TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally learned how to close out a game last week in their first win in over a month against the Arizona Cardinals. But Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, it appeared they forgot how to start one, falling behind 20-0 in the second quarter before losing to the New Orleans Saints, 34-17.
The Saints smothered quarterback Jameis Winston, resulting in four interceptions and a fumble (which the Bucs recovered). They doubled up on Mike Evans (again). They dominated the line of scrimmage in the run game, resulting in negative yardage for Ronald Jones, and they capitalized on the Bucs’ double coverage of Michael Thomas, allowing Alvin Kamara to run free.
QB breakdown: Even with a healthy offensive line and a better screen game -- neither of which Winston had when he faced the Saints in Week 5 -- Winston was sacked twice and hit 12 times. He was noticeably limping by the game’s end and struggled to step into his throws. A fourth-quarter pass intended for Evans went high and was instead pick-sixed by Marcus Williams.
When Winston did manage to get the ball to his targets, they squandered opportunities. Tight end O.J. Howard inexplicably attempted to juggle a first-quarter pass behind his body, resulting in an interception at the Tampa Bay 17 and the Saints’ first TD of the day.
Winston’s best moments came when he found rookie speedster Scotty Miller deep in the second quarter, with Miller hauling in a 48-yard pass on a corner route against C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and running back Peyton Barber snagging a 6-yard touchdown three plays later. In the third quarter, Winston also beat the blitz and found receiver Chris Godwin on a 30-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown to make it 27-17 with 1:22 to go in the quarter.
Secondary shuffling: With Vernon Hargreaves’ departure, the Bucs started Carlton Davis and rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting on the outside with rookie safety Mike Edwards in at nickelback -- a new wrinkle -- with Jordan Whitehead and Andrew Adams as their two starting safeties. Drew Brees wound up competing 80% of his passes and throwing for three touchdowns, while Thomas caught eight passes for 114 yards, becoming the 10th player to record 100 receiving yards against the Bucs this year.
Key stats: Just one week after Brees was sacked six times by the Atlanta Falcons, the Bucs were not able to get him down once, even without guard and former first-round draft pick Andrus Peat. On a week when the Bucs really needed their pass rush to step up and help an even younger and more vulnerable secondary on the back end, they were unable to deliver.