Welcome to a NEW post-game column, where I’ll take a look at the moment the game turned either in favor or against the Buccaneers. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive look at all the reasons the Bucs won or lost, but instead the singular moment where things went north or south for the team.
Setting The Stage
Following Brady’s pick-6 to Janoris Jenkins to start the third quarter, the Bucs quickly rallied back with a touchdown to O.J. Howard and a field goal by Ryan Succop with 2:27 left in the third quarter to make it a one-score game, 24-17. After both teams exchanged punts, the Saints offense took over from their own 39-yard line with 14:03 remaining in the game.
Up to this point, the Saints offense had registered 19 yards in the entire third quarter, as the Bucs defense absolutely dominated the period from start to finish. But all that changed on one blown coverage that seemed almost inexplicable when it happened.
The Turning Point
After a first down incompletion to Alvin Kamara, the Saints faced a 2nd-and-10 from their own 39-yard line. From the TV angle, it looks like the Bucs are in quarters coverage with Jamel Dean and Andrew Adams splitting their side of the field (to the boundary). The Saints ran two verticals to that side of the field, which the Bucs were obviously well-prepared for, and I simply have no idea what happened with Jamel Dean on this play.
There’s nothing else Dean could possibly be looking at on this play, unless he’s staring at the Drew Brees pump fake. With no other threats in his zone, I still don’t know how he lets Jared Cook run right by him up the sideline for a 46-yard gain. This is basic stuff, and the second-year defender’s mistake turned the entire game back in the Saints favor. Four plays later, the Bucs finished off the final 15 yards in the end zone, taking a 31-17 lead they would not relinquish.
Dean’s mistake not only helped waste an outstanding second half by the Bucs defense, but it also added to a frustrating litany of self-inflicted mistakes by Tampa Bay’s defensive unit that detracted from what could have been a statement game. Earlier in the contest, Jordan Whitehead’s pass interference penalty on a 3rd-and-14 pass that Sean Murphy-Bunting batted down to force what would have been a Saints punt, instead resulted in a Saints touchdown.
Then, late in the second quarter, Brees was able to get Vita Vea to jump offsides on a 4th-and-2 hard count, giving the Saints a fresh set of downs from the Bucs 42. Those two back-breaking penalties helped give the Saints struggling offense life in the first half, but the ship had been somewhat righted by a 10-0 Bucs run in the third quarter.
All that changed on Dean’s gaffe in coverage, and although there was plenty of blame to go around on the Bucs roster and coaching staff, that mistake was the turning point in the game, crushing the Bucs comeback hopes and giving the Saints the lead they needed to close out a Week 1 victory.