The Buccaneers opened their 2018 season with a huge shootout win over the division rival Saints. The victory was Tampa Bay’s second straight over New Orleans and it put Dirk Koetter and his team atop the NFC South standings through one week. Here, we’ll look at what else went on in the division during the season’s opening weekend.
Carolina Panthers (1-0)
The Panthers started their season off on the right foot with a 16-8 home win over the Cowboys. There obviously wasn’t a lot of scoring to go around, with the Carolina defense stifling Dak Prescott and Dallas. The unit allowed just 232 total yards, with the eight points coming on a fourth-quarter touchdown and two-point conversion after the Panthers already had a 16-0 lead. Cam Newton opened the scoring in the second quarter with a four-yard touchdown run before Graham Gano made a 27-yard field goal to go up 10-0. Alex Armah scored on a one-yard touchdown run to pad the lead early in the fourth, but 16 points was more than enough for the defense.
Newton was Carolina’s leading rusher, going for 58 yards and a score on 13 carries. He added 161 passing yards on 17-of-26 passing. Luke Kuechly was the game’s leading tackler with 13 (11 solo), while the rest of the defense combined for six sacks. Kawann Short had two, Mario Addison and Wes Horton both had 1 1⁄2 and Shaq Thompson had one.
Up Next: at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
The Falcons opened their season in Philadelphia on Thursday night, falling 18-12 to the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles. It was a low-scoring affair, with former Buc Matt Bryant being the difference in the first half. After Atlanta led 6-3 at halftime on two field goals by Bryant, Jay Ajayi put the Eagles on top 10-6 early in the third quarter. Tevin Coleman later answered with a nine-yard touchdown run early in the fourth to give the Falcons a 12-10 lead. They held onto that two-point advantage until late, but Ajayi scored again with 2:19 left to give the Eagles an 18-12 lead. Matt Ryan led his offense down the field and inside the 10 of Philly in the game’s final seconds, but the offense stalled out due to some questionable red zone play-calling and a couple of bad throws.
Ryan completed just 21 of his 43 passes for 251 yards and tossed one interception. Julio Jones kept Ryan and the offense afloat in the best way he could, catching 10 passes for 169 yards. As if the close loss wasn’t enough, the defense will now be without safety Keanu Neal for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL.
Up Next: vs. Carolina Panthers (1-0)
New Orleans Saints (0-1)
Buccaneer fans know exactly what went on with the Saints on Sunday. New Orleans came out hot offensively, but its defense couldn’t slow down Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay offense. The two teams traded scores early, but a 17-14 lead early in the second quarter was the last lead of the day for the defending division champs. After the Bucs put up 17 straight points, the Saints countered with a touchdown before halftime. But their defense couldn’t hold up in the second half and the offense slowed in the third quarter. Tampa Bay went on another 17-0 run to take a commanding 48-24 lead. Drew Brees tried to lead a big comeback, but fell short in what turned out to be a 48-40 loss.
Brees was magnificent on Sunday, throwing for 439 yards and three touchdowns on 37-of-45 passing. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara were unstoppable in the passing game, with Thomas setting a Saints record for receptions (16) in a 180-yard, one-touchdown day. Kamara scored two touchdowns on the ground, but also caught nine passes for 112 yards and a score.
Up Next: vs. Cleveland Browns (0-0-1)