The most important thing in a shootout is usually who gets the last shot. Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints made sure the Tampa Bay Buccaneers never got their last shot on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Khiry Robinson's 18-yard run capped an 80-yard touchdown in overtime that gave the Saints a 37-31 victory. A defensive holding call on a third-and-10 incompletion kept the drive alive near midfield and Brees later converted a third-and-nine with an 11-yard pass to TE Benjamin Watson. The Saints won the toss to start overtime, but under the NFL's modified overtime rules, the Buccaneers would have also been granted a possession had they been able to hold the Saints to a field goal.
Each team rallied from a double-digit deficit in a game that featured 825 combined yards of offense and only one sack. Tampa Bay took a 31-20 lead on rookie WR Robert Herron's first career touchdown catch in the fourth quarter but the Saints rallied with a touchdown, a safety and a 44-yard Shayne Graham field goal to tie it with just over two minutes left in regulation.
It was a second straight strong
performance on the road for the 1-4 Buccaneers, who won their first game under new Head Coach Lovie Smith a week earlier in Pittsburgh. As in that contest, the offense was led by a calm and productive Mike Glennon, the second-year quarterback filling in for injured starter Josh McCown. Glennon completed 19 of 32 passes for 249 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, also hitting WR Louis Murphy on a 20-yard scoring pass in the second quarter.
"Tough loss," said Glennon. "We did a lot of good things on all phases of the ball to get that lead that we did. This is a tough place to play. We had them right where we wanted. Our defense was forcing Drew into some turnovers and that's tough; that doesn't happen often. Our offense was clicking at the end of the first half and into the second half, but at the end of the game…we'll have to watch the film to see exactly what happened. But it's a tough way to lose. We had them up on the road at their place. We'll learn from it and get better.
That touchdown was part of a 24-point run by the Buccaneers after the Saints took a 13-0 lead. Tampa Bay's defense proved strong on third down in the red zone, holding the Saints to a pair of short field goals in the first quarter before Pierre Thomas' 15-yard touchdown catch. The Bucs' rally included a 55-yard field goal by rookie K Patrick Murray and a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown by LB Danny Lansanah. Lansanah, making his second career start, has two pick-sixes in the Bucs' last three games.
"We've got to find a way to come away with the win at the end," said Lansanah. "We left a lot out there. We did a lot of good things on offense, defense and special teams but came up short at the end. We've got to find a way to win."
The Buccaneers intercepted Brees three times. Johnthan Banks' pick late in the first half set up Murphy's touchdown, and Alterraun Verner's leaping grab of a deep pass turned away the Saints last drive in regulation. Brees threw the ball 57 times, completing 35 for 371 yards, two touchdowns and those three interceptions. He was not sacked once, though DT Gerald McCoy did hit his arm on the pass that led to Lansanah's interception.
"Coach has emphasized turnovers every day in practice, that we've got to take the ball away and give our offense an opportunity to win it, and that's what we did. We've got to get off the field in third down. That's the big thing."
The Buccaneers almost
took the last shot in regulation. After Graham's game-tying field goal, Glennon got one first down on a pass to Murphy at the Tampa Bay 34, then hit Murphy on a nine-yard pass that would have made it second-and-one near midfield with 1:35 to play. However, a holding call on Logan Mankins made it second-and-20 at the 24 instead and the Bucs couldn't recover, though Murphy nearly made a diving catch of Glennon's scrambling throw on third-and-20.
The Saints recorded the game's first three scoring drives to take a 13-0 lead five minutes into the second quarter. Completions down the middle of the field to Colston for 36 yards and to Graham for 23 yards were the key plays in the first two drives, both of which ended in short Shayne Graham field goals. The Bucs kept the score close by denying the Saints – who came into the game with the NFL's best third-down conversion rate – from converting any of their three first-quarter tries. The Saints' first successful third-down conversion came at an inopportune time for the visitors, as a screen pass to Thomas worked to perfect on third-and-12 from the Bucs' 15, pushing the Saints' lead to 13-0.
The Bucs' offense, meanwhile, struggled with penalties and dropped passes, which kept it from building any momentum. Glennon threw for just 17 yards on the Bucs' first three drives, but he also had completions of 32 and 27 yards erased by illegal formation penalties, and rookie TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins couldn't hold on to two other potential big gains. Glennon did start the Bucs' fourth drive with a nifty 32-yard pass to Jackson, but a deep shot two plays later was intercepted by CB Patrick Robinson.
However, Glennon drove the Bucs into Saints territory two more times in the first half and came away with 10 points that significantly changed the feel of the game heading into the intermission. The first of those two drives once again saw a big play erased by penalty. This time it was a 21-yard completion to Louis Murphy in the Saints' red zone that came back on a facemask call against Seferian-Jenkins, and that swing of 36 yards was too much to overcome. The Bucs settled for three points when rookie WR Robert Herron couldn't hold on to a deep pass at the Saints' five-yard line, leading to Patrick Murray's 55-yard field goal.
