The Bucs had the chance to claim the NFC South title by beating the Saints on Sunday Night Football, but failed miserably. Tampa Bay was embarrassed at home again on Sunday Night Football for the second straight year. After losing 38-3 to the Saints last November, the Bucs fell to their division rival, 9-0, this season. It was only the third time Tom Brady has been shut out in his career and the first time Tampa Bay has been shut out since Bruce Arians became head coach in 2019.

Adding injury to insult, the Bucs saw four key starters – receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, running back Leonard Fournette and linebacker Lavonte David – go down to injury in the game. New Orleans swept Tampa Bay in the regular season for a third straight year.

Here are this week’s most disappointing Bucs:

Bucs QB Tom Brady and OC Byron Leftwich

Leftwich called a poor game against the Saints, and Brady didn’t execute the plays that were called well enough. Two key plays to illustrate this point were Brady taking an ill-advised deep shot on third-and-2 in the third quarter to Jaelon Darden. That pass fall incomplete to force a punt. Then on the next possession on fourth-and-1, Brady inexplicably throws deep to Rob Gronkowski, who was well-covered by safety Malcolm Jenkins.

Brady was without four of his top weapons for much of the game on Sunday night as wide receiver Antonio Brown was suspended, and wide receivers Mike Evans (hamstring), Chris Godwin (knee) and running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) all succumbed to injury during the game. While he did throw an interception and complete just 26-of-48 passes for 216 yards, Brady was not the reason why the Bucs didn’t score. He didn’t get much help at all – especially after Godwin and Evans went down.

WRs Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden and Scotty Miller

With Evans and Godwin out in the first half, Brady needed at least one of the team’s younger receivers to step up, especially without Brown or Breshad Perriman, who missed this game due to a positive COVID-19 test. Johnson was the most productive with four catches for 41 yards on seven targets, but had a big drop and failed to pick up first downs on some of his underneath catches due to his lack of speed. He also failed to separate often enough from the Saints’ aggressive man coverage.

Darden was targeted three times, but lacks the size and speed to separate downfield from man coverage and finished with zero catches. The rookie struggles as a route runner, too. Miller had two catches for 18 yards, but despite his vertical speed, he also struggled to separate and win routes on Sunday night.

TEs Rob Gronkowski, Cam Brate and O.J. Howard

Gronkowski had his worst game as a Buccaneer, catching just two of 11 targets from Brady for 29 yards. He had several drops in the game and had difficulty tracking some deep throws from Brady and also getting separation against safety Malcolm Jenkins.

Brate had a pedestrian night with two catches for 22 yards and two drops, while Howard was just invisible with only one target. Howard, a former first-round pick, has just vanished from the passing game. That’s quite shocking given how many injuries the Bucs suffered in the first half.

Bucs Offensive Line

Bucs QB Tom Brady and Saints DE Cam Jordan

Bucs QB Tom Brady and Saints DE Cam Jordan – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

On third-and-5 on Tampa Bay’s second possession, right guard Alex Cappa got absolutely schooled by defensive end Cam Jordan. Jordan lined up inside at tackle and sacked Tom Brady on third down, forcing a punt. The Saints pass rusher, who had a monster night with two sacks and a forced fumble, whipped right tackle Tristan Wirfs for his other sack, also on third down. Wirfs gave up a fluky sack against Jordan in New Orleans, but the Saints Pro Bowler earned this one.

Defensive end Marcus Davenport lined up inside at defensive tackle and looped inside and past center Ryan Jensen for a huge sack on third-and-4 inside Saints territory with less than a minute left before halftime and the Bucs trailing 6-0. In the fourth quarter, Jensen and Cappa both missed defensive tackle David Onyemata, who sacked Brady on third-and-10 with just over seven minutes left.

Even Tampa Bay left tackle Donovan Smith didn’t play well against the Saints. New Orleans’ defensive front was aided by great coverage in the secondary, who forced several coverage sacks.

RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn

With Leonard Fournette out in the second half, it was a golden opportunity for Vaughn to show how far he’s progressed as an NFL running back. The results were not pretty. Vaughn ran twice for two yards, and was stuffed for no gain on a key third-and-1 in the fourth quarter, which forced the Bucs to punt. He had a 17-yard run late in the game when the Saints were expecting a pass that inflated his average, but Vaughn did not play well.

He also dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Brady, which bounced off his hands, and fell down while running a route for his other target. Vaughn really disappointed on Sunday night.

