Tampa Bay's defense held TE Jeremy Shockey and the Saints' high-powered offense in check in the first half
Though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense got off to a slow start in the team's season-opener against the New Orleans Saints, the Bucs' defense looked to be in mid-season form.
The Saints actually jumped out to an early lead. QB Drew Brees hit WR David Patten on a 39-yard touchdown pass on the Saints' first possession of the game. Rookie CB Aqib Talib looked to be in good position on the play, but might have mistimed his jump as the ball sailed over his head and into Patten's hands.
Despite the early 7-0 hole, the Bucs defense evened the score soon thereafter. LB Barrett Ruud came on a blitz and nailed Brees right as he released a pass. The ball sailed high into the air, allowing CB Phillip Buchanon to snag an interception and then race ahead 26 yards into the end zone, evening the score at 7-7.
The two teams traded punts for the remainder of the first quarter and much of the second, but the Bucs were able to put together a quick scoring drive in the final seconds of the half. QB Jeff Garcia completed four quick passes with time dripping off the clock, but moved the Bucs into Saints territory and set up K Matt Bryant for a 37-yard field goal with just three seconds left in the half.
The Bucs' defense allowed the Saints to gain 186 total yards in the half, but kept them off the scoreboard after giving up the early touchdown. The offense picked up 154 yards of their own, 61 of them coming on the late scoring drive.
- The Bucs won the opening coin toss, but elected to defer. RB Pierre Thomas fielded K Matt Bryant's kickoff and returned it to the 24-yard line. Thomas got the call again on the first play from scrimmage, picking up four yards up the middle on first down. QB Drew Brees then hit RB Reggie Bush on a pass to the left for 16 yards and a first down. Bush then took a handoff and scampered ahead for 10 yards and another first down. A delay of game penalty moved the Saints back five yards to their own 49, but Thomas took a screen pass from Brees and picked that yardage back up. On second-and-10, Brees and Bush connected again over the middle, this time for seven yards. Facing third-and-three at the Bucs' 39, Brees aired out a deep ball that CB Aqib Talib couldn't quite reach, giving WR David Patten an easy touchdown grab. K Martin Gramatica's extra point was good, giving the Saints an early 7-0 lead. * TE Alex Smith fielded a short kickoff from Gramatica and fell on the turf at the 27. On first down, RB Earnest Graham was spun down after a gain of three. QB Jeff Garcia rolled to his right on second down and was forced to throw it away, but a penalty for an ineligible man downfield moved the Bucs back five yards. The Saints declined the penalty however, setting the Bucs up for a third-and-seven attempt. Garcia was flushed from the pocket on the play and tried to run up the middle, but DE Charles Grant wrapped him up after a gain of only a yard. P Josh Bidwell came on to punt, and his 60-yard boot was downed by WR Maurice Stovall at the Saints' nine-yard line after Bush misjudged the kick and watched it sail over his head. * Brees found Bush once again out of the backfield, this time for 10 yards and yet another first down. Bush was wrapped for a loss of one on second down, however. Thomas caught a pass out of the backfield and sprinted ahead for a big gain, but a holding penalty nullified the play. On second-and-16, Brees was hit as he threw by LB Barrett Ruud. The ball fluttered in the air and was snagged by CB Phillip Buchanon, who sprinted ahead 26 yards for a score on defense. Bryant's extra point evened the score at 7-7. * Thomas made a nice return on the ensuing kickoff, but a penalty flag for a block in the back moved the Saints all the way back to their own six-yard line. Brees' deep pass intended for WR Devery Henderson was overthrown on first down. Bush plowed ahead on second down for a gain of four, but S Tanard Jackson made an excellent play on third down to break up a pass and bring out P Steve Weatherford. WR Dexter Jackson fielded the high punt and dove ahead to the Bucs' 46-yard line. * Garcia threw a quick pass to WR Antonio Bryant for a five-yard gain on first down, then found RB Warrick Dunn out of the backfield for a gain of 11, moving the sticks for a first down. Dunn was stopped for a gain of one at the Saints' 38 and Garcia was hit as he threw on second down, but the ball fell incomplete. Facing third-and-nine at the 37, Garcia threw behind a wide-open WR Joey Galloway, bringing on Bidwell for his second punt of the day. WR