Riding a three-game winning streak and sitting atop the NFC South heading into a Sunday Night Football game against the division rival Saints, the Buccaneers seemed primed for a big statement victory. Instead, they were dominated from the opening drive and run out of Raymond James Stadium, losing 38-3.
As a result of the 35-point defeat, the largest of Tom Brady’s career, Tampa Bay lost its slim division lead and now sits in second place heading into the final seven games of the season. It was truly one of the worst losses in franchise history, especially when you consider the talent in that locker room and the magnitude of the matchup itself. Now, the Bucs will have to get back to work and figure things out heading into their Week 10 road trip to face the Panthers.
Before we turn the page to that Week 10 game and the rest of the league slate that comes with it, let’s check in on how Week 9 went for the rest of the NFC South, shall we?
New Orleans Saints (6-2)
The Saints entered Sunday night’s game in Tampa having won five straight games, though they hadn’t looked all that impressive for much of that streak. Well, they were certainly impressive against the Bucs, winning 38-3 and dominating from the opening kickoff until the clock hit triple zeroes. New Orleans quickly went up 14-0 after one quarter and with its defense suffocating Tampa Bay’s offense, that lead grew to 31-0 by halftime. The second half was a quieter one, but the game was obviously well in hand before anyone even thought about halftime. The visitors put up 420 yards on 73 total plays on their way to blowing the Bucs (194 yards on 46 plays) out of the water. It was a complete clinic for the Saints, who—according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric—put up the single best performance of any team this century.
Drew Brees spread the ball around magnificently all night, hitting 12 different receivers on his way to a 222-yard, four-touchdown day on 26-of-32 passing. Adam Trautman, Emmanuel Sanders, Tre’Quan Smith and Josh Hill all caught touchdowns, while Taysom Hill did it all for the offense. He ran for 54 yards on seven carries, caught one pass for 21 yards and completed both of his passing attempts for 48 yards. And as good as the New Orleans offense was, the defense was just as good. David Onyemata, Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams all intercepted Tom Brady in the win while holding the Bucs to just one field goal.
Up Next: vs. San Francisco 49ers (4-5)
Atlanta Falcons (3-6)
The Falcons picked up their second straight win—and their third in the last four games—on Sunday, beating the visiting Broncos by a score of 34-27. A strong first half helped Atlanta get out to a 20-3 lead after the first 30 minutes, and that lead was eventually pushed to 34-13 in the fourth quarter. Denver scored the game’s final 14 points, but the deficit was too big to overcome this time. It was another promising game for the Falcons, who continue to be led by interim head coach Raheem Morris after Dan Quinn was fired last month. Morris’ team was outgained 405-363, but it won time of possession by holding the ball for 33:27 to the Broncos’ 26:33. It wasn’t a perfect afternoon for Atlanta, but it was still one that was good enough to get the team out of the NFC South’s basement.
Matt Ryan had a pretty strong performance in the win, completing 25 of his 35 pass attempts for 284 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. His leading receiver was Olamide Zaccheaus, who caught four passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was a 51-yarder in the first quarter, helping push the Falcons’ lead to 10-0 early. In addition to Zaccheaus, Julio Jones and Brandon Powell both caught touchdowns from Ryan, while Todd Gurley ran for one in his 19-carry, 53-yard day. The defense wasn’t all that spectacular—especially late—but it still totaled six passes defended and nine quarterback hits in the game while forcing one turnover, which was a Ricardo Allen interception.
Up Next: BYE WEEK
Carolina Panthers (3-6)
The Panthers played the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs extremely tough on Sunday before ultimately falling 33-31 on the road. The return of Christian McCaffrey helped spark the Carolina offense and helped the team take a 17-13 lead into halftime. But Kansas City came out stronger in the second half, taking a 26-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. But the Panthers weren’t done, as they got within 26-24 before allowing another touchdown to fall behind 33-24. A late McCaffrey touchdown brought them back within two points with 1:53 left and Joey Slye did have a chance to win the game late with a 67-yard field goal attempt, but the kick was no good. It was a tough loss for Carolina, which outgained the 8-1 Chiefs 435-397 while winning time of possession 38:01-21:59. With the defeat and their prior loss to the Falcons, the Panthers are now at the bottom of the NFC South.
McCraffrey had a strong return for the Panthers on Sunday, playing for the first time since getting injured in Week 2 against the Bucs. He ran for 69 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries while also catching 10 pases for 82 yards and a touchdown. Teddy Bridgewater was fantastic as well, completing 36 of his 49 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns, with one going to McCaffrey and the other going to Curtis Samuel. Samuel was the team’s leading receiver, catching nine passes for 105 yards. The defense was strong against the Chiefs’ rushing attack, but Patrick Mahomes had a huge day. He threw for 372 yards and four touchdowns, with Travis Kelce (10 catches, 159 yards) and Tyreek Hill (nine catches, 113 yards, two touchdowns) both having monster days.
Up Next: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)