Photos from the first half of Buccaneers vs. Saints at Raymond James Stadium.
Game Ball: RB Doug Martin capped a sometimes-frustrating campaign with his best outing of the year, gaining 108 yards on 19 carries to lead the team to a season-best 183 yards on the ground. Martin did most of his damage in the first half as rookie RB Charles Sims – who also had 69 yards on 18 carries – handled most of the load after the break. Martin's biggest run of the day was a 45-yard breakaway down the left sideline in the second quarter that created a first-and-goal at the Saints' seven and set up Mike Evans' six-yard touchdown catch. Martin averaged 5.7 yards per carry and, like Evans, consistently made hard cuts while running behind a line that was getting a lot of snaps from young reserves like Kevin Pamphile and Josh Allen. Though Martin's season was hampered by injuries early, he finished strong with 96 and 108-yard outings in the last three weeks.
Play of the Game: Even after converting a fourth-and-two from just past midfield in the game's final four minutes, the Saints still faced a tough third-and-eight and a six-point deficit just before the two-minute warning. WR Marques Colston got open near the left sideline and, after catching a short pass, had nothing but green in front of him. Colston raced to the left pylon, beating the Bucs' defense to the end zone for the go-ahead score.Turning Point: The Bucs were holding on to a 20-14 lead and driving near midfield with roughly six minutes to play. The running game was grinding down the clock but the Bucs had to go to the air on a pair of third-and-five situations on that drive. On the first one, QB Josh McCown hit WR Tavarres King for six yards on a simple come-backer on the left side. Three plays later, King ran a very sharp route, faking out on CB Keenan Lewis and then cutting quickly back underneath the defender on a slant. King was open and McCown delivered the pass on target, but it ricocheted off the receiver's hands and back over his head. Lewis, who was trailing the
Photos from the second half of Buccaneers vs. Saints at Raymond James Stadium.
play, ended up with an easy
interception. Instead of possibly getting into range to make it a two-score game with a field goal, the Bucs saw Drew Brees take over at midfield with 5:20 to play. The resulting drive ended in Colston's touchdown.It Was Over When: LB Junior Galette charged around the right edge of the Bucs' line and buried McCown with a sack in the end zone with just over a minute to play. Tampa Bay was facing a third-and-21 at its own six-yard line and had plenty of work to do to get into range for a game-winning field goal. Still, that possibility existed until Galette's sack resulted in a safety that not only increased the Saints' lead to three points but also forced the Bucs to kick off from their own 20. An onside kick attempt appeared to work initially but was erased by a penalty because the ball glanced off King's leg just before it went the necessary 10 yards to be legally recovered by the kicking team.