The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have secured the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft by losing to the New Orleans Saints, 23-20. Despite playing well for the entire first half and even going up 20-7, and despite forcing three Drew Brees interceptions, the Bucs' second-half performance wasn't good enough to hang on for a win. In fact, their offensive performance in the second half was downright abysmal, scoring no points, turning over the ball once and giving up a safety.
And with that loss, the Bucs have now managed to lose every single home game for the first time since their inaugural, 0-14 season in 1976. And yes, that means this is the first time in team history that the Bucs have lost 8 home games in a single year. They'll end the season with a 2-14 record.
That's pretty horrible, and that performance is not going to sit well with anybody. The first overall pick is meager compensation for sitting through loss after loss after loss, especially for those fans in the stadium.
There were plenty of bright spots for Tampa Bay, though. One of those was the Bucs' receivers, both of them busy setting records. Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans became the first pair of Tampa Bay receivers to pass 1,000 receiving yards in the same season, and Evans later set a single-season franchise record with his twelfth receiving touchdown.
Throughout the game, the Bucs also rotated in backups, especially on defense. Some of those backups played well. Kevin Pamphile looked pretty good at right tackle, while linebacker Jason Williams and cornerback C.J. Wilson held up well on defense. The Bucs weren't trying to lose -- but they weren't exactly playing their strongest lineup on every snap, either.
In the end, the Bucs simply weren't good enough to beat the Saints. They wouldn't have been good enough had they played their starters throughout the game either.
The Bucs came out and got Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans their 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the first two plays of the game. Whatever was going to go wrong, at least they got that out of the way early.
It wasn't enough to score, though. Of course it wasn't. They needed the excellent field position provided by a Saints three-and-out to get into field goal range and get on the board first with a field goal.
After a fairly boring first quarter, the Bucs' offense got things going in the second quarter. Doug Martin started with a 45-yard run -- just his second truly explosive run of the season -- and Mike Evans capped that drive off with his twelfth touchdown of the season. And the Bucs did that without Vincent Jackson on the field, who left with a groin injury.
The Saints briefly came back with a touchdown run by Khiry Robinson, but the Bus had somehow found a way to play competent offensive football. A calm march down the field was capped off by a Charles Sim touchdown, and then the Bucs scored another field goal right before the half to go up 20-7 -- thanks to a tipped interception inside the two-minute warning.
The third quarter saw the resurgent New Orleans Saints dinking and dunking their way down the field, but Drew Brees can't keep that up forever. And his first deep throw of the half was picked off by Bradley McDougald in the endzone. That didn't lead to anything: penalties and poor blocking led to that old, familiar three-and-out for the Tampa Bay offense.
But the Tampa Bay defense continued to play well. With the Saints in scoring range again, Keith Tandy picked off Drew Brees -- the quarterback's third pick of the game. Once again the offense stalled, and the defense let the Saints get into scoring range again before they headed into the fourth quarter.
The Bucs defense finally buckled at the start of the fourth quarter, as Mark Ingram ran in the touchdown from the goal-line to narrow the Bucs lead to 20-14.
The offense may have put up some help for an embattled defense here, but instead they simply refused to pass the ball in the second half. Midway through the fourth quarter they hadn't attempted a single second-half pass, and managed just 25 total yards. That didn't make it very hard for the Saints to come back -- especially not when Josh McCown threw an interception on just his second dropback of the second half. To be fair, that was mostly receiver Tavarres King's fault.
A last-second Marques Colston touchdown then gave the Saints the 21-20 lead. That drive was a struggle for the Saints, with a fourth-down conversion along the way. But they still took the lead, and that gave the Bucs 1:57 and two timeouts to get a field goal and the win. Instead, they went backwards and gave up a safety to lose the game, 23-20.
Vincent Jackson left the game with a groin injury during the first quarter.