What. A. Game.
Not only did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cover the spread as 10-point underdogs in New Orleans Sunday afternoon, but they left with their first win of the 2015 season.
Jameis Winston only turned the ball over one time and the Buccaneer defense took the ball away from the Saints three times. The turnovers were the difference as the Bucs took the lead right before halftime and never gave it up.
The Saints couldn’t put up enough points for a late comeback and fell to 0-2 (0-1 NFC South) as the Bucs improved to 1-1 (1-0 NFC South).
The Bucs scored 14 points in the final minutes of the 1st half and the opening moments of the second half. During those two drives the Bucs offense was moving quickly and gaining big chunks of yards. It’s clear Winston can thrive in a fast-paced offense.
Sep 20, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith (56) in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won, 23-19.Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Drew Brees and the Saints didn’t play particularly well, but you have to give credit to the Bucs for putting pressure on Brees and not letting the Saints establish a consistent running game.
Brees under-threw Brandon Cooks on his only INT and he never looked very comfortable in the pocket. Jaquies Smith sacked the former Super Bowl MVP three times, providing a consistent source of pressure.
Sep 20, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) catches the ball to score touchdown in front of New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Phillips (28) during the second quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Evans started and played in his first game of 2015, but didn’t record a reception. However, Vincent Jackson was on point all afternoon and connected with Winston for his first TD reception of the year at the end of the 2nd quarter.
Doug Martin carried the ball 21 times and finished the game with 78 yards. Before halftime he was averaging over 5 YPC, but the Saints defense was a little stingier after the break.
Sep 20, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith (L) talks to quarterback Jameis Winston (3) during the second half against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Buccaneers won 26-19. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
After the game, Bucs Head Coach Lovie Smith said that despite a few missed opportunities, Jameis Winston was in control of the offense throughout the game. That’s a pretty accurate assessment as Winston only had a few ill-advised passes in the first half and was a bit unlucky when he fumbled in the 4th quarter.
Winston admitted that he missed two TD passes in the 3rd quarter when he barely overthrew Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Vincent Jackson. He was proud to get a win against a division opponent on the road, though, and knew just who to give the credit to.
“Our defense played amazing,” Winston said after the game.” And it got us that win today.”
Oct 5, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) pressures New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during the second quarter of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Part of that defensive effort was DT Gerald McCoy, who was back to playing like the All-Pro that he is. However, McCoy was forced out of the game late in the 4th quarter and had help holding up his right arm as he walked off the field.
McCoy said after the game that his shoulder was fine and Smith said it was just a shoulder strain. Time will tell if the injury is serious enough to make McCoy miss any games.
For now, the Bucs have picked up the first division win of any team in the NFC South this season and will head to Houston to play the Texans next Sunday at 1:00 p.m.