Well that was rough. The New Orleans Saints couldn’t rise to the occasion when the chips were down against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, falling short on Sunday and starting their fifth consecutive season with a 1-1 record. Let’s get into it.
Final score: Buccaneers 20, Saints 10
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Quarterback Jameis Winston went into the game having been diagnosed with four fractured vertebrae, and he probably shouldn’t have tried to play through the pain. Too often he was tentative to tuck the ball and run for an easier first down than he tried to find through the air. It got worse as the day wore on. Reports say it’s a pain tolerance issue, and it sure seemed like that was impacting his concentration as he accumulated more hits. If the Saints expect improvement by next week, they should have just waited it out.
Left guard Andrus Peat briefly stepped into the injury tent but was able to return, though his injury was undisclosed.
Safety Marcus Maye also received attention in the tent but left the game and was escorted to the locker room by a member of the training staff. Veteran backup P.J. Williams filled in for him. He was later said to be questionable to return with a wrist injury.
It was over when...
Things took a turn for the worse when the Buccaneers defense made a good play to punch a fumble out of Mark Ingram’s arms deep in Tampa Bay territory, which may have otherwise been a scoring opportunity for New Orleans. That led to a really nasty sequence after a Saints defensive stand. Mike Evans cheap-shotted Marshon Lattimore, starting a fight that got them both ejected. Winston was intercepted for the first time a few minutes later.
That’s when the referees stepped in. Shawn Hochuli’s crew called two bogus fouls on the Saints defense on the ensuing possession to grant Tampa Bay two first downs and 20 yards of field positioning, which put Brady in position to score a 28-yard touchdown pass. Hochuli’s squad ranked among league leaders in penalty flags last season and called a dozen fouls in Week 1. They again inserted themselves into the game here and impacted the outcome, which is really unfortunate.
Still, that touchdown pass established a lead that the Saints couldn’t overcome. Winston threw two more interceptions, one of them returned 67 yards for a defensive score, adding to a total of five turnovers on the afternoon.
Saints' top performers
Passing: Quarterback Jameis Winston completed 25 of 40 pass attempts for 236 yards, scoring 1 touchdown pass but throwing 3 interceptions. He was sacked 6 times, losing 30 yards.
Rushing: Running back Mark Ingram II ran 10 times for 60 yards, with his longest carry gaining 12 yards.
Receiving: Wide receiver Chris Olave caught 5 of his 13 targets for 80 yards, but fumbled at the end of a 51-yard gain to set up Tampa Bay’s final possession.
Defense: Defensive tackle Shy Tuttle was credited with 9 tackles (2 solo) and half a sack, as well as a big pass breakup at the line of scrimmage.
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The Saints will hit the road to face the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. The 0-2 Panthers fell short to the New York Giants on Sunday. The Panthers aren’t any good, but they beat the Saints at home last year and New Orleans won’t win many more games if their offense continues to flail around like it did on Sunday.