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Saints' Offensive Struggles Concerning in Loss to Bucs

Struggling offensive play and miscues lead to Saints downfall in Superdome.

NEW ORLEANS -- There's going to be a lot of questions to answer after Sunday's Saints performance against the Bucs. The defense did a pretty stellar job of controlling things, but the offense really struggled. There were some obvious issues throughout the game that led to the Saints losing 20-10 to Tampa Bay in Week 2.

Game Recap

The Saints started on offense after the Bucs won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. New Orleans proceeded to rattle off an 11-play, 63-yard to open the drive, powered by big runs from Mark Ingram and Taysom Hill. They had four rushes on the drive, averaging 9 yards per carry on them. The drive ended up stalling in the red zone, however, as Jameis Winston couldn't hook up with Chris Olave on a 3rd-and-5. Wil Lutz would convert from 31 yards out to put up the first points of the game, as the Saints took a 3-0 lead at 9:02 of the first quarter.

The first offensive possession looked promising for the Bucs, as they rallied from tough 1st and 2nd Down plays to pick up two 3rd-and-long situations. Scotty Miller and Mike Evans were key on their first drive, but disaster struck for them inside the Saints' 30-yard-line when Tom Brady fumbled a snap on 3rd-and-1 that was recovered by Demario Davis to give the Saints back the ball with 4:21 left in the opening quarter.

New Orleans couldn't do anything with the turnover, as they ran off a 6-play, 17-yard drive that was extended after Keanu Neal picked up a personal foul unnecessary roughness penalty after a Lavonte David sack on Jameis Winston. The Saints rolled in Taysom Hill for 3rd-and-3, and he ended up having a 2-yard loss on the play that lead to a Blake Gillikin punt. 

With the first quarter winding down, the Bucs pieced together an 8-play, 68 yard drive. Brady found Mike Evans for another big hookup that sprung their offense into Saints territory, converting a 41-yard hookup that was followed up by a 13-yard Leonard Fournette run. The Saints defense tightened up, and it came down to a 4th-and-1 gamble by the Bucs, but Fournette was stuffed by Carl Granderson as the Saints took over on downs with 12:12 left until the half. 

The Saints offense ran a quick three-and-out on the ensuing possession, which saw Winston unable to hookup with Chris Olave on the deep ball on a 3rd-and-6 play. Tampa had a three-and-out of their own, despite starting with good field position from midfield. The pressure almost got home to Brady on 1st Down, and Pete Werner made a great play on Fournette on 2nd-and-8. Tampa took a false start on the ensuing 3rd Down play, and Bradley Roby made an excellent tackle on the pass play to Russell Gage to get the Bucs off the field.

The Saints took over with 8:20 left in the half, and had an interesting 8-play drive that only went for 27 yards with their next possession. They ended crawling out of their own 7-yard-line after Winston connected with Michael Thomas for a 13-yard pickup on 3rd-and-10. Thomas picked up an offensive pass interference penalty two plays later, but the Saints ended up picking up another first down. Winston tried Olave for another deep shot, as Olave got behind the defense, but it didn't connect. Winston tried to scramble on 3rd-and-2, but was stripped by Shaquil Barrett. James Hurst would recover, and the Saints would punt back to Tampa with 3:09 left to play in the half.

New Orleans would force a three-and-out for a second straight drive, getting a chance to operate in the two-minute offense, but a short drive that ended in a punt back to Tampa with under 30 seconds over a 57-yard attempt from Lutz was the decision.

Second Half

To open the third quarter, the Bucs started with an 8-play, 19-yard drive. Both teams ended up trading holding calls on the drive, but a bigger one for the Bucs saw them pick up a big 3rd-and-10 play from a Bradley Roby holding call. However, the Saints defense would stand tall and get off the field after frustrating Brady some more. New Orleans ended up running a quick three-and-out with their opening possession.

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The Bucs finally got on the scoreboard on their next possession, going 28 yards in 9 plays to convert a 47-yard Ryan Succop field goal to tie things at 3-3 with 6:44 left in the third quarter. Big plays included 10-yard hookups to Breshad Perriman and Russell Gage. The New Orleans defense made a big stop on 3rd-and-11 to force the field goal.

The Saints looked to storm back on their next offensive drive after being rather lethargic. They had a good-looking drive going, marching 65 yards in 9 plays. Dwayne Washington was a big part of the success, as well as a hookup to Michael Thomas with some toe-drag swag in the early stages of the drive. Unfortunately, as the Saints got inside the 20-yard-line, Mark Ingram fumbled it after a 10-yard gain to give the Bucs back the ball with 1:11 to play in the quarter.

The Saints looked to put a damper on the next Tampa drive after a quick three-and-out, but a costly 12-men on the field penalty gave the Bucs a fresh set of downs prior to the punt. The Saints stood tall, once again, but then we had a crazy event unfold after a deep pass attempt from Tom Brady failed to Scotty Miller. Brady went up to the official to ask for a call, and Marshon Lattimore said something to him. Leonard Fournette came in to shove Lattimore, who pushed back, and then Mike Evans put a cheap shot on Lattimore. Both Lattimore and Evans were disqualified.

Just two plays into the Saints offensive drive, Winston once again tried the deep shot to Olave in the end zone, but it was picked off by Jamel Dean to give the Bucs back the ball with 11:48 left in the game. The Bucs pieced together a 9-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in the game's first touchdown after Brady hooked up with Breshad Perriman from 28 yards to take a 10-3 lead with 7:44 to play. The Saints got called for several penalties on the drive, some very questionable.

Seeking to answer, New Orleans turned it over on the second play of the drive after Winston was sacked on the first. It was another pick by Jamel Dean. The Bucs didn't gain any yards on their possession, but extended their lead to 13-3 with 5:50 to play after Succop knocked it through from 47 yards out.

The offense once again looked to get something going in the hurry-up, but disaster struck just several plays into it after Winston threw his third interception of the day, this time a pick-six by Mike Jenkins that was returned for 67 yards. The Bucs took a 20-3 lead with 4:11 to play.

The Saints finally found the end zone after struggling most all day, going hurry-up and quick tempo to put together a 6-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by Winston finding Michael Thomas for a 7-yard touchdown. A big 42-yard defensive pass interference call on Carlton Davis certainly helped out, as New Orleans was able to capitalize and make it 20-10 with 3:02 left in the game.

After stopping the Bucs on defense, New Orleans came out aggressive, as Winston hit Olave on a deep shot to begin the drive for a 51-yard gain, but he fumbled going to the ground for a fourth Saints turnover. They'd get the ball back with just over a minute to play after stopping Tampa, but they weren't able to put anything together and the clock ran out.

The Saints will travel next week to take on the Panthers in Charlotte for Week 3, looking to rebound, followed by the team departing for London for Week 4's game against the Vikings.

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