By Michelle Sabin
Sports Talk Florida
When all hope seemed lost, after a disappointing three quarters and only a field goal to their name, Tom Brady led the Buccaneers to a Monday night victory over the Saints in the final minutes of the game.
“It seems like we can only score at the last part of the ballgame,” Head Coach Todd Bowles said, “we sputtered around a couple quarters, but the leadership that Tom [Brady] showed, the receivers did a great job, every one of them.”
On the opening drive, it took Tampa Bay over 8 minutes and 16 plays to get down the field. Running back Rachaad White opened the series with a rush for no gain, before Brady found receiver Chris Godwin on a 14-yard pass. White eventually broke through the Saints’ line for two short rushes, but the Buccaneers were still facing 3rd and 2 at the 47-yard line. Brady targeted Godwin in route for the first down, and then receiver Russell Gage with an 11-yard pass from the other side.
As they moved into Saints’ territory, running back Leonard Fournette was brought in for short passes up the middle and a 7-yard rush that earned the Buccaneers a first down inside the 10-yard line. Tampa Bay stuck with the run game, but Fournette was unable to find an opening and they only gained 3 yards, forcing the Buccaneers to settle for a 21-yard field goal.
Tampa Bay’s defense was fired up against quarterback Andy Dalton and the New Orleans’ offense from the start. On the Saints’ opening drive, the Buccaneers allowed 5 yards rushing from Alvin Kamara, before linebacker Lavonte David sacked Dalton for a loss of 8 yards. The Saints went three and out, and Brady got the ball back. It was short lived.
Off a short pass, Fournette fought his way through two tackles to gain a first down on an 11-yard play. However, they came up short with the next two plays and an incomplete pass just out of the reach of Rachaad White ended the series.
Meanwhile, Dalton took advantage of the young secondary with several deep passes including a 19-yard to Rashid Shaheed, and a 20-yard pass to tight end Adam Trautman. However, it was Dalton’s 30-yard pass to a wide-open Taysom Hill that gave the Saints’ a touchdown. After clearing safety Keanu Neal by several strides, Hill made the catch and strolled in end zone. The extra point was good and the score 7-3.
The troubles continued for Tampa Bay, as Shaheed returned Jake Camarda’s 50-yard punt for 40 yards down to the Tampa Bay 42-yard line. Fortunately, the Buccaneers defense bailed them out, by putting pressure against Kamara’s run game and forcing Dalton to throw incomplete passes for a fourth down.
The Saints’ defense returned the favor, when linebacker Demario Davis intercepted Brady’s pass intended for Godwin on a first down at the 47-yard line. New Orleans wasted no time getting into the red zone, but the Buccaneers defense held them to a 38-yard field goal at the end of the half.
Early in the third quarter, Tampa Bay turned over the ball again. This time it was 3rd and 17, following a previous offensive holding penalty. As Brady scrambled forward ducking to avoid a sack, he managed to toss the ball to White who ran up field. White fumbled as he was tackled by defensive end Cameron Jordan. The Saints recovered the ball at the 32-yard line, and eventually turned it into another 21-yard field goal. The score at the end of the third quarter was 13-3.
It was not looking promising at the start of the fourth quarter when Dalton, on 3rd and 3, threw a deep 26-yard pass to receiver Chris Olave on blown coverage by rookie cornerback Zyon McCollum. Several short rushing plays later and the Saints were back in scoring range. A 29-yard field goal expanded their lead to 16-3 with 8 minutes left in the game.
The Buccaneers offense again went three and out, and the fans started clearing the stadium. After three quarters of football with little rhythm outside of the opening drive, it appeared the remaining time would not favor the Buccaneers. However, the defense did their job and quickly got the Saints off the field.
Starting on their own 9-yard line, and with an almost exclusively no huddle offense, Brady completed short passes to Mike Evans, Julio Jones, Godwin and Fournette down to the New Orleans 35-yard line. An offensive holding penalty cost the Buccaneers 10 yards. Facing 2nd and 20, Brady attempted a 44-yard pass to Evans at the 1-yard line, but he came up short due to pass interference. The penalty was enforced at the spot of the foul, and the Buccaneers scored with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Otton.
“We’ve been pretty good in no-huddle, two-minute drills,” Brady said, “a lot of games come down to those types of plays-our guys made them.”
Tampa’s defense pushed the Saints out again after just three plays, and Brady took the field at the 37-yard line with 2:29 on the clock. He completed short passes to Jones and Godwin for a first down at the two-minute warning. Brady found Otton on an 8-yard pass and combined that with Fournette’s rush for a first down.
After an incomplete pass brought up 3rd and 6, they went no huddle into a 15-yard play to Jones to keep the drive alive. Brady threw the next pass to Godwin in the endzone. It was nullified due to offensive holding that pushed the Buccaneers back to the 15-yard line.
Brady threw an incomplete to Godwin, and then found him with a 9-yard pass. On third down from the 6-yard line with 8 seconds left, White made the reception in the end zone to tie the game. Kicker Ryan Succop’s extra point was good, and the Buccaneers won 17-16.
“Everybody stuck together,” White explained, “when we went out into the huddle and Chris [Godwin] kept saying, ‘you just gotta believe, you gotta believe.’ Nick [Leverett] kept saying it, our o-line kept saying it, so we just came together at the right time.”
With a 6-6 record, the Buccaneers head back out on the road for a matchup against the San Francisco 49ers on December 11th.
The videos used in this story were provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Youtube channel.