Bucs Special Teams

The Bucs special teams units were far from being a strength on Sunday night. In fact, against New Orleans, Tampa Bay’s special teams were a weakness. Ryan Succop missed his only field goal attempt – a 45-yarder – in the first half. Bradley Pinion continues to struggle punting the ball, averaging just 37.3 net yards.

There were a couple of penalties on special teams, including a 15-yarder on linebacker Grant Stuard for roughing the kicker penalty with 3:17 left in the game. That cost the Bucs possession.

The Bucs also allowed a 34-yard punt return in the game, and rookie Jaelon Darden averaged just 5.9 yards per punt return and a feeble 16.5 yards per kick return with a long of 17. Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong deserves to be on the hot seat this year with how un-special his unit has been.

OLBs Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul

Barrett and Pierre-Paul combined for two tackles (Pierre-Paul) and one QB hit (Barrett) versus two backup offensive tackles on Sunday night. On a night that Taysom Hill dropped back and passed 27 times, the fact that Barrett and Pierre-Paul couldn’t beat a backup tackle for a sack is a real cause for concern.

Tampa Bay’s defense played well enough to beat New Orleans, holding the Saints to nine points, but it was mostly due to the play of other Bucs defenders.

CB Sean Murphy-Bunting

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – Photo by: USA Today

Murphy-Bunting got beat by Marquez Callaway for a 40-yard catch in man coverage in the first quarter. That big play set up New Orleans’ first field goal of the night. Then Murphy-Bunting played a part in giving up a 33-yard gain to Callaway on the Saints’ next scoring drive. Murphy-Bunting played well in run support and finished with five tackles – but no pass breakups.

SS Andrew Adams

While Adams played the run well on Sunday night, he had a golden opportunity for an interception with just over eight minutes left in regulation and dropped it. Adams’ drop was costly, as the Saints kicked a field goal to push their lead to 9-0. In a game without any takeaways by the Bucs defense, Tampa Bay needed that one.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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seat26
seat26
6 months ago

It is too early to panic, but what good does is it do to have home-field advantage in the playoffs if you get shut out by a losing team who we just opened the door for to be in the playoffs? This was embarrassing. I know Brady is upset, but some of this is on him. And to lose our best receivers? This could make a fan start drinking…

Eddie
Eddie
6 months ago

The strength coaching staff should be on this list. They should get our players more sturdy, more ready to withstand the in game punishment.

PewterHeart
PewterHeart
Reply to  Eddie
6 months ago

Totally agree!! All year plagued, and these guys run around like glass cannons..

scubog
scubog
Reply to  Eddie
6 months ago

Simply a ridiculous comment. Bucs had very few injuries last season with the same staff. Guess somebody has to be blamed nowadays.

compewterpirate
compewterpirate
6 months ago

You might just as well put the entire offense on this list, followed by special teams. A truly dreadful performance offensively, both in design and execution. If nothing else, this pathetic effort should cool the ‘Lefty for head coach’ talk in a hurry. I would have exempted the D from criticism entirely after holding the Saints to just 9 points. It’s just nit-picking to put the likes of Adams and Murphy-Bunting on the list because of one play. Overall the D played and Todd Bowles called an excellent game. As for Keith Armstrong. A great guy, from all the interviews… Read more »

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
6 months ago

Guess Who? He threw an easy pick that was dropped on 1st play of the game, fumbled away a scoring opportunity in the redzone, missed wide open targets on receivers running down the field, on 4th an short he elects to throw a 30yd fade route. Answer: Jamies Winston. Oh wait! He’s never been shut out by the Saints.

Knightrider79
Knightrider79
Reply to  Captain Sly
6 months ago

You’re absolutely right, Jamies Winston had never been shut out by the Saints. He’s also never been to the playoffs as a starter, never been to the Super Bowl, and never won said Super Bowl. He’s also never been to the Pro Bowl. Brady has done all of those things. Did Brady have a bad game? Yes he did. Has Brady had bad games in the past? Sure he has. Has Brady bounced back after a bad game? Yup

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
Reply to  Knightrider79
6 months ago

Wait! Since you mentioned Tom Brady “having a bad game” and not me, why is he not on the most disappointing list? Don’t answer that, I am calling out Scott with his obvious Bias!

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
Reply to  Captain Sly
6 months ago

Ok Scott just added Brady, But still too afraid to call him out without dragging somebody else into it. Tom Brady cost us this game no other way to say it.

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  Captain Sly
6 months ago

Idiot.

