The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost almost all of their playoff hopes against the New Orleans Saints, losing 31 to 24.
After winning 16-11 just two weeks ago, today’s game could not have been any more different. In a high-scoring affair, the Bucs defense simply could not keep up, with Vernon Hargreaves having a particularly poor game, though did have a few nice plays. Chris Conte, when he got on the field, did not cover himself in glory either.
Meanwhile, Jameis Winston and the offense were extremely inconsistent. A poor first-half performance was followed by a more productive but turnover-filled second half. The Bucs’ continued inability to break down the Saints defense is baffling given New Orleans’ ineptitude against basically every other offense in the NFL for years on end.
The Bucs surprisingly deactivated running back Doug Martin, who had been less a star and more a dud with 2.9 yards per carry this season. Jacquizz Rodgers took his place and did well: 15 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown is a better performance than anything the Bucs got out of Martin this year, but it wasn’t nearly enough to give the Bucs the win.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got off to a pretty bad start, particularly on offense. Jameis Winston and company couldn’t get anything done until midway through the second quarter — and even then they only got a touchdown because the defense and special teams gave them the ball at the Saints’ 39-yard line.
That second quarter Winston-to-Brate touchdown tied the game, after the Bucs gave up a whopping 91-yard touchdown to the Saints in the first quarter. Drew Brees had a lot of success leaning on the running game and dinking-and-dunking down the field in the first half, though the Saints at least struggled to turn field position into touchdowns.
That’s why, despite producing 208 yards of offense to the Bucs’ 97, the Saints led just 13-7 at halftime.
So hey, the Bucs had a great chance to get back into this game after halftime. Instead, they produced what a classic Bucs sequence to open the half. First, Josh Huff managed to muff the kickoff return and pin the team inside their own five-yard line for the second time in three weeks. On a kickoff return.
Then, Jameis Winston made a baffling decision by making a terrible throw straight to safety Jairus Byrd, giving Mark Ingram the opportunity to get a 14-yard touchdown. Saints 20, Bucs 7, and suddenly things looked a whole lot worse.
That’s apparently what it took to wake up the Bucs offense, who put together a ten-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a three-yard Jacquizz Rodgers touchdown to get back into it. One drive later, they did this:
By that point, though, the Bucs defense had largely collapsed, with Vernon Hargreaves having a particularly terrible game, giving up big catch after big catch in between bouts of receiving treatment from trainers. By the middle of the third quarter, then, the Saints led 31-21.
The Bucs were in position to come back from that, but Jameis Winston giften Jairus Byrd his second interception of the game, effectively ending the Bucs’ hopes of winning the game. They did manage to get a field goal to cut the lead to one score, but with almost no time left the Bucs couldn’t get the onside kick, and a single first down then sealed the game for the Saints.