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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Rapid Reaction: Saints 34, Buccaneers 23

The Bucs fall in their season opener to the Saints in New Orleans, 34-23. 

The Bucs won the toss and elected to defer, giving the New Orleans offense the ball first in their house.

A long run from backup quarterback Taysom Hill started the Saints out with a first down but it'd be the last one they'd get. The Tampa Bay defense stepped up and forced the punt, putting the ball in the hands of new quarterback Tom Brady and the Buccaneer offense.

It's real.

Brady proceeded to be Brady, putting together a drive that went down the field on a mix of rushing plays with Ronald Jones II and beautiful long passes from Brady. In fact, Brady's first completion as a Buccaneers was a 29-yard throw to wide receiver Chris Godwin. Tampa Bay was also the beneficiary of two pass interference calls on their way to what ended up being a rushing touchdown by Brady himself to put the Bucs up 7-0 halfway through the first quarter.

The defense went back to work but got off the field in a hurry, allowing just one first down before forcing the Saints to punt yet again.

The Saints defense would hold up this time, forcing a three-and-out as the Bucs' offense was forced to punt for the first time with 2:25 left in the first quarter.

New Orleans got past midfield for the first time on their next drive as the second quarter began. Hill under center turned a broken-down play into a big 13-yard pickup for the Saints. In the red zone, defensive lineman Will Gholston dropped Saints running back Ty Montgomery for a loss of four, setting up third and 10. But then running back Alvin Kamara caught a screen and slipped his way through the tackles to escape into the end zone to tie the game 7-7 with 11:47 on the clock.

The Bucs offense started their way down the field on a handoff first to running back Ronald Jones. Then, an uncharacteristic turnover as Brady was picked off by Marcus Williams. A few plays later as safety Jordan Whitehead was hit with a pass interference penalty, Kamara ran the ball in again to put the Saints up 14-7 with just over 10 minutes left in the half.

The Bucs got the ball back and were forced into a 54-yard field goal try after a third down sack of Brady. The kick was blocked and the Saints took over at midfield.

The Tampa Bay defense slowed the Saints just as they crossed into Buccaneer territory. Faced with a fourth-and-two at the 49-yard-line, New Orleans elected to go for it. Defensive lineman Vita Vea got hit with a neutral zone infraction, giving the Saints a fresh set of downs at the 42-yard line. It was followed up by another of the same penalty, this time on Ndamukong Suh that got the Saints in striking distance. They'd end up settling for a 29-yard field goal to extend their lead 17-7 with under a minute to play.

The Bucs offense got the ball back but would come up empty after Brady got hit with an intentional grounding penalty trying to avoid a sack on second down. Tampa Bay punted it away. The Saints took a knee to take the game into halftime.

Tampa Bay started the second half with the ball. A penalty negated a good catch and run by Jones but was made up for by running back Leonard Fournette who nabbed a first down on a 14-yard screen. Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins then jumped a route a couple plays later and made the pick off Brady, running it straight into the end zone and giving the Saints a 24-7 lead at the start of the third quarter.

The Bucs caugt a break on the next drive as Brady aired it out for wide receiver Mike Evans who drew a pass interference call as Williams grabbed him before the ball arrived. The 45-yard penalty then set up a great run by Jones, who got the Bucs inside the red zone. From there, Brady floated a pass into the end zone and connected with tight end O.J. Howard for the nine-yard score. Ryan Succop's extra point after was good and the Bucs cut the Saints lead to 24-14 with 12:26 to go in the third quarter.

The next possession, the defense stepped up. Cornerback Carlton Davis, who had been having a great game, got called for defensive pass interference but that's the only thing that would go right for the Saints in the series. Tampa Bay rushed six as outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul took down quarterback Drew Brees on third down to force the New Orleans' punt.

The Bucs came up empty on the next drive and were forced to punt it right back. Back to back tackles for loss by inside linebacker Lavonte David, aided in the second one by Devin White, set up third and 15 for the Saints on the ensuing series. David almost had a sack on Brees on third down but the pressure was enough to force Brees to get rid of it. It handed the Saints another three and out.

The Saints committed another defensive pass interference call, this time on Nate Robinson as he held wide receiver Scotty Miller's arm. The Bucs would ultimately settle for a 38-yard field goal try which was pushed through the uprights by Succop and brought the Bucs within a score of the Saints with 2:27 left in the third.

The Bucs defense forced yet another three-and-out behind the efforts of David, who took down Hill in the backfield on third-down. The Saints punted yet again and put the ball back in the hands of the Tampa Bay offense.

The Saints returned the favor this time, forcing a three-and-out on a big third down sack by Demario Davis on Brady.

New Orleans took over and got a big 46-yard completion from Brees to tight end Jared Cook to move their offense down the field in a hurry. It proved fruitful this time as Brees hit wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders who was able to juke his way into the end zone and extend the Saints lead to 31-17 with 11:44 to play in the game.

Saints tried a short kickoff from midfield and it threw off the Bucs' special team unit. The ball bounced off wide receiver Jaydon Mickens and New Orleans recovered the muffed punt at the Tampa Bay 20.

Despite the short field, the defense managed to hold the Saints to a field goal after they got as far as the goal line. It still gave the Saints a three-score lead as they went up 34-17 with 8:05 left on the clock.

The Bucs' offense wasn't able to get anything going, suffering another three-and-out, giving the ball right back to New Orleans. And the two teams ended up trading punts.

The Bucs took over from their own 10-yard line but they would end up gaining some ground. Brady hit Miller for 37 yards that helped Tampa Bay get down the field. The drive then culminated with a perfect pass in to Evans in the back corner of the end zone, giving Evans his first touch and score of the game. Tampa Bay went for two to try and make it a nine-point game but the attempt was no good, leaving the score 34-23.

New Orleans took over with 2:40 to go in the game. A gadget play on a double pass from Brees to Hill to Kamara resulted in a 38 yard gain before Kamara was wrapped up by safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead. The drive came down to fourth and goal where Kamara zipped around the edge and initially was thought to have squeaked in for the score. Instead, the play went to a booth review and the touchdown was reversed, resulting in a turnover on downs on the one-yard line for the Bucs and the score at 34-23.

Jones brought the ball out but time then expired, with a final score of 34-23.

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