Saints Submerge Buccaneers

Ken Cross

January 03, 2024 at 5:03 pm.

TAMPA, Fla. – The New Orleans Saints came into Sunday’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as potentially the last team the Buccaneers wanted to see.

The Saints have controlled the series over the last five seasons with an 8-4 ledger. In fact, they lead the all-time series, 40-25.

The fervor of the “flour de lis” that has been the Saints logo since their inception in 1966, appeared en masse over Raymond James Stadium as the Saints stymied the Buccaneers, 23-13.

The first drive of the game was a preamble to how it would unfold as quarterback Derek Carr drove New Orleans 76 yards on 14 plays and found Juwan Johnson on a 4-yard touchdown pass with 7:04 remaining in the first quarter.

The control of the Saints’ offense in eating up so much time in the opening drive sent a message to the Buccaneers that New Orleans had control of the game at that point and consequently, it was something they never lost.

Carr was only sacked once by what has been a pivotal Buccaneers pass rush as it had been key in allowing Tampa Bay to win four in a row and place itself as once again the NFC South favorite.

“We had to stop it because the ball was coming out pretty quick,” said Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles. “He wasn’t holding the ball long enough for us to get the pass rush, so we tried to cover.”

The Buccaneers’ problems seemed insurmountable on both sides of the football. In the first half alone, the four drives ended in an interception by New Orleans defensive back Alontae Taylor on the second drive as the other three ended in punts as two of those were three-and-outs.

“We were off kilter,” noted Bowles. “They did a good job manufacturing a drive down the field keeping us off balance. They did a good job getting turnovers. They did what they were supposed to do, and came here to do it, and we didn’t.”

Offensively, the Buccaneers were never in any rhythm where they could assume control. Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 309 yards, but the running game was less than savvy as a compliment to Mayfield, who passed for two touchdowns in the second half.

Mayfield hit Trey Palmer with a 22-yard touchdown pass with 7:50 remaining in the game to cut the Saints lead to 20-7.

After New Orleans kicker Blake Grape made his third field goal of the day, Mayfield found Chris Godwin with a 47-yard touchdown pass and the two-point conversion failed.

“We’ve just got to execute better,” said Bowles. “I think when we look back at the tape a lot of little things and things we were doing well, we didn’t do today.”

The Buccaneers can still clinch the NFC South on Sunday with a win over the struggling Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.

Linebacker Lavonte David noted that the Bucs need to be on point in all areas of the game even to win over the Panthers, who have struggled all season.

“It was like we didn’t know what was at stake,” David noted. “We came out very flat on both sides of the ball. It’s something that we’ve got to take to the chin.”