Far from pretty and more than frustrating at times, the first meeting between the Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints featured plenty of defense, controversial officiating, and some late-game heroics from unlikely sources as Tampa secured a much-needed 20-10 victory.
Breaking an 0-for-7 regular season streak against their divisional foes, the Bucs forced five turnovers and sacked Jameis Winston six times as the defense made up for lagging, dysfunctional offense.
Let’s look at some of the best performers from Sunday.
Offensive Top Performer: WR Breshad Perriman
If the Bucs had lost that game, the answer here would be “no one”. Luckily, Perriman did his thing where he randomly comes up clutch out of nowhere, catching the team’s first touchdown on a dime from Tom Brady. The score put the team ahead permanently, as the defense took it from there. Perriman finished with three catches for 45 yards and the score.
Though not much else went right, we’ll shout out the offensive line for putting together an earnestly strong effort despite the challenges it faced. The game plan did not help run blocking, but Brady was kept clean all day and gave him chances to succeed despite generally poor receiver play. Brandon Walton, a third-stringer, especially held up well at left tackle when Josh Wells went down near halftime and missed the remainder of the contest.
Defensive Top Performer: CB Jamel Dean
Mike Edwards put the game away with his pick six, but Dean logged two incredible interceptions before that to set up Tampa’s first TD and skewer any Saints’ momentum. Dean has looked phenomenal the first two games.
Meanwhile, Edwards’ cherry on top only helped to further inspire confidence in this secondary becoming the elite unit it’s been capable of being for the last couple years. Antoine Winfield Jr. looked superb once again, collecting seven total tackles and a sack. Logan Ryan also made his mark with a critical forced fumble and a nice pass defensed.
Shaq Barrett looks ready to be a problem once again, as he collected two sacks and a forced fumble. He consistently gave Ryan Ramczyk, an elite right tackle, trouble throughout the afternoon.
Special Teams Top Performer: P Jake Camarda
The Bucs knew the flack they would catch from drafting a punter with an early Day 3 pick, and as such the expectations on Camarda immediately skyrocketed. As we all know, highly regarded rookie specialists have hardly fulfilled said expectations.
While the preseason looked a little shaky, Camarda has clearly settled in. He crushed his kicks all day long, and he pinned three of six inside the 20 — including two within the 10. Winning the field position battle in defensive slugfests is so critical, and Camarda played his part to perfection.
After he did the same against Dallas in Week 1, it looks like the Bucs might just have a long-term weapon.
Also, Ryan Succop deserves praise in a game where every point was precious. Making both of his kicks from 45+ yards, plus an extra point, gave the team a much-needed cushion.