Cadillac Williams. Michael Spurlock. Ronde Barber. Three old names from the Buc's past showed up in the present to help the Bucs score 20 unanswered points and steal a win in New Orleans. After a 38-7 thrashing in Tampa earlier in the season, the Bucs abandoned the Man Contain defense of Bates and went back to old faithful, the Tampa Two. In the first real test, the Bucs D gave up some plays, but ultimately settled down and held the Saints offense in check, no easy task for anyone this year.
The game seemed to be out of reach early as the Saints marched to a 17-0 lead courtesy of a Brees TD pass, Thomas TD run and a seemingly endless supply of 8 yard gains. The Bucs were able to stop the bleeding with an end of the half field goal to make it 17-3. While the Saints came out flat in the second half, the Bucs appeared ready to go, taking control by utilizing a balanced attack, which ended in Cadillac scoring from 23 yards out. Then, a familiar name gave the Bucs the play of the day. Michael Spurlock, the first Buccaneer to ever return a kickoff for a TD in a regular season game fielded a punt at his own 23 yard line, juked left, broke a tackle, and was off to the end zone to tie it up.
The Saints weren't done yet though. After a bizarre set of 4th down plays, the Saints were able to turn the 2 minute drill into their own personal showcase. They moved down the field, capped off by a missed tackle by Sabby that allowed the Saints to set up for a 37 yard field goal, almost impossible to miss. Well Garrett Hartley did us a favor and hooked it wide left, sending the Bucs and Saints to overtime.
In overtime, it took one possession, featuring Cadillac Williams to take the ball to the Saints 31, where Connor Barth would hit a game winning 47 yard field goal. Not quite the biggest upset this year, but a great win for the Bucs, their organization, and their fans. If nothing else, it showed us the players haven't quit, and that there are things, players, and trends to be optimistic about.
Josh Freeman was shaky in the first half, but settled down to a controlled quarterback in the second half. Kellen Winslow made a few nice grabs and continued his excellent season with the Bucs. Barth rebounded from some tougher days and made his two field goals, including the game winner. And finally, Cadillac Williams roared to a 100 yard day, totalling 24 carries for 129 yards and a TD to go with 3 catches for 19 yards.
In other news, the Bucs finished with 33 pass plays to 32 run plays, a nice, balanced attack. This opened up room for Freeman to operate, to utilize the play action pass and gave some breathing room to the running attack. For the second straight game, the running game was featured, or at least utilized, and it allowed the Bucs to control the clock (36:15 to 30:39) keeping Brees and the Saints offense on the bench.
The Bucs also converted 58% of their 3rd down attempts, and like the Tampa defense of old, had a sack and a turnover (fumble recovery) on the defensive side of things. And on a personal note, this may be one of Cadillac's last games as a Buc. Congrats to him (and the OL) for eclipsing the 100 yard mark. He should finish the year with over 800 yards rushing on a team where carries were split.
The Bucs should probably thank the Saints. Afterall, it was their dominant performance that prompted Morris to can Bates and his scheme and go back to more familiar ground. Without that butt kicking, who knows what defense we might employ today.
This puts the Bucs at 3-12 for the year, certainly nothing to celebrate, but with back to back wins for the first time since early 2008 and a chance to close the season either 3-0 or 2-1, there is a lot to be positive about. There are still some concerns, most notably the tackling problems and penalty/discipline issues that seem to crop up every week. Bu though it has been a bumpy, frustrating year, there are now a few bright spots, especially as of late for the Bucs to be encouraged by.