As has been the case for most of the season, the Bucs lost the opening coin toss and their opponent chose to defer to the second half, leaving Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense to take the field first. Running back Peyton Barber started the game and got the offense going early. On a drive that went 75 yards on 14 plays, 38 of which were on the ground, Tampa Bay executed a well balanced attack that got them into thee end zone via Barber and started the game out 7-0.
However, that lead didn’t last long. On the ensuing kick off, Saints rookie sensation Alvin Kamara took the kickoff 106 yards all the way back for a touchdown to tie the game up at a score of 7-7.
With the score tied, but a good offensive series under their belt, Winston took the field looking to get back on top. After a few nice passes to Cameron Brate and Adam Humphires, Winston tried to squeeze in a tight pass to Mike Evans in Saints territory, but it was intercepted – and that wouldn’t be his last turnover of the game.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees got to work quick off the turnover, as he and the Saints offense went 66 yards in just six plays to get in for the score. What was a killer on the drive, for the Bucs defense, was a 43-yard bomb pass to Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas. That set up a few short runs, one of which was Kamara scampering into the end zone for a 14-7 score.
Following the early scores, both defenses began to tighten up, as is usually the case in an NFL game. The Bucs ran six plays for 17 yards and a punt on their next drive, and the Saints followed that up by going 16 yards in five plays and a punt in their response.
After a couple of punts, the Bucs settled down and began to once again march down the field. In a drive that contained a 15-yard pass to Jacquizz Rodgers, a 17-yard pass to Chris Godwin and a handful of nice runs by Barber, the Bucs found themselves knocking on the goal line again. On a play that forced Winston to run the ball up the middle, a great second effort by the young quarterback allowed him to reach the ball out to cross the plane for what many thought would be the equalizer. However, a missed PAT by kicker Pat Murray left the score at 14-13.
On the Saints next drive, they also started marching down the field to a tune of 43 yards in eight plays before being stopped on a third down. But, instead of attempt a long field goal, the Saint called a fake where the holder threw the ball over his head to Saints kicker Will Lutz who went streaking towards the first down marker. It looked like he was going to get it, but a quick collapse left them with a turnover on downs.
When the Bucs got the ball back after the turnover on downs, they started to march down the field, going 17 yards in three quick plays. However, Winston made another costly decision which was intercepted, his second of the game, to that point.
After a few failed 2-minute drives by both teams, the game went to the half at a score of 14-13.
Due to the Saints deferred to the second half, they started the second half with the ball and the lead. However, the Bucs defense came out strong and only allowed 11 yards on six carries.
The Bucs weren’t so timid when they got the ball down just one. Winston took over and got things started with a 19-yard pass to Godwin. Then, two plays later, broken coverage left Adam Humphries wide open for a 43-yard gain down the sideline; he was stopped in the red zone. However, a few plays after that, Winston’s bad side reared its ugly head yet again and he threw an interception in the end zone under pressure when he should have thrown the ball away to preserve the field goal and some points.
Instead they got nothing.
After the failed drive the last time out, New Orleans got settled in and marched down the field with a 9-play, 50-yard drive that ended in a field goal. That brought the score to 17-13. After a short drive to follow from the Bucs, they were forced to punt and the momentum was swinging against them. However, a forced fumble on a fantastic play by special teams ace Josh Robinson led to a recovery by the Bucs which they took to the house for a touchdown. The Bucs had their second lead of the game at 20-17 in the fourth quarter.
After that the Saints got back to work and built off the previous drive that was controlled and ended in points. On a 13-play, 92-yard drive that took almost seven minutes of game clock, Brees, Kamara and Thomas marched all the way down the field in a variety of ways to get their team into the end zone and back on top by a score of 24-20.
With the Saints controlling so much of the clock their last time out, the pressure was mounting and the back was getting a little closer to the wall for the Buccaneers – their next drive was important. Once again Humphries and Godwin played big parts in marching the ball down the field through the air on a 10-play, 51-yard drive that ended in three points. That brought New Orleans’ lead to just one point once again, 24-23.
After that, the Bucs defense needed a stop; just one to give their team a chance. At first, it didn’t look so good. The Saints converted a couple of first downs, including a 23-yard pass to Ted Ginn. But, after that the defense really clamped down with a tackle for loss and a sack which forced a punt at midfield.
With the ball back and the game on the line, the Bucs started with the ball within their own 10-yard line. After three straight incomplete passes, Winston hit Brate over the middle for a first down. Then, Winston hit Evans for a few throws that put him over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the fourth straight season. With the clock winding down and the last game on the line, Winston threw a beautiful pass down the sideline to Godwin for the score…
And the win.
Bucs ended the season on a high note: A 31-24 victory.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: email@example.com
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