Saints vs. Buccaneers was scheduled to kick off just after 4 PM, and as is so often the case, some late afternoon thunderstorms came rolling in with it. Storm Team 8 report:
BUCS FANS HEADS UP! Good chance storms hold together and hit Raymond James Stadium right around kickoff (4:05 pm). pic.twitter.com/8HDGWY6Wdr — Storm Team 8 WFLA-TV (@StormTeam8WFLA) September 15, 2013
Last year, the two meetings between these teams proved to be full of fireworks, headlines and inevitable highlights, making it one of the most looked forward to games of the season in Tampa Bay. Bucs.com writer, Scott Smith, shared this stat before kickoff:
Just shy of 1,000 yards of OFF in this game last year, but both teams think they've vastly improved their Ds. Time to find out who's right. — Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) September 15, 2013
With a backdrop of grey, the Buccaneers starting defense was introduced onto the field amid fireworks and cannon blasts. After a dramatic finish last week, the fans showed their support:
The Saints received the opening kickoff and turned their first drive into three points on a 44-yard Garrett Hartley field goal as the rain began to come down. And, as foreshadowed:
After a 69-minute hiatus, the teams were back on the field. The Buccaneers first drive led to a punt, giving the Saints their first play since the rain delay took them off the field. It didn't take long for a big play. From WDAE 620/95.3:
The apparent shootout had begun and it didn't take long for the Bucs to answer back, capitalizing on the turnover. Lakeland Ledger writer Rick Brown:
Ogletree's first reception as a Buc and it goes for six. Welcome to Tampa Bay! — Rick Brown (@LedgeronBucs) September 15, 2013
With the ball back in Brees's hands, it wasn't long until the Saints struck back, ending the quarter up 10-7. From NFL RedZone:
A defining play of the game came from Bucs DE Adrian Clayborn, who connected with Drew Brees on a big sack, forcing a fumble and seemingly giving the Buccaneers great field position. Various Twitter handles addressed the hit:
Correct call on the hit on Brees - though it's very close. Lynch is right -- err on the side of safety when you hit the QB high. — Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) September 15, 2013
That unnecessary roughness call on Bucs DE Adrian Clayborn is a joke! — Todd McShay (@McShay13) September 15, 2013
Bucs Adrian Claiborne was just penalized for making what used to be known as a "tackle" — trey wingo (@wingoz) September 15, 2013
As the first half came to an end, the Saints looked in position to put more points on the board, adding to their 10-7 lead. Immediately following the two-minute warning Brees found TE Jimmy Graham for a 30-yard touchdown, but the play was reviewed.
That Jimmy Graham TD looks like it's going to be down at the 1-yard line. — Michael Fabiano (@Michael_Fabiano) September 15, 2013
First down was incomplete. On second, Goldson stood up RB Mark Ingram for a two yard loss. On third, Pierre Thomas couldn't score. Then, after a penalty on fourth down put the ball on the one-yard line, the Saints opted to go for it.
Mason Foster continues to make impact plays. Two sacks last week and now an incredible 4th-down goal-line stop on Mark Ingram. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) September 15, 2013
The Buccaneers defense began to mesh in the third quarter, though the offense still struggled to get things going. Andrew Astleford and TBO's Roy Cummings call a few possessions:
Pressure from DE Cameron Jordan gets to Josh Freeman. Opportunity for the Saints after the recovered fumble. — Andrew Astleford (@aastleford) September 15, 2013
Bucs D holds again. Lavonte David sack on 3-12 forces 42 FG. Saints 13-7, 8:04 left in 3rd Q — Roy Cummings (@RCummingsTBO) September 15, 2013
The Buccaneers offense showed signs of life. Josh Freeman unleashed a 73-yard bomb to Vincent Jackson who ran it in for a touchdown. JoeBucsFan shared the thoughts of many:
Whoa!!! — JoeBucsFan (@JoeBucsFan) September 15, 2013
However, a penalty negated the play.
Two plays later, Doug Martin found a seam up the middle, dashing for 28-yards. @JennaLaineBucs highlighted his impressive statistic in the third quarter:
That drive would end on a Josh Freeman interception, again giving the Saints an opportunity to distance themselves from the Buccaneers, but the defense would not budge. Legendary Buccaneer defender noted:
The Bucs defense keeps stepping up, this is huge after the interception — Derrick Brooks (@DBrooks55) September 15, 2013
As the game turned to the fourth quarter, the Saints again found themselves in position to put the game away. From the Bucs' 22-yard line, Brees dropped back to pass. As seen by Rick Stroud and Mr. Rich Eisen:
Foster's 85-yard return is the longest since Derrick Brooks' 97-yard INT return in 2002. — Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) September 16, 2013
That Mason Foster pick six is your clubhouse leader for defensive play of the year. It will be tough to knock out of top 10 by year's end. — Rich Eisen (@richeisen) September 16, 2013
The interception and 14-13 Buccaneer lead turned the game around, the stadium was electric. From the field, Bucs' mascot Captain Fear felt the buzz:
Throughout the final half, Twitter praised the play of the Buccaneers defense:
This almost smells like 1999 NFC championship where Bucs defense played an All World offense and held the down for as long as they could. — JoeBucsFan (@JoeBucsFan) September 16, 2013
With three minutes on the clock, the Bucs offense started to click. Freeman found his favorite target, Vincent Jackson for 20- and 18-yard gains.
Josh Freeman has really settled down this half. Making big throw after big throw. — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 16, 2013
With time running down, the Buccaneers looked to increase their lead by three, however the ball missed left. PewterReport:
The Lindell kick from 47 yards out is no good. Saints ball at their own 37. — Pewter Report (@PewterReport) September 16, 2013
In the final seconds, the Saints offense finally found their rhythm they had been missing all half. Drew Brees drove the team down the field. And the game came to a late, hard-fought and heart-breaking close.