PewterHeart
PewterHeart
Reply to  Captain Sly
6 months ago

Lol! Cap, where do u get the balls to bring Winston into a comparison with the GOAT?! while Brady has shit the bed on rare occasions JW did it on the regular, so stop.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
Reply to  PewterHeart
6 months ago

Lol! Monday Morning I get it. I’m about to take my first sip of coffee too. Relax I am not making career comparisons. You guys are funny man

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  Captain Sly
6 months ago

You really are a moron aren’t you.

Dman
Dman
6 months ago

List looks about right. Out coached, out played on offense. D played well enough for us to win. Losing to the Saints has become “a thing” and Sean Payton is the best coach in our division. Just is what it is.

drdneast
drdneast
6 months ago

This game was a classic example of why I laugh everytime someone says Byron is ready to become a head coach. He’s an average coordinator at best when he knows what kind of defense he is going to face but if you throw something new at him he gets completely flustered and doesn’t know how to respond. He keeps going back to his same old play log which wasn’t working to begin with.

chefboho
chefboho
Reply to  drdneast
6 months ago

Don’t worry Dr D, I’m sure our resident troll nipples will come on later to tell us that lefty is the best offensive coordinator in the league and then explain with all his insight and first hand knowledge what happened last night. I await with my popcorn

surferdudes
surferdudes
6 months ago

The only good thing about last nights game is it wasn’t the playoffs. Maybe it’s good to get this stinker out of us.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
Reply to  surferdudes
6 months ago

Probably the best statement of the Day!

Ringer
Ringer
6 months ago

The Saints just beat the crap out of our offense…period. I think only their 4 man rush was in our backfield whole game. Not sure any diff scheme was going to make a difference. Whole game I was lamenting our secondary never covers receivers the way NO does. Every receiver and throw is contested. Our defenders are usually hardly in the same zip code. (The D did fine against NO in this game against a mediocre passer.. so saying generally.). But in this game it was the offense who was manhandled. It’s telling that physicality was a factor when we… Read more »

fredster
fredster
6 months ago

Just save time and say the whole offense sucked. Leftwhich play calling sucked. Head coach? Good luck with that. Lol. Vaughn and Darden both starting to look like busts. O line couldn’t block my grandma last night. That was first game I just turned off with few minutes left since Koetter days. Was just a hard game to watch. If those injuries linger into post season we aren’t going anywhere in playoffs.

scubog
scubog
6 months ago

The entire game was one of the Most Disappointing” I’ve witnessed in a long time. It was evident, even during warm-ups, that the team was just “blah”. It became even more telling when Brady’s very first pass was nearly intercepted. It seemed every time something good happened offensively, it was followed by something bad. Frustration set in and snow-balled. Better than the 38-3 debacle last year. Dr. D and others can blame the O.C. all they want this game as Leftwich certainly bears a lot of responsibility, for not only the play-calling, but the game plan………whatever that was. Who knows… Read more »

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
6 months ago

Ronald averaging 8 a carry us, top 3 WRs out and we still have Tom passing for 50 times? Bill Belicheck would’ve won this game Bc he would’ve adapted his game plan for the flow and ran the rock, took the FGs and eeeked out a close win late. The OL looked fine in the run game yet we ask them to hold up 50 times for WRs Toms hasn’t worked with all season and couldn’t get open all day. AWFUL in game adjustment and that’s on Tom too. Darden going deep on 3rd and 2 was one route of… Read more »

Horse
Horse
6 months ago

almost agree except for Leftwich as Brady has plenty of knowledge and experience to make the adjustments. Is it time to give Brady a game off to rest his arm? Timing is very important and so many key players hardly practice. Last week was a MIA Practice Week. give Brady a rest because it is showing he needs a rest.

chefboho
chefboho
Reply to  Horse
6 months ago

Why the heck would you give Brady a rest when we haven’t even won the division yet? That makes zero sense. They’re still playing for seeding.

JSW
JSW
6 months ago

Most disappointing was the coaching (with the exception of Bowles who did an exceptional jot). Keith Armstrong has got to go. Nothing more to say on that – his special teams play speaks for itself. I have read here on PR that the Bucs passing attack does not scheme to get guys open, but rather relies on players to beat their man. If that’s the case, Miller, and Dardon don’t belong on the roster. However, they both have skills (as do Perriman and Johnson), that should allow a clever coordinator to scheme up ways to create space and get them… Read more »

BucLife
BucLife
6 months ago

I disagree with putting Andrew Adams on the list. He has been very reliable in both the run and pass game and made multiple plays in both areas in this game too. The fact that he didn’t catch the interception is disappointing, but at least he got himself in position to make it in the first place and broke up the pass.
For a guy who is our 4th player at the position, I think his play has been marvellous. Couldn’t realistically expect more from somebody in his position,