The Buccaneers went on the road to New Orleans on Sunday to play in front of a crowd of a thousand cardboard cutouts. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers did not end up on the winning side of things, and boy were there a lot of reactions coming from the media and the fans.
Let’s dig into the reactions to the game, including Tom Brady’s performance, the poor execution of the offensive line, and how the defense may still give the Bucs some hope. There’s upside on all fronts, which starts with the team captain.
Tom Brady’s performance
The Bucs won the coin toss, so they deferred to the second half. The Saints came marching in only to find themselves with a quick 3 & out (more on that later). Brady runs out on the field for his first possession as a Buccaneer and took control of the helm.
First big play of the game was a slant pass to Chris Godwin for 26 yards. It was a really well executed play, and had everyone excited for what seemed to be the beginning of something beautiful happening in Tampa Bay.
It got even more exciting when Saints corner Marshon Lattimore got his first of many defensive pass interference calls while covering Mike Evans, which gave the Bucs great field position. They ended that drive with a Tom Brady QB keeper from 2 yards.
Tom Brady picks up his FIRST touchdown as the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!— Sunday Night Football (@SNFonNBC) September 13, 2020
The keeper looked to be an audible at the line. Brady saw the A gap was free, so he took it and pushed it in. The Bucs first touchdown set the tone and proved that they had what it takes to push the ball down the field against one of the most well-balanced defenses in the league. Gil Arcia of Bucs Nation reported that Tom Brady had the most total touchdowns by a QB in their Buccaneers debut.
After the Saints scored on their next possession tying the game at 7-7, the Bucs got the ball with just over 11 minutes left to play in the 1st quarter. That’s where it went a little downhill. Brady’s first interception by safety Marcus Williams, intended for Evans. The second INT came in the 3rd quarter, which was a pick-6 by Janoris Jenkins.
Certainly poor execution. That’s what it comes down to. It’s a game of execution.
Obviously they made more plays than we did. We made some bad, terrible turnovers and it’s hard to win turning the ball over like that. I obviously have to do a lot better job.
As expected, Brady spread the ball out pretty thin. Godwin seemed to be his favorite target down the field, but that was likely by design. With Evans’ earlier injury designation as a game-time decision, Arians wanted to play it carefully and give him a light load. Evans’ only reception came at 2:41 of the 4th Quarter from 2 yards out.
Brady threw and connected with Scott Miller, Rojo, Gronk, Howard, Fournette, Watson, Evans and Godwin all for positive yards. He ended the game with 238 yards, 3 TOT touchdowns and 2 INTs.
Brady has hit Miller, Gronk, Evans, Howard and Godwin for positive yards so far. He likes to spread the ball around, and he will continue to do so.— Jason Curtis (@JCBucsNation) September 13, 2020
There’s certainly a bit of overreaction I’m seeing on Twitter from memes of Brady saying it was a mistake to come to Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston snickering, or how Brady can’t win without Belichick.
I don’t hate Brady as much as I used to in a Bucs jersey, but I still loved watching him struggle without Bill Belichick mad geniusing the game plan #systemquarterback #BucsvsSaints pic.twitter.com/0M6KNiwHLb— Michael Russo (@MRussoKOB) September 13, 2020
Offensive line still needs work
The major area of continued improvement is still with the offensive line. Donovan Smith did not have a great performance protecting Brady’s blind side. The O-line allowed 3 sacks, and did not give Brady the time he needed to make his progressions. Brady should be able to lick his wounds fairly quickly, but the O-line struggles continue on the left side.
Another bad down for Donovan Smith. Bucs are down 14-7 in second quarter, at Saints' 27. They run Fournette left, Cam Jordan gets past Smith, drops the back for a 4-yard loss. Then 5-yard sack on third down, so field goal is 9 yards longer at 53 and Saints block it easily.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 14, 2020
Arians said he was "very disappointed" in the play of left tackle Donovan Smith. "One of his poorer games" in his opinion, and something he hopes he'll bounce back from.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 14, 2020
Here’s head coach Bruce Arians on his reaction in the post game press conference on how the offensive line played.
[Brady] held the ball some. We’ll go back and watch the film, but once you get in those known passing situations, it’s tough on [the offensive line]. But they have to do their job, so I’ll go back and look at the film.
Defense is a ray of hope
The turnovers killed the Bucs. Without the 3 turnovers (1 FUM, 2 INT), the Bucs could have remained in that game with the way their defense was playing. Yes, there were a few plays to learn from, but overall they did rather well limiting the Saints offense from producing anything substantial.
The biggest takeaway for me was how the Bucs secondary shutdown the Saints biggest weapon. Michael Thomas was the lead receiver in the NFL heading into the 2020 season. He was held to 3 of 5 catches for only 17 yards. Jared Cook ended up being on the benefiting side of that with over 80 yards on 5 receptions.
Drew Brees only threw 18/30 for 160 yards. He did manage to get 2 effective touchdowns out of those, though. The only sack of the game for the Bucs was made by Jason Pierre-Paul in the 3rd Quarter for a loss of 9 yards.
Huge 3rd down sack by JPP giving the Bucs defense some momentum.— Jason Curtis (@JCBucsNation) September 13, 2020
Cornerback Jamel Dean got burned by Jared Cook for 46 yards after the Bucs potentially had the Saints on the ropes. That drive ended with a Saints touchdown.
This all started by an absolutely inexcusable play by Jamel Dean. Bucs had them on the ropes, Dean's gaff ends up leading to a TD— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) September 13, 2020
Here’s Coach Arians post game on the blown coverage.
I thought our second-half defense was outstanding other than the one busted coverage when we let [Saints TE Jared] Cook catch the ball down the sideline. Other than that, I thought it was really, really [good] in the second half. They gave us a chance to win.
I think the defensive player of the game was arguably Antoine Winfield Jr. He had 3 tackles and 3 assists, including a quarterback hit. He also nearly got a pick in the end zone on a diving attempt. He was everywhere he should be and looked like he had a good grasp of the game. The corners still need some work, but overall the secondary came together.
BREAKING:— Golden Gophs (@Golden_Gopher_) September 14, 2020
Antoine Winfield Jr is a PROBLEM! That is all. pic.twitter.com/UDapbPdHLK
Diving PBU by Antoine Winfield in the back of the end zone to force the Bucs into a FG attempt.— PewterReport (@PewterReport) September 13, 2020
“If you’re looking for a #GoBucs bright spot, Rookie OL Tristan Wirfs played great... as did Rookie Saftey Antoine Winfield”— 95.3 WDAE (@953WDAE) September 14, 2020
- @PewterReport w/ @RonnieNTL & @TKras
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Vea and Suh did not record a tackle and Gholston only had 3, but Kamara ended up getting more yards on receptions (51) than he did carries (16). The Saints were held to only 189 passing yards and only 82 rushing yards. That’s a great story to come away with.
Bucs linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White led the way with 11 tackles each in today's loss to the Saints, and defensive lineman Will Gholston had seven, including two tackles for loss.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 14, 2020