Fortunately, the Bucs' defense came up with a big play before the half was over, and Glennon turned it into points. CB Johnthan Banks' interception at the 40 set up a Glennon third-down, 20-yard touchdown pass to Murphy with 20 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Bucs kept their momentum going after halftime, driving 80 yards for a touchdown on the opening possession. Catches of 20 yards by Martin and 23 by Jackson keyed the march, and RB Bobby Rainey punched it in with a nine yard run to give the Bucs their first lead of the day. Lansanah's pick-six followed just a few minutes later to make it 24 unanswered points for the visiting team.
The Saints broke the run on their next drive, with Brees completing a 63-yard drive with a five-yard third-down touchdown pass to RB Travaris Cadet. Tampa Bay answered right back with an 81-yard march, the big play coming on Glennon's improvised 34-yard completion to Jackson down to the Saints' nine. Glennon found rookie WR Robert Herron in the back of the end zone two plays later for a nine-yard score.
Brees came out throwing, and his second pass was a 16-yard out to WR Kenny Stills right on the edge of the right sideline. Two plays later, DE William Gholston made a fantastic one-armed tackle of Robinson to force third-and-seven. Brees went deep to WR Robert Meachem on a post on the next snap but CB Alterraun Verner made a late burst to break it up and nearly get the interception.
Tampa Bay's first drive started at its 20 after a touchback. A Martin run and an incompletion created a third-and-eight, which Glennon appeared to convert until Seferian-Jenkins dropped a nice pass near the sideline. Michael Koenen's punt went just 38 yards to the Saints' 40.
Two plays later, Brees threw a perfect seam pass down the middle to Colston down to the Bucs' 20. S Mark Barron forced the Saints to settle for a field goal when he broke up a short pass across the middle intended for Graham. Shayne Graham booted home a 30-yard try to start the scoring.
Another missed opportunity to Seferian-Jenkins in the middle of the field left the Bucs in a third-and-seven early in the next drive but Glennon stepped up patiently in the pocket and hit Jackson underneath for a nine-yard gain. Three plays later, an illegal formation penalty erased a 32-yard catch-and-run by Martin. Glennon made up for it with a 27-yard pass to Murphy…only to have that one also erased by an illegal shift. A punt followed, with a good stop on return man Brandin Cooks and a holding penalty pushing the ball back to the Saints' 17.
Brees got the ball out to the Saints'
Photos from pregame warmups and the first half of Buccaneers vs. Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
45 with a string of underneath throws, made possible by outstanding protection. An end-around to Cooks got the ball into Bucs territory, but much of it came back on a block-in-the-back penalty. It was still enough for a first down at the Saints' 47, and two runs by Robinson got the ball to the Bucs' 35. Graham went straight down the middle of the field on the next snap catching a 23-yard pass and holding on at the 12 despite a hard hit from S Major Wright. Another PBU by Barron on a pass meant for Graham forced a third-and-nine, and a fade to Graham on the next play failed, with Barron also in coverage. The Saints doubled their lead on Shayne Graham's 29-yard field goal.
The Bucs' next drive would have been a three-and-out but it was saved by a hands-to-the-face call against S Kenny Vaccaro. Unfortunately, Martin's next run lost five yards and the Bucs still had to punt after a tricky third-and-15 screen attempt to Martin was just out of his reach.
Despite a great play for a TFL by McCoy on the Saints' first play of the next possession, the home team was quickly back in scoring territory after Brees' improvisational throw down the left sideline for TE Josh Hill for 37 yards. A defensive holding call gave the Saints a first down at the Bucs' 13 but the defense tightened up enough to force a third-and-12. The Bucs blitzed, which backfired when Brees lobbed a screen pass to Thomas, who followed a line of blockers into the end zone to make it 13-0.
It took one 32-yard play-action pass down the left numbers to Jackson to get the Bucs into Saints territory for the first time on the next possession. However, Robinson fought off Murphy on a deep pass down the left sideline two plays later to come up with an interception at the Saints' four.
The Saints got a pair of first downs to buy some room but had to punt after a deep shot to Meachem failed to hit on third-and-10. A line drive of a punt by Thomas Morstead was caught on the run by WR Solomon Patton, who got it back to the Bucs' 45 for good field position with five minutes left in the half.
Glennon started the next drive by audibling into a quick throw out to the left to Jackson, who got 12 yards. He looked for Jackson over the middle on the next play but the pass was broken up. Murphy made a one-handed grab on a crossing route on second down to make it third-and-one at the Saints' 35, and Martin made a nice cut to avoid losing yards on his third-down carry. Martin got two for a new set of downs, but a beautiful downfield completion to Murphy for 21 yards came back on a facemask penalty on Seferian-Jenkins. Two dumpoffs to Rainey made it third-and-14 at the Saints' 37, and Glennon's on-target pass to Herron was broken up by Corey White. The Bucs trusted the rookie Murray to try a 55-yarder and he rewarded them by hitting it for the team's first points just after the two-minute warning.
