The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints in a rousing 26-9 victory on Sunday afternoon, solidifying their place atop the NFC South. The Bucs' defense controlled the game from its inception and kept the home team out of the end zone in the Superdome. Offensively, Tampa Bay achieved a balanced attack to ignite the play-action game. Baker Mayfield navigated the pocket with poise and guided the team to a tally in the win column, throwing three touchdown passes to three different targets.
"I thought it was a complementary football game against a really tough team," said Baker Mayfield. "Good matchup for us – we were physical, we made plays on offense and the defense shut them down. I think it was the most complementary football game we've had to date."
In a new Mayfield-led era, the Buccaneers silenced doubters in the Big Easy against a divisional foe. Tampa Bay advances to 3-1 and enters the bye week on a high note. Here are the top takeaways from Sunday's division clash with the Saints:
The Buccaneers' offense outgained the Saints in total net yards by 353-197. A week after totaling just 44 yards on the ground against the Eagles, Tampa Bay achieved balance. In Week Four, the Bucs amassed 114 yards on the ground, as a combination of gap, zone and duo schemes opened up lanes and stimulated play-action. The Bucs frequently put shifty receiver Deven Thompkins in motion, and the threat of his speed drew additional coverage to the sideline, which led to creases for Baker Mayfield to exploit with his legs. Rachaad White showcased less hesitancy, quickly getting north after hitting the accelerator. After the Bucs only had four total runs of 10-plus yards through the first three games of the 2023 slate, the team already had three through the first half of the showdown against New Orleans.
Mayfield finished the outing completing 25 of 32 attempts for 246 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for a 116.9 rating. He showed off his improvisation skills, evading pressure to keep drives alive. Mayfield scrambled for 31 yards and the Bucs converted eight of 13 third down attempts. In the second quarter, Mayfield eluded pressure and pitched the ball to a wide-open Cade Otton for the score, which capped off an impressive 17-play, 87-yard drive. The score was set up by an orbit motion by Deven Thompkins for YAC, a saavy route by Mike Evans who faked the vertical and subsequently cut out for the first down and an underneath pitch to White from a no-huddle look that led to first-and-goal. The second touchdown came right before the half, as Mayfield floated the ball to Trey Palmer in the back of the end zone, making it a 14-3 ballgame. The Palmer touchdown came after Antoine Winfield Jr. forced and recovered a fumble by Saints' fullback Adam Prentice at the New Orleans six. The last touchdown came in the fourth quarter, as Mayfield displayed patience and vision, while Thompkins showcased his leaping acrobatics. Earlier in the drive, Thompkins converted a critical third down with a nasty release. He faked like he was going outside, the defensive back bit and then Thompkins worked back inside and turned his body towards Mayfield for the gain. A few plays later, Thompkins drew a holding call on Demario Davis which opened things up across midfield for Chris Godwin and a 42-yard gain. It was only fitting that Thompkins would seal the drive with a touchdown. Mayfield faced pressure from a blitz on third-and-goal and Thompkins knew he was in trouble. He continued running to the right corner of the end zone, Mayfield threw it and Thompkins leapt in the air, laying out for the grab. That play – as Thompkins' body soared parallel to the floor – iced the win for Tampa Bay on the road.
In an uncharacteristic performance against the Eagles in Week Three, the Bucs' defense allowed over 400 yards to Jalen Hurts and cast. A week later, Tampa Bay's defense held the Saints' offense to just 197 yards of offense and 3.2 yards per play. The unit did not allow a single touchdown and put the clamps on Alvin Kamara. Kamara, who returned from a three-game suspension, was held to just 84 yards from scrimmage. The Bucs stifled the Saints' screen/perimeter game starring Kamara and Rashid Shaheed and prevented YAC yards off quick shovel passes. Chris Olave was held to just one pass for four yards. Tampa Bay's defense rallied to the football, with Antoine Winfield Jr. leading the charge inside the Superdome. In addition, menacing nose tackle Vita Vea finished with two sacks and a forced fumble that stalled the Saints' final drive.
Antoine Winfield Jr. became the catalyst on Sunday afternoon, notching a forced fumble/recovery, a team-high nine tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a pass defensed in the end zone in the third quarter. He became the first player with that stat line since Bobby Wagner accomplished the feat in 2018. Winfield joins elite company, as he and Patrick Queen are the only NFL players with 30-plus tackles and two-plus sacks.
Even more impressive than his peanut punch on New Orleans' six-yard line that set up a Tampa Bay touchdown just before the half, was his freak sequence in the third quarter. From first-and-10, Shaq Barrett reacted and chased Kamara to the boundary, which forced him to bubble, and Winfield dropped Kamara for a loss behind the line of scrimmage. Two plays later, Winfield broke up a potential touchdown to Olave in the end zone. Winfield stayed with Olave, matching him stride-for-stride, and watched his eyes to knock the ball down as it arrived. No. 31 played with relentless urgency, making plays sideline to sideline. From blitzing, chasing rushers to the sideline, stonewalling rushers at the point, to manning the post, Winfield did it all on Sunday afternoon. With an understanding of leverage, Winfield's angles to the football were proficient against the run and pass. His recognition of play designs and anticipation in space is elite. With ballhawking twitch and outstanding range, Winfield put on a show in New Orleans. He is cementing his status as one of the best safeties in the NFL and Sunday served as evidence.