The Bucs won the toss to start the game and elected to defer. The Saints then promptly drove down the field thanks in big part to running back Alvin Kamara. Quarterback Drew Brees connected with Kamara on a short pass in the middle of the drive, which he was able to translate into 35 yards. Facing third-and-5, it was Kamara again that would punch it in on a five-yard touchdown run to give New Orleans the early 7-0 lead with 11:41 left in the first.
The Bucs struck back quickly. After quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick trucked his way through the line on third-and-1, his next play was an all-out bomb to wide receiver DeSean Jackson for a 58-yard touchdown pass, evening the score at seven apiece and taking just two minutes to do it.
New Orleans would go right down the field again and get inside the red zone but the Bucs defense held them to a field goal behind some great plays by both linebacker Kwon Alexander and rookie cornerback Carlton Davis. Saints' kicker Wil Lutz would connect on a 36-yard field goal to put New Orleans up 10-7.
Running back Peyton Barber got the ground game involved in the Bucs' next drive, punching through for back-to-back runs of 23 and 12 yards. Then after two ridiculous catches first by Chris Godwin and then Mike Evans that got the Bucs to the three-yard line, Fitzpatrick kept it himself and took it in for the go-ahead touchdown, giving the Bucs a 14-10 lead with time still left in the first.
In true shootout form, the Saints answered right away. After getting the ball past midfield to start the second quarter, Brees connected with veteran receiver Ted Ginn Jr. for a 28-yard score that put New Orleans back on top 17-14.
The Bucs would get into the red zone on their next drive but would stall behind a couple penalties. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro would even the score once again at 17-17 with a 33-yard field goal and 11 minutes left in the half.
The first punt of the game finally came as the Saints went three-and-out in their next drive. On third down, it was new Buccaneers' defensive end Vinny Curry that got the Bucs' first sack of 2018 on Drew Brees and stopped the New Orleans offense cold.
The Bucs' offense wouldn't slow down on the next drive but did eat up a little bit more clock than on previous drives, taking up five minutes of possession. Fitzpatrick kept the drive alive a couple of times with his legs, but it was second-year receiver Chris Godwin that hauled in a nine-yard fade route in the corner of the end zone, giving Tampa Bay its fourth touchdown in as many drives in the half. The Bucs pulled ahead 24-17 with 4:47 left in the second quarter.
The Bucs' defense did one better on the next drive. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves forced the ball out of running back Mike Gillislee's hands which was then scooped up by safety Justin Evans and ran in 34 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bucs a 31-17 lead with over four minutes to go in the half.
New Orleans wasn't silent for long, answering on their next drive. It was receiver Michael Thomas with a six-yard catch in the back of the end zone from Brees to close the gap to 31-24, leaving less than a minute on the clock for the Buccaneers to work with. After a costly penalty negating a 65-yard play from Fitzpatrick to Adam Humphries, the Bucs would go into halftime leading 31-24 knowing they get the ball back for the start of the third quarter.
View photos of the Buccaneers' Week 1 game against the New Orleans Saints.
The Bucs began the second half with a quick first down pass to Mike Evans. The Saints were hit with two roughing the passer penalties on consecutive plays to set up first and goal for the Bucs. Things got chippy once again on third-and-goal where it was the Bucs turn to get called on a personal foul that backed them up. Catanzaro was good from 36 yards and the Bucs extended their lead to 34-24 with 11:28 left in the third.
The Saints came up empty on their next drive behind a big tackle for loss of Kamara by defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Beau Allen, followed up by a big tackle by linebacker Kwon Alexander that brought up third-and-13 for the Saints. They wouldn't convert and were forced to punt.
The Bucs would go three-and-out on their next drive and be forced to punt for the first time in the game halfway through the third quarter. The Saints followed suit on their next possession, punting for the third time in the game.
It was wide receiver Mike Evans' turn for the long play as the next drive for the Bucs resulted in a 50-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick. Evans beat Saints' cornerback Marshon Lattimore down the right sideline as Fitzpatrick aired it out and Evans cruised into the end zone to put the Bucs up 41-24 with just over three minutes to go in the third quarter.
It was the Bucs defense who came up with another takeaway on the ensuing drive. Linebacker Kwon Alexander forced the fumble from receiver Michael Thomas and it was scooped up by cornerback Ryan Smith, putting the Bucs' offense to work again.
The Bucs almost stalled on their bonus drive but after New Orleans was called for defensive pass interference, giving Tampa Bay a fresh set of downs, Fitzpatrick took a shot downfield and connected again with DeSean Jackson for a 36-yard touchdown. It gave the Bucs a 48-24 lead over the Saints and tied the mark for most points scored in a single game in franchise history.
New Orleans wouldn't go quietly. They drove down the field on a hard-fought series that ended in a one-yard run by Kamara. He tacked on the two-point conversion at the end to pull the Saints within two scores, 48-32, and under nine minutes to play.
The next possession resulted in a failed field goal attempt for the Buccaneers, keeping the score 48-32. The Saints marched right back behind Brees and Thomas connections. It resulted in another Alvin Kamara touchdown, this time on a seven-yard pass into the end zone. The Saints went for two and converted, making it a one-possession game.
New Orleans punted and the Bucs went back to work on offense to burn through three and a half minutes of clock with a 48-40 lead. They were facing third-and-11 when Fitzpatrick took off yet again to secure the first down. With no timeouts left for New Orleans, the Bucs were able to take a knee and run the clock out to come away with the win, 48-40, over the division-rival Saints to start their season off on the right foot.