BUCS : AFTER THE DUST SETTLES : NEW ORLEANS
By Leo Haggerty
If anyone comes forward and said they saw the Bucs beating the Saints, I can accept that. Now, if they said they had predicted that Tampa Bay was going to come out of The Big Easy with a 48-40 victory over New Orleans, I would call them a bold face liar. For sure, nobody saw that coming.
Offensively, the Bucs were unconscious. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was, to put it simply, on fire. The Harvard grad was 21-of-28 for 417 yards and 4 TDs plus one rushing score. What was even more amazing was that the journeyman, and I use that term with great homage, signal caller averaged just under 15 yards per pass attempt. Throw in a QB rating of 97.1 or 156.3, whichever one you little heart desires, and you have Hall of Fame level numbers. Definitely a career day.
From an overland standpoint, the Bucs running game was adequate. Yes, they didn’t hit the magic 4-yards-per-carry or higher mark but Tampa Bay was able to churn out 112 yards on the ground.
Defensively, The Bucs had their share of problems and it was pretty much containing Drew Brees. #9 just as effective as Fitzpatrick going 37-of-45 for 439 yards and 3 TDs. That equated to a 93.4/129.5 QB Rating. Just a normal day at the office for a future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As you can see, both QB had monster days. So how did Tampa Bay get the win?
What Tampa Bay did successfully on defense was two-fold. First, they made the Saints one-dimensional. New Orleans only rushed 13 times for 43 yards forcing the Saints to throw more often than they wanted. Second, the Pewter Pirate defenders were able to stop the Saints on their first three possessions, two punts and a fumble recovery, of the second half. That allowed the Buccaneers offense to extend a 31-24 first half advantage to 48-24 from which New Orleans never recovered.
Special teams weren’t special but that’s not a knock on that group. They did what they needed to do. Catanzaro was two out of 3 on field goals and converted all six of his PAT attempts. The Buccaneers coverage team gave up no splash plays.
This was a huge win for Tampa Bay. It was one I didn’t think they would get so I have to reevaluate my prediction for the Bucs 2018 record. Hope I have to do a lot of that from a positive standpoint this season.