TAMPA -- The Saints season is essentially over after squandering a fourth quarter lead against the Bucs. They were up 16-3, but let Tampa get back into the game and eventually got the lead late. New Orleans falls to 4-9 after the disappointing loss that saw their defense come on strong.
The Saints won the opening coin toss and elected to defer to the second half kickoff. Tampa ended up having a very time-consuming drive to open the game, going 72 yards in 16 plays and taking 8:35 off the first quarter clock. The Saints defense responded well in goal-to-go, shutting the door on some outside looks the Bucs were trying to do with Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette. Marcus Maye had a great series on the drive, making 6 total tackles and 4 straight to end the series.
The Bucs took a 3-0 lead from a 21-yard field goal from Ryan Succop, and New Orleans started things off with a three-and-out offensively to give the Bucs back the ball with 4:07 left in the opening frame. Thankfully, the Saints defense was able to respond by forcing a Bucs punt after a quick 4-play drive.
New Orleans was able to run off several plays on the next drive, which was highlighted by a 40-yard hookup from Andy Dalton to Rashid Shaheed. A holding call on James Hurst backed the Saints into a 2nd-and-16, and they were unable to convert and were forced to punt the ball back to Tampa early in the second quarter.
The Bucs started their next series on their own 13-yard-line, and New Orleans looked to get them off the field early, but a holding call on Alontae Taylor gave Tampa a fresh set of downs. The Saints would stand tall on two deep shots from Tom Brady, as Alontae Taylor had a good pass breakup on the first attempt, while Brady couldn't find success against Paulson Adebo on the second one to Julio Jones.
As the Saints got the ball back with 12:17 to play until the half, they put together one of their best offensive drives in recent memory, going 80 yards in 8 plays that was capped off with a 30-yard touchdown hookup to Taysom Hill from Andy Dalton. The offense got big plays from Adam Trautman and Rashid Shaheed on the drive which helped set them up. Dalton did a good job navigating the pocket on some of his plays as well.
New Orleans stood tall on their next defensive series after giving up a first down. On back-to-back plays, they forced losses with Carl Granderson and Alontae Taylor. The Saints got the ball back with 4:50, and were setup in great field position after a 41-yard punt return by Rashid Shaheed. However, the offense ended up running a three-and-out and only got a yard on their drive.
Tampa's next possession saw them start to move the ball a little after a big conversion to Mike Evans was ruled incomplete initially and then overturned to a catch. On the very next play, Brady was picked off by Demario Davis to give the Saints new life with less than two minutes to go. A big hookup to Shaheed helped move New Orleans into good position, but they had to settle for a 38-yard Wil Lutz field goal to take a 10-3 lead into the half.
New Orleans opened the ball to start the third quarter, but ran a three-and-out to start. Tampa looked to take advantage, but got backed up on their drive due to a holding call that put them into a 2nd-and-20. On the very next play, disaster struck for the Bucs, as the 3rd-and-17 play saw Rachaad White get stripped by Cam Jordan on a great hustle play that was recovered by Carl Granderson.
As the Saints took over from their own 32-yard-line, they were able to capitalize on the turnover. They rattled off a 12-play, 65-yard drive that took 7:20 off the clock, resulting in a 21-yard Wil Lutz field goal to extend their lead to 13-3. On the drive, New Orleans got a big pass hookup from Taysom Hill to Chris Olave, and they threatened to put it into the end zone inside the Bucs' 10-yard-line, but a costly 12 men in the huddle penalty backed them up. They elected to take the points over a 4th-and-2 from the Bucs' 3-yard-line.
Tampa was able to move the ball a little better on their next possession, but ended up stalling out after crossing midfield. They opened the fourth quarter with a punt facing a 4th-and-7 from the Saints' 40-yard-line, which resulted in a touchback. New Orleans was able to get some points on their ensuing series, but it was another Lutz field goal, this time good from 29 yards out. The 12-play, 69-yard drive was highlighted by big plays to Chris Olave, including him drawing a pass interference call working against Carlton Davis. Credit Carl Nassib for tipping a pass on a big 3rd-and-2 play that saw Alvin Kamara wide open.
Looking to get back into it, Tampa was shut down again by the Saints defense, who forced another three-and-out. They got their first sack of the game too by the combined efforts of Shy Tuttle and Tanoh Kpassagnon. Field position was not favorable for them, as they elected to punt back to New Orleans, who took over with 6:54 to play.
The Saints ran a three-and-out of their own, electing to throw for it on 3rd-and-1. Blake Gillikin had a strong punt that was downed at the Bucs' 9-yard-line. Tampa would put together a big drive to get into the end zone, going 91 yards in 10 plays to make it 16-10 after Brady hooked up with Cade Otton for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 3:00 left in the game. A big pass interference call on Paulson Adebo working against Mike Evans set them up, as it was a 44-yard penalty on New Orleans.
New Orleans' offense picked a bad time to go three-and-out, with them giving the ball back to Tampa with 2:39 to play in the game. They even had a chance to pick up the first down on 3rd-and-18. By the two-minute warning, the Bucs had marched to the 49-yard-line. Tom Brady helped Tampa march down the field to get to the Saints' 5-yard-line with 19 seconds left. They looked to get into the end zone after Brady found Chris Godwin, but a holding call wiped it out. They punched it into the end zone with 0:03 left after Brady hooked up with Rachaad White.
New Orleans falls to 4-9, and their season is effectively over. They'll be on the bye week.
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