The Bucs got another scoring
opportunity moments later when Banks stepped in front of a quick pass out to the left sideline for RB Travaris Cadet. The two players went to the ground in a wrestling match for the ball but Banks got their first and was awarded the pick. Glennon drove the Bucs' 40 yards for a touchdown from there, converting a third-and-seven with a perfect touch pass to Murphy over a leaping Saints defender. That closed the gap to 13-10 with 20 seconds left in the half.
The Bucs got the ball first to start the third quarter but, after a touchback, faced a third-and-eight after a run and a catch by Martin gained a yard apiece. A third-down pass downfield to Seferian-Jenkins was broken up by S Rafael Bush, but a roughing-the-passer penalty on LB Junior Galette prolonged the drive. Martin caught a pass on the next play and broke free from a tackle to get into the open-field for a gain of 20 to the Saints' 43. Another screen to Martin two plays later picked up eight and a first down at the Saints' 32. Jackson slipped a tackle on a quick out and got 23 yards down the right sideline to the Saints nine. Rainey scored on the next play, finding a seam over right tackle and running in untouched.
The Bucs scored again on the next drive – New Orleans' next drive. The pocket collapsed on Brees as he tried to throw to his left on third-and-six, and McCoy hit his arm as he threw. The result was an off-target floater that Lansanah easily intercepted; there was some traffic in the 33 yards between Lansanah and the end zone but he weaved through it and eventually dived over the line for his second touchdown of the year.
Lansanah got an illegal demonstration penalty for using the football as a prop after his score, so Koenen had to kick off from the Bucs' 20. That allowed the Saints to start their next drive at their 37, and a defensive holding call bailed them out of a potential long third down. Two more first downs took it down to the Bucs' 34, and a swing pass to Cooks three plays later took it down to the 15. Robinson's run to the left made it first-and-goal at the seven, and an end-around to Cooks was bottled up at the four. A trickier underneath flip to Cooks didn't work any better, losing a yard, but Brees had time to find Cadet for a touchdown pass on third-and-goal.
Glennon got the next drive going with a 17-yard strike to Jackson over the middle on second down. After an 11-yard run by Martin got the ball to the midfield stripe, a bizarre play ensued in which Glennon's ill-advised flip was intercepted by Galette. Galette took off towards the end zone but dropped the ball and TE Luke Stocker recovered for the Bucs back at the 30. The play was reviewed, however, and it was ruled an incompletion, making it second-and-10 at the 50. Glennon moved the chains with an 11-yard strike to Seferian-Jenkins, and an illegal contact call on the next play made it first down at the Saints' 34.
A penalty on T Anthony Collins put the Bucs into a second-and-20 hole to start the fourth quarter but Glennon turned a broken play into a brilliant 34-yard completion to Jackson. As Glennon rolled left, Jackson broke off his route and headed upfield; Glennon stopped and threw back to his right, a perfect lob that Jackson caught without breaking stride. Two plays later, Glennon enjoyed a well-formed pocket and had plenty of time to find Herron in the back of the end zone.
The Saints drove back into Buccaneer territory and got down to the Bucs' 39 on a 12-yard run up the middle by Robinson. Thomas punched it in with his tackle-breaking 27-yard run, though a two-point attempt failed when Verner tackled Watson shy of the goal line on a rollout pass. That left the Bucs with a five-point lead with 9:28 to play.
The momentum swung firmly in the Saints' direction when a holding call and an aborted snap pushed the Bucs all the way back to their one-yard line on the ensuing drive. Two plays later, Galette got the game's first sack at an opportune time for the home team, dropping Glennon for a safety to pull the Saints within three points.
Photos from the second half of Buccaneers vs. Saints at the Superdome in New Orleans.
- The Buccaneers declared the following seven players inactive before Sunday's game: QB Josh McCown, WR Mike Evans, S Dashon Goldson, DE Larry English, LB Mason Foster, T Kevin Pamphile and G Kadeem Edwards. McCown, Evans, Goldson, English and Foster were out due to injury.
- The Saints' seven inactive players were WR Joseph Morgan, RB Mark Ingram, S Jairus Byrd, FB Erik Lorig, LB Ronald Powell, WR Nick Toon and NT Brandon Deaderick. Ingram, Byrd and Lorig were out due to injury.
- Sunday's game featured two pairs of brothers on opposing sidelines. Buccaneers QB Josh McCown (inactive for the game) is the older brother of Saints QB Luke McCown, who did not play. Tampa Bay's Brandon Dixon and the Saints' Brian Dixon, both rookie cornerbacks, are twins.
- K Patrick Murray's 55-yard field goal in the second quarter tied for the fourth-longest in franchise history. It was the eighth field goal of 55 or more yards in the team's 39-yard history, and the longest by a Buccaneer since Connor Barth also hit from that distance at Denver on Dec. 2, 2012.
- The Buccaneers took the opening drive of the third quarter 80 yards for a touchdown. That marked the second straight week they had driven for a touchdown on the first possession of the second half.
- Tampa Bay scored 24 unanswered points in a game for the first time since doing the same against Atlanta on January 1, 2012, the 2011 season finale.