The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were missing their top three wide receivers, top two left tackles, No. 1 center, and key third-down back with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter on Sunday. In spite of being labeled as questionable on the injury report, their leading rusher was seemingly playing on one leg, and their quarterback was acting frustrated like he usually does when facing up against an opponent.
How detrimental were things for the Saints? The best throw Tom Brady had made up to that point had been a sideline tablet smash. His helmet to the sideline turf was his best soft toss. It was a wonder the teams were even knotted on the scoreboard given how many things were going wrong for him and the offense, including injuries, botched blocking assignments on fourth-and-short situations, and red-zone blunders.
Brady demonstrated why he is regarded as the best player in game history when given the chance to put his offensive difficulties behind him. Football teams with championship DNA, though, look forward, not backward. On third-and-5, he held his ground in the pocket and patiently waited before releasing a brilliantly placed pass to Breshad Perriman, who snagged it for a 28-yard touchdown.-NFL
The Bucs took the lead for the first time in the game with this touchdown, which came one play after a midfield altercation that saw two players — including Pro Bowl WR Mike Evans — ejected. The Bucs went on to defeat the Saints 20-10 in front of a boisterous Caesars Superdome crowd of 70,040.
Even though it was only one game, the results were highly significant emotionally. The Bucs had not triumphed in New Orleans since 2018 and have dropped seven straight regular-season contests to the Saints. They were about to make it eight quarters without scoring a touchdown against them when Brady connected with Perriman, who is arguably the team’s fifth-best wide receiver.
Regardless of the outcome, it was not going to make or break their season, but it may go a long way toward assisting them in dealing with future adversity, something coach Todd Bowles seemed to allude to when he said, “We’re finally getting psychologically strong,” to me in the locker room.
Without the proper mental attitude, winning a game like the one on Sunday is impossible. The Buccaneers, who are 2-0 and alone at the top of the NFC South standings, overcame a lot. They had to play without wideouts Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee), lose Evans, play without center Ryan Jensen (knee), lose third-down back Gio Bernard to injury, play without running back Leonard Fournette because of a sore hamstring, lose a fumble at the Saints’ 26, and But when I left, I couldn’t shake the following thought:
Can the Bucs win games even after losing players?
Jensen was lost during boot camp. Along with left tackle Donovan Smith (elbow), Jones and Godwin were inactive. Just before halftime, they suffered injuries to defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (foot) and replacement tackle Josh Wells (calf). Additionally, they are reliant on a few players, namely Fournette and Evans, who are playing despite medical issues.
They are now unaffected by attrition in terms of wins and losses, and they may remain unaffected as long as their defense performs well. When your squad is as strong as Tampa Bay’s is, you need to be competing in every game.
Brady will undoubtedly receive praise for his touchdown pass to Perriman, and he should, but it would not have mattered if it weren’t for Tampa’s defense’s dominance, which allowed a field goal on its first series before shutting down the Saints.
The following outcomes occurred in Tampa Bay’s final seven defensive series: downs, fumble recovery, interception, interception returned for a touchdown, Saints score, interception, interception, and downs. Only one of the Saints’ eight offensive drives in the second half went beyond six plays, and even that nine-play stretch ended with a turnover for New Orleans.
Linebacker Lavonte David said, “It just shows the resiliency, the heart, that a lot of people have. “Back to complementary football we go. We always claim that we are engaged in a battle with both the defense and the offense of the opposition while we are on the field. We need to outperform their defense with more plays. Today, we were able to meet the task. Everyone that needed to make a play did so. We ultimately won as a result of that. And winning in such a setting is significant. You must go get it if you want it.”
The Saints’ defense seemed up to the task for three and a half quarters, but that’s when cornerback Marshon Lattimore committed an athletic fault. He waved his hand dismissively at Brady as Brady crossed his path to contest a non-interference ruling after defending on a third-down incomplete pass.
Brady turned to Lattimore right away and started joking with him. Lattimore replied by giving Fournette a push or punch to the facemask at that point. It started after that. Then, when a major brawl broke out near the middle, Evans, who had been making his way toward the sideline, entered the fray and violently shoved Lattimore to the ground.
“In New Orleans, we are. That’s how it is. That’s how things work “explained Evans. “I have no idea why he was acting a little too emotionally. He punched one of my teammates, and I won’t stand by and allow it to happen.”
The tension increased when Evans and Lattimore were dismissed. Two plays later, when Jameis Winston of New Orleans tried to target Chris Olave on a long post, Jamel Dean intercepted him, providing an answer to the question of how that atmosphere will affect the teams. Considering how effectively, if not cautiously, Winston had played up to that moment, it was out of character for him that afternoon.
He may have given in to the scrum’s emotions and become ungrateful, which cost him. Following a 9-yard pass on third-and-10, a Saints defense that had been playing so well started to harm itself, as evidenced by Bradley Roby being flagged for unnecessary roughness for hitting tight end Cameron Brate in the head. When edge rusher Cam Jordan was penalized for holding on second-and-8 two plays later, the Buccaneers gained another first down.
That was the entrance that Brady required. He seemed to be heading for one of his worse statistical performances in recent years under continual pressure. However, he received excellent protection on third-and-5 from the New Orleans 28, including a block from Fournette on a defensive tackle, and connected with Perriman for the Bucs’ first lead of the day.
The floodgates then began to open. Winston was intercepted, then Tampa Bay kicked a field goal. Additionally, safety Mike Edwards returned Winston’s third interception of the day 68 yards for a touchdown. The score suddenly changed from 3-3 to 20-3, and spectators started to leave the stadium.
Winston played with Tampa from 2015–19 after being selected first overall by the team. “If we got [Winston] behind, we knew he was going to force some things, and that’s when we were really going to make some big plays,” Bucs linebacker Devin White said of his former teammate. People often forget that I practiced against this man once, but Coach Bowles had the opportunity to face him in person. … After the altercation, I get the impression that they were probably playing with feelings while we were using a tactical approach. We continued to play according to our strategy. Hey, calm down, was the first thing we said. Make big plays let the game come to you, then leave the field.
It would be unfair to claim that the Winston of today has regressed to his earlier form when he was more well-known for his interceptions than his touchdowns. But to argue that it wasn’t one of his better performances—just as it wasn’t one of Brady’s better performances—is not overstating the case. One quarterback made a play when the chance arose, whilst the other one did not.
In the first three quarters, Winston twice misfired on deep passes intended for Olave. He finished the game 25 of 40 for 236 yards, one score, and three interceptions. It might have been a different game if he had only hit one of them.
On the other hand, Brady made the most of his one chance to succeed, going 18 of 34 for 190 yards, one touchdown, and a lost fumble.
In reference to the Brady to Perriman touchdown pass, Fournette said, “Coach (Byron) Leftwich says it’s going to be a six-second fight, and on that play, I had to pick up a damn three-tech by myself.” “Tom executed the play, scored the touchdown, and that is what matters.”
Brady was unhappy after the game, ending his press conference earlier than usual, despite the fact that the team had won. He commended his colleagues for fighting against a strong front, especially his linemen, but he also called for increased effectiveness. After the game, he only made two stops on his way to the locker room: first, he hugged Evans, who had out to greet his teammates, before signing a banner that a fan had lowered from the railing.
Brady went quickly with a tote bag in one hand and a serious expression on his face. Players like him usually prioritize the challenge of the future over the present moment. And perhaps he was considering himself whether the Bucs can keep winning games while losing players with home games against Green Bay and Kansas City coming up in the next two weeks. Only time will be able to provide an answer.
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