Saints spoil Tom Brady's Bucs debut in weird Week 1 showdown
The New Orleans Saints are 1-0 and the early leader in the NFC South after Sunday after knocking off the Buccaneers. It was a game that had a little bit of everything, both sloppy and good football. It was nice just to see things back to normal, so to speak, but Sean Payton and company take Round One against Tom Brady.
The Saints opened with the ball to start the game, but resulted in a stalled drive after starting out on a high note with Drew Brees connecting with Taysom Hill for a 14-yard gain. The Bucs capitalized on their first offensive drive, marching down the field with little resistance on a 9-play, 85-yard drive that resulted in a Tom Brady keeper for the game's first points. The Saints had two pass interference penalties on the drive, one by Malcolm Jenkins and the other by Marshon Lattimore.
After trading some stalled drives, the Saints started to settle in towards the end of the first quarter. Brees hit Jared Cook on a big 3rd and 8, and it helped New Orleans pilot an 11-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a 12-yard Alvin Kamara screen play for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
The Saints would get the ball right back after Marcus Williams picked off Brady after he and Mike Evans weren't on the same page, and New Orleans would benefit from a defensive pass interference call to help set up a 6-yard rushing touchdown from Kamara to take a 14-7 lead.
Tampa Bay looked to threaten, especially after getting a big penalty go there way after Marshon Lattimore was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after getting into it with Evans, but Trey Hendrickson made a big 3rd down play by sacking Brady to force a long field goal attempt that got blocked by Margus Hunt, who was called up from the practice squad for the game. New Orleans was able to get a field goal of their own out of it, putting together a 10-play, 44-yard drive to take a 17-7 lead with 44 seconds left before the half. Brees had a sure touchdown to Kamara two plays before, but Shaquil Barrett made a great play to knock the ball away.
The Bucs received the second half kickoff and were looking to make some adjustments to get in gear, but the Saints defense had other plans. Just a few plays in, Brady was picked off by Janoris Jenkins, who took it back all the way for a New Orleans touchdown to go up 24-7.
Brady would come right back, cashing in on a short field after Marcus Williams was called for a long pass interference penalty on Mike Evans that set up an easy O.J. Howard receiving touchdown to cut the Saints lead to 24-14. The Saints offense would hit the wall on their ensuing possession, going -5 yards in 3 plays. The Bucs would an 8-play, 69-yard drive afterwards to get a field goal in to trim the Saints lead down to 7.
The Saints offense looked pretty flat for a bit, but finally woke up and strung together a 6-play, 61-yard drive that included a big 46-yard connection to Jared Cook. They'd also get a big first down conversion on a great play by Emmanuel Sanders, who took the very next play in for a 5-yard scoop and score to put the Saints back up two touchdowns 31-17 with 11:38 to go.
They'd get the ball right back after a penalty was assessed from the Sanders score that was enforced on the kickoff, where Thomas Morstead pooched it and the Bucs receivers had issues with securing it. Bennie Fowler, who was also called up from the practice squad, pounced on it. It led to a Wil Lutz field goal, extending the Saints lead to 34-17.
The Bucs would add a late score to cut into the Saints lead with less than 3 minutes to play, as Mike Evans finally got on the stat sheet with a 2-yard touchdown reception. The ensuing onside attempt was recovered by Ty Montgomery. The Saints would pull some crazy wizardry to help run out the clock, and even had a late Alvin Kamara rushing touchdown overturned, but still managed to preserve their first win of the season.
New Orleans (1-0) will travel next week to take on the Las Vegas Raiders (1-0) on Sunday Night Football.