Starting with the good, we moved the ball just enough o eat up a good chunk of clock in the first half. The defense was once again playing out of it’s mind. This is quite an incredible run and I don’t think I’ve quite seen any kind of turnaround like we are seeing right now. They are averaging 2.8 turnovers forced a game the last 8 weeks and giving up 12. 5 points a game. That’s absurd! Kieth Tandy has been making plays for years and I’ve never… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  cgmaster27
5 years ago

And one more thing I forgot to mention. I would LOVE to see Coach call a few more play action passes on first down. My goodness we probably run it up the gut on first down 90% of the time. By the time it gets to third down, it’s third and long. And he tends to get a little conservative when he gets up. Sometimes you need to go for the throat. I think he realizes that himself as he stated something the likes on the post game interview.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  cgmaster27
5 years ago

I completely disagree with you on the O-line and on Cherilus playing badly. I don’t know what game you watched – if you watched in the stadium maybe you didn’t see the quality of replays Fox had on TV, but the Bucs O-line played reasonably well. The entire offense was not very effective after the first quarter – from quarterback to running backs to receivers – but that was because the Saints defense was also playing lights out, nearly as well as the Bucs except for the take-aways, which was the principle difference for the Bucs D last night. The… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

Watched the same game as you as cherilus was thrown in his back side about 4 times that I can yink if off the top of my head. The only reason they only had two sack is jameis’ ability to scramble. The offensive line played horrible today, not sure what game you were watching, but when your rb gets hit in the backfield every single run, that’s not good offensive line play. Not to mention jameis having to run around like a maniac making plays.

pinkstob
pinkstob
5 years ago

This was a good win. Not as dominant as the previous ones, but a good win nonetheless. Our defense has become outstanding, but I still would like to see the Bucs score more points. However, they are still improving in other areas, including reducing penalties and creating turnovers and the best possible time. Looking forward to playing those Cowboys!

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

Teams are still focusing on stopping the run and seemingly giving Jameis the opportunity to throw with only one safety deep. For some reason Dirk is playing it a bit close to the vest. I presume because the Defense and Special Teams are playing so well. Dungyball has returned. The Saints were only in the game because of Huff thinking he had to field the kick-off and let it hit him in the face. Very poor decision for a player I suspect was hoping to make an impression on his new team. The result was 5 points for the Saints… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Yup – Dirk was clearly calling a conservative game yesterday. I think perhaps his thinking might be along the lines of, “My defense is playing lights out .,.. the only way we’re going to get beat is for the offense to beat ourselves by giving it away.”

If that was Dirk’s thinking, it certainly worked out that way last night.

It’ll be interesting to see whether he lets Jameis and the offense air it out next week in Dallas. Maybe he’s saving his best, most aggressive offense for the best team in the NFL late in the season.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
5 years ago

A couple of commenters have mentioned him in this thread, along with others … but we need to applaud Roberto Aguayo. After all, he scored 10 of our 16 points last night.

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
5 years ago

Great job by the special teams unit and the defense yesterday, even Roberto. That said the offense was awful and the play calling did not help them out. It’s time we added a few rub routes and different types of screens to get the ball moving when we are struggling. Sims brought a dimension this offense has been missing but they need to expand his route tree and not take that explosiveness off the field. Very happy we got the win but would like us to put the game away when we have a chance instead of letting teams hang… Read more »

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
5 years ago

And Elliott made some really good plays yesterday, especially on one screen play that I remember could have gone for more yards have he not knifed in there and made a big tackle.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  stlbucsfan
5 years ago

He has been a hard worker since his days as a noles walk on. Jude can stay on the bench after his suspension as far as I’m concerned.

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

Two false starts on the same drive at home and he played great? Whatever Naples. You can say the other call was Bs too but it was a penalty nonetheless and three right in a row.

The whole O line needs to play better we can’t count on defense every week. 66 yards from Martin and Winston not having a chance a lot was not good showing by the O line.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  fredster
5 years ago

Agreed Fredster, out o line was terrible today, no way around it. Can’t believe I’m saying this but hurry up and get back Dotson.

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

Dr d what not true? I didn’t say everyone or you specifically about Tandy. It is true majority of posters here didn’t say good things about him or Conte for that matter.

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

Like I said in this Article before, Humphries, Stocker, Dotson were missed. We get blown up in the middle of the OL and it starts with Hawley. Mankins helped Hawley and Smith last year. We need a bigger Center. Yep, I’m on my Gottschalk thread again for next season. Also need to draft another TE, WR, and a lot of BPA’s