The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the rival New Orleans Saints on Sunday in the Superdome by a score of 26-9, taking over sole possession of first place in the NFC South in the process. The Buccaneers got to 3-1 with what quarterback Baker Mayfield after the game called the best example of "complementary football" the team has paid yet.
Indeed, while the offense was converting more than 50% of its third downs and scoring touchdowns on three of four trips inside the red zone, the defense was holding the Saints to 197 total yards, the lowest total ever for New Orleans in the 63-game head-to-head series that was first contested back in 1977.
Running back Alvin Kamara, playing his first game of the season after a three-game suspension, led the Saints with 13 catches but only picked up 33 yards on those grabs. That marked the first time in NFL history that a player has caught 13 passes in a game and not gained at least 70 yards on them. For the Bucs' wideout Deven Thompkins scored the game-clinching touchdown on a diving five-yard grab shortly after Chris Godwin took a third-down pass and gashed through the middle of the Saints' defense for a 42-yard jaunt down to the five.
If you watched Sunday's game or have read about it or seen highlights since, you probably know all of the above already. You also saw Antoine Winfield Jr. put together an All-Pro worthy performance, Vita Vea collect two more sacks, Trey Palmer make another dazzling scoring catch and Zyon McCollum help hold the Saints to 3.0 yards per pass play. That latter stat takes into account sack yardage, and of the 128 defensive team performances so far this year, it's tied for the fifth-lowest mark allowed.
As usual, though, there's more to the story. Let's take some of the Bucs' standout individual performances from Sunday's win and add a little more context to them using NFL Next Gen Stats.
- Antoine Winfield Jr. recorded a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, two tackles for loss and a pass defensed. In one remarkable three-snap sequence he made a tackle of Kamara six yards behind the line of scrimmage and, moments later, knocked away a pass in the end zone that was nearly a 50-yard touchdown. Those two plays were made 53 yards and 48 seconds apart.
Next Gen adds: Winfield reached a max speed of 20.50 miles per hour on the play, the fastest speed achieved by any Buccaneers defender in the entire game. At the moment Derek Carr released the pass, Winfield was only running 8.98 mph, but he accelerated quickly. At the point that he knocked the ball away, just before it reached Chris Olave, Winfield was still accelerating at a rate of 4.79 mph. That single play three-and-a-half minutes into the second half on a third down dropped the Saints' win probability by four points, from 22.4% to 18.4%.
- Baker Mayfield hit Deven Thompkins on a five-yard touchdown pass to increase the Buccaneers' lead to 23-9 with less than four minutes left in the game. Mayfield scrambled to buy time before Thompkins darted to his left to give the quarterback a small window to get the ball into the end zone.
Next Gen adds: Mayfield was pressured on the play but took 7.68 seconds from the snap to the throw, by far his longest time to throw (TTT) on any pass attempt in the game. On only one other pass did it take him even more than four seconds to get it off. Mayfield was running 11 miles per hour at the point of the release. At the moment Mayfield threw the pass, Thompkins had just 1.4 yards of separation from the nearest defender, but his dive to secure it increased that separation to 3.2 yards.
- Second-year cornerback Zyon McCollum made his third consecutive start, this time filling in for the injured Jamel Dean, and finished the game with four tackles and a pass defensed, most notably helping to hold Olave to one catch for four yards on the day, both single-game career lows for the second-year standout.
Next Gen adds: McCollum was targeted as the nearest defender on six of Carr's passes, but only three were completed and for a total of just 10 yards. McCollum played all 61 defensive snaps and was also brought for another 10 plays on special teams. That led to him covering a total of 1,360.33 yards of turf on the afternoon, second among all players on both teams to the 1,363.39 covered by Bucs defensive back Dee Delaney.
- Wide receiver Chris Godwin racked up a game-leading and season-high eight receptions for 114 yards, helping to pick up the slack after Mike Evans was sidelined by a hamstring injury in the first half. Godwin's biggest play of the game was a pivot route on third-and-seven from the Saints' 47-yard line with four minutes to play. Godwin improved his route a little bit after turning back to the middle of the field to present a better target to Mayfield, who was under heavy pressure.
Next Gen adds: Both defensive end Carl Granderson and defensive tackle Bryan Bresee were credited with pressures on the play. Mayfield needed 3.80 seconds to get the play off. Given where he caught the ball and the position of the defenders, Godwin was expected to pick up 23.9 yards after the catch (YAC). Instead, he got 37.1, or 13.2 YACOE. Mayfield scrambled 7.0 yards before the release but the ball was only in the air for 0.7 seconds.
- Rookie wide receiver Trey Palmer gave the Buccaneers a 13-3 lead at halftime by hauling in a one-yard touchdown pass on a fade route with 19 seconds left in the second quarter.
Next Gen adds: Of the 25 passes that Mayfield completed Sunday (on 32 attempts), this one had the absolute lowest chance of succeeding. It had an estimated completion probability of just 22.8%. The next lowest completion on the list had a 36.3% completion probability and only four of the 25 overall were below 50.0%.
The Buccaneers ran a 3-1 alignment with Rachaad White in the backfield and the trio of Godwin, Thompkins and Cade Otton bunched at the left end of the offensive line. That left Palmer isolated nine yards to the right of right tackle Luke Goedeke, with single coverage from cornerback Isaac Yiadom and no safety help on that half of the field. Yiadom gave Palmer just 2.3 yards of cushion before the snap and stayed with him on the route, allowing just 0.7 yards of separation at the point that Palmer leaped over him to make the catch and barely get his heels in bounds on the right sideline.