Rapid Reaction: Final Score Saints 31, Bucs 24

RB Ronald Jones II, No. 27
RB Ronald Jones II, No. 27

The Buccaneers won the toss to start the game and elected to receive. They’ve received the opening kickoff for every game this season whether it be by choice or by the opponent electing to defer. Tampa Bay’s first drive would stall due to a couple penalties, one of which was well-timed. Bucs had a delay of game penalty enforced on a play that had initially resulted in an interception by the Saints.

After a good punt by Bradley Pinion, the Saints started their first possession of the game at their own 13-yard line. New Orleans would get to midfield before their drive would stall behind a big third-down pass breakup from safety Jordan Whitehead, forcing the Saints to punt.

The next drive wouldn’t see anything from the Buccaneers, either, as they went three-and-out.

New Orleans would put the first points of the day on the board on their next possession. After driving into the red zone, the Bucs’ defense was able to hold and force the Saints to settle for a field goal. Kicker Wil Lutz hit a 29-yard field goal to put New Orleans up 3-0 with 3:58 left in the first quarter.

The Saints’ defense would hold the Bucs again to another three-and-out. After a muffed return by New Orleans and some confusion, the ruling on the field was a ball recovered by the Saints at their 23-yard line, after all. The Bucs challenged the ruling of a reception and down by contact. The referees came back and said it was a fumble but there was no clear recovery so Tampa Bay was charged a timeout for the missed challenge.

On the ensuing possession, rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting, in coverage on Kamara, intercepted Bridgewater’s pass, returning it to the Saints’ 20-yard line. Winston took a six-yard loss on a first-down sack but came right back on second down to hit wide receiver Chris Godwin over the middle. Godwin had room to run and took it the rest of the way into the end zone, putting the Bucs up 7-3 after the good extra point by kicker Matt Gay with 10 seconds left in the first.

The Saints would answer this time as they fought their way down the field, getting quarterback Taysom Hill involved for a big 34-yard completion to wide receiver Michael Thomas to move New Orleans down the field. The Saints went up 10-7 at 10:13 in the second quarter.

The Bucs opened their next drive with a 14-yard run from Ronald Jones for the immediate first down. He followed it up two plays later on a screen pass from Winston for another first down. The next play, Winston faked it to Jones and instead handed off to wide receiver Scotty Miller going the opposite direction instead for the end around and gain of 18 yards. Winston would take a sack on second down that would be made up for by another Jones run, but not enough to move the chains. Tampa Bay settled for the 42-yard field goal by Gay instead to even the score at 10 apiece with 5:33 left in the half.

Cornerback Carlton Davis was ejected from the game following a personal foul penalty on the next drive. The Saints then proceeded to go all the way down the field and score on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater to tight end Jared Cook, giving them a 17-10 lead with 32 seconds remaining before halftime.

The Bucs took a loss on a handoff to running back Dare Ogunbowale and elected to end the half there, trailing 17-10.

The Saints opened the second half and on a big completion to Thomas, moved down the field. The no-call of pass interference was challenged by Coach Arians, but the call ended up standing. The next play, Bridgewater hit wide receiver Ted Ginn for a 33-yard touchdown to extend New Orleans’ lead to 24-10.

Tampa Bay answered this time on a 17-play drive that took up 8:41 of clock. It was well-balanced between the run and the pass, mostly to Godwin, and including a gutsy pass to to the third-year receiver on fourth-down and 1 that gained the Bucs 14 yards. The drive culminated in a two-yard touchdown run by Barber. It cut the Saints’ lead to 24-17 with 5:03 left in the third quarter and made it a one-score game.

The Bucs’ defense did their job, forcing a three-and-out from the New Orleans’ offense and the ensuing punt. Unfortunately, the Saints again returned the favor and the Bucs were forced to punt it right back.

Tampa Bay was able to down it inside the New Orleans 10-yard line, pinning the Saints at the nine-yard line. They’d go all 91 yards though behind some gadgetry plays and get into the end zone on yet another pass to Thomas, extending their lead to 31-17 with 10:37 left in the game.

The Buccaneers came up empty again after Winston was sacked on first down for a loss of nine. They wouldn't recover and punt the ball away with just under 10 minutes to play.

New Orleans wouldn't do anything on their next possession behind a hurry from defensive tackle Vita Vea of Bridgewater on third down. The Saints punted it away and the Bucs took over down two scores with just under eight minutes to play. Winston took a sack on first down but followed it up with a big completion to Godwin for 26 yards. Back to back sacks would negate any sort of momentum on the next series and Tampa Bay would punt again.

The Saints would deploy some form of their eight-minute offense to run the clock out, driving down the field primarily on the legs of running back Latavius Murray. They'd turn the ball over on downs at the Tampa Bay 22-yard line, giving the Bucs offense a shot with just over a minute left with no timeouts left.

Tampa Bay moved down the field and was able to get it in the end zone on a 26-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin with 13 seconds left on the clock. It moved the Bucs to within a score, 31-24. They'd attempt the onside kick which would go out of bounds. The Saints would take the knee and end the game, with the Bucs falling to the division-rival Saints 31-24 in New Orleans.

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