Lance Moore fair caught the punt at the New Orleans 14. * Back-to-back false start penalties backed the Saints up all the way to their own four-yard line before the drive even began. On first-and-20, Thomas ran up the middle for five, then darted to the right for a gain of 18 and a first down. Thomas picked up another three yards, but Bush was tackled by DE Jimmy Wilkerson on second down after a gain of only two. On third-and-five at the New Orleans 32, Brees pass to the left intended for Moore was incomplete. Jackson was only able to run the punt back for a short gain, but an illegal formation penalty on the Saints gave the Bucs another chance. Jackson got a better return on his second try after backtracking initially, but a block in the back moved the Bucs back to their own 25. * Graham burst up the middle for a huge gain on first down, picking up 14 yards. Garcia was dragged down for a sack on the next play, but a holding penalty moved the Bucs back 10 yards. On first-and-20 at the 29, Graham rushed for five yards, but Garcia was sacked on second down for a loss of eight as the first quarter came to a close. On third-and-23, Graham picked up nine on a draw. Bidwell came on to punt, and Bush was dragged down at the New Orleans 21 on the return. * Bush was stopped for a loss of two on first down, and TE Jeremy Shockey's first catch as a Saint went for six yards on second down. On third-and-six at the 30, Brees found WR Marques Colston, but S Sabby Piscitelli laid a big hit on the receiver, limiting him to a five-yard gain and forcing a punt. Jackson fielded Weatherford's punt at the 22 and ran head to the Bucs' 30. * Graham barreled ahead on first down for five yards, and Garcia then found Smith on a play-action pass for eight yards and a first down. The Bucs burned their first timeout of the half, and Graham then spun his way ahead for five yards. On second-and-five at the Tampa Bay 48, Garcia threw a dart to WR Ike Hilliard over the middle. Hilliard's 500th career grab went for six yards and a first down. Dunn picked up only a yard on first down, but an unnecessary roughness penalty on T Jeremy Trueblood moved the Bucs back 15 yards. On second-and-24, a screen pass to FB B.J. Askew picked up four, and the third-and-20 play saw Garcia find Galloway, but only for 10 yards. Bidwell's fourth punt was downed at the Saints' one-yard line by Talib, setting the Saints up deep in their own territory. * Throwing out of his own end zone, Brees was able to find Colston for a gain of 16. Thomas then picked up gains of four and three yards, respectively, setting up third-and-three at the Saints' 24. The Saints used a timeout, and Brees then hit Moore for eight yards and a first down. On the next play, Brees floated a pass into the left flat for Bush, who was promptly smacked by CB Ronde Barber. The ball was jarred loose and LB Cato June ran it in for a touchdown, but the pass was ruled incomplete. Brees next pass was complete to Shockey, but Ruud was right there to wrap him up for a loss of one. On third-and-11 at the 31, Brees threw a deep pass over the middle to Patten, but Jackson was there to break it up once again. Weatherford came on to punt, and Jackson was immediately lit up at the Bucs' 35. * Garcia hit Graham on a play action pass on first down for a gain of four, but Graham was smacked by LB Jonathan Vilma for no gain on second down. On third-and-six at the 39, Garcia scrambled before throwing to Bryant, but the pass bounced off his hands and fell incomplete. Bidwell's punt bounced through the end zone, giving the Saints the ball at their own 20. * Brees hit Moore on first down for nine yards, and Bush picked up two yards and a first down on the next play. Bush then ran to the right for three yards as the clock wound down to the two-minute warning. Shockey then caught a five-yard pass, but Brees' third-down pass intended for Colston was too high. Weatherford's fifth punt bounced into the end zone for a touchback with 1:28 to go in the half. * Garcia found Galloway for 13 yards, then quickly hit Bryant for another 26. Another completion to Hilliard picked up eight yards, and the Bucs then called their second timeout with 29 seconds left and the ball at the Saints' 33. Garcia then found Hilliard over the middle for seven yards and immediately spiked the ball, stopping the clock with 14 seconds. Dunn took a carry up the middle for seven yards, giving Bryant a shorter field goal try. The 37-yard attempt sailed through the uprights, giving the Bucs a 10-7 lead with just three seconds to go. * A short kickoff was downed at the 30 and Brees took a knee to end the first half.