In week five, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced a huge hurdle in entering New Orleans to upset the Saints. Regardless of opinion on how the Saints have played and who the Buccaneers can be, this absolutely would’ve been an upset. With Sean Payton as their head coach, the Saints entered the dome last Sunday with an 18-game home winning streak. While the record shows that the Saints have extended that to 19, the truth of the matter is that the Buccaneers defeated themselves.
It’s hard to see the good amidst a heartbreaking last-second loss, but the signs of what this team is becoming were certainly there. A huge issue in past games has been our passing defense. On the surface, the fact that Drew Brees threw for 371 yards gives the impression it was just as bad as it had been. Considering that Brees is leading the third ranked passing offense in the NFL in yardage, that’s not too surprising a number. What showed most promise were the plays that the defense made.
Drew Brees narrowly avoided getting sacked in this game, despite a broken offensive line. That doesn’t tell the whole story. In the first four weeks of the season, the Buccaneers combined for 18 quarterback hurries betwixt all their games. Against New Orleans, they matched their season total and hurried Drew Brees 18 times in a single game. Brees is a magician at his position, so his yards were still there, but that sort of pressure is exactly what the defense has been wanting.
On the other side of the pass, the earlier games were discouraging from the perspective of defending passes and turnovers. It seemed like, once the ball was thrown, there was no choice the receiver wasn’t going to catch it. In the first four games combined, the Buccaneers managed 13 passes defended. Against the Saints, there were 11 passes defended. On top of that, the defense intercepted the Brees three separate times.
That’s the first time this season that the Buccaneers have intercepted a starting quarterback. The only other interception of the year came in garbage time against the Falcons backup TJ Yates so that we could manage a pity score and make the point differential a bit better. By the end of the game, the Buccaneers were plus two in the turnover ratio. This was largely influenced by key play from Alterraun Verner who proved why he was brought in. Gerald McCoy continued to be the beast he is, while Lavonte David managed an impressive 14 combined tackles, including two tackles for loss.
Amidst a superior defensive performance, the offense also had great rhythm and made plays despite the absence of rookie playmaker Mike Evans at wide receiver. That’s quite a bit of positives amongst an overtime loss on the road to a division rival. What went wrong? If you think back to the Steelers game, the Steelers sort of handed it to us. The Bucs played well, but made plenty of mistakes. Fortunately, the Steelers 13 penalties for 125 yards made up for that and allowed the Bucs to stay in it. Against the Saints, the Bucs committed 15 penalties for 113 yards. That’s… just… sad.
The Buccaneers seemed to shoot themselves in the foot on multiple occasions in the game. In the postgame press conference, Mike Glennon seemed to be looking for a silver lining in the safety that was given up. The defense had just stopped the Saints from managing a two point conversion, and then penalties backed the offense up far enough to hand those two points back to them. A safety isn’t as bad as punting at short field and allowing a touchdown, but neither should have had to happen. It completely negated the success of the defense in stopping the conversion.
That happened throughout the game. More than once, key third down conversions and big plays were pulled back for penalties. Glennon was on the mark more often than his stats imply, having passes dropped and penalties wipe good throws off the record books. In the end, the Buccaneers defeated themselves. While the Saints deserve some credit, it’s hard to give much given how things ended. The Saints were outplayed, but the Buccaneers kept handing them opportunities to win.
In the end, a lost coin toss and an exhausted defense couldn’t hold the Saints in overtime. Perhaps if the NFL’s overtime rules weren’t complete garbage, the Buccaneers would’ve gotten a chance at the end. The biggest issue is that it never should have even gone to overtime. This is among the most frustrating of losses. The game was close, the offense made plays, they avoided turnovers, the defense made plays and created turnovers, but in the end the Buccaneers handed the game to the Saints on a silver fifteen penalty platter. It’s just pitiful.