Bucs Again Stung by Last-Second FG in Loss to Saints
Scott Smith, Buccaneers.com, published 16 September 2013|
Despite an inspiring defensive performance that included an 85-yard interception return for a score by Mason Foster and a four-down goal-line stand to end the first half, the Bucs fell to 0-2 on a 16-14 loss to New Orleans on Garrett Hartley’s field goal as time expired. Two weeks into the 2013 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played two games in which they took a lead into the final minute of the fourth quarter…and, so far, no victories to show for it.
Despite allowing only three more points than they’ve allowed, the Buccaneers are 0-2 to start the season after Sunday’s 16-14 loss to the division-rival New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. The Saints improved to 2-0 on the strength of Garrett Hartley’s 27-yard field goal with no time left in regulation. Hartley’s three-pointer finished a five-play 54-yard drive that followed Buccaneer K Rian Lindell’s miss on a 47-yard attempt with just over a minute to play.
Saints QB Drew Brees threw a 31-yard pass to WR Marques Colston to set up Hartley’s game-winner, but that did little to take the luster off an impressive performance by Tampa Bay’s defense against one of the league’s most explosive offenses. Mason Foster’s 85-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter was the biggest play for a Buc defense that also finished the first half with a four-play goal-line stand, sacked Brees four times and picked him off twice and allowed just nine points on four New Orleans drives that reached their red zone.
Unfortunately, Tampa Bay’s offense continued to have trouble finding a rhythm, producing just 273 total yards, including 113 through the air. “They’ve played unbelievable, especially in this game,” said QB Josh Freeman, who completed nine of 22 passes for 125 yards, one touchdown and one interception. “They gave us a chance. Offensively, we didn’t come out and have the kind of game we think we needed to have to win the game. Hats off to those guys – they played tremendously tonight.”
RB Doug Martin ran for 144 yards on 29 carries and WR Kevin Ogletree scored on his first catch as a Buccaneer, a five-yard TD pass from Josh Freeman in the first quarter. However, the Saints eventually out-gained the Buccaneers in total yardage, 371 to 273. WR Vincent Jackson followed up a 154-yard outing in the season-opener at the New York Jets with a five-catch, 77-yard outing in Week Two.
He caught two big passes on what proved to be the Buccaneers’ final drive, which burned six of the last seven minutes in the fourth quarter but ended on a three-yard run by Martin on third-and-six. The third-down run burned the Saints’ final timeout but Lindell’s narrow miss gave Brees good field position to launch the game-winning drive. Jackson’s 231 receiving yards to this point are the most ever by a Buccaneer through the first two weeks of the season.
The game was interrupted by a 69-minute weather delay due to lightning in close proximity around the stadium. The teams left the field just after New Orleans took a 3-0 lead on the game's first drive. One week after committing 13 penalties in a one-point loss to the New York Jets, the Bucs were once again stung by a flurry of flags. This time, Tampa Bay was penalized 10 times for 118 yards and several of the flags erased plays that could have swung the game in the Bucs’ favor.
Early in the second quarter, DE Adrian Clayborn sacked an unsuspecting Brees from behind, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Bucs DT Gerald McCoy at the Saints’ 20. However, the officials penalized Clayborn for unnecessary roughness, erasing the turnover and putting the ball at midfield. The Bucs’ defense followed with one of its many impressive back-to-the-wall stops on the evening, forcing a 43-yard field goal that Hartley missed.
In the third quarter, the Buccaneers appeared to take the lead on a 73-yard catch-and-run for a score by Jackson, but that play was also called back when it was ruled that the Buccaneers had too many eligible receivers on the line of scrimmage. Freeman was picked off by Saints S Malcolm Jenkins three plays later, but the Buccaneers’ defense once again turned back a prime scoring opportunity.
That set the stage for Foster’s touchdown, which brought to mind the incredible pick-six by Pittsburgh LB James Harrison in Super Bowl XLIII on the same Raymond James Stadium Field. Like Harrison’s return, this one came up the west sideline and appeared to be doomed several times before the rumbling linebacker rolled over the last tackler to find the end zone.
Foster, who had two sacks last week against the Jets, finished with seven tackles , the pick and two passes defensed. S Mark Barron led the way with 13 tackles, half a sack and a pass defensed, and LB Lavonte David, added six stop, 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits and a pass defensed. DT Gerald McCoy had the first of the Buccaneers’ four sacks, but wasn’t satisfied at the end of the evening because the defense wasn’t able to get off the field one last time.
“It’s our job to stop him,” said McCoy. “It doesn’t matter how much time [is left]. We have to be on cue, it’s our job to stop the opposing offense. We didn’t get the stop. We’re still confident in what we can do. There were a lot of plays where [if they were made], we wouldn’t have to be in this situation. We’ll fix those and move on.”
The Bucs were outgained, 239 yards to 92, in the first half but trailed by only a field goal thanks largely to one of the more impressive goal-line stands in recent team history. A 29-yard catch by Graham initially was ruled a touchdown but then overturned on replay, spotting the ball at the one-yard line. The Bucs forced a third-and-goal from the two on S Dashon Goldson’s big stop of Ingram on a sweep left, then made it fourth down when CB Darrelle Revis stood Pierre Thomas up at the two.
The Saints came on to kick a field goal, but the Bucs jumped offsides on the kick and New Orleans elected to bring the offense back on the field to go for it from the one. Foster made that strategy backfire when he stuffed Ingram on a run to the left. The play was reviewed but upheld, keeping the Bucs’ deficit at three points going into the break.
After the Saints drove for a field goal on the game’s opening drive –McCoy’s sack forced them to settle for three – a rash of lightning around the stadium led to a 69-minute delay. The Bucs failed to counter the Saints score with their first drive, but an interception by LB Dekoda Watson on Brees’ next throw put the Bucs into quick scoring position. Freeman capitalized with a five-yard touchdown strike to WR Kevin Ogletree.
The Saints quickly matched that with a 56-yard touchdown catch by TE Jimmy Graham on what appeared to be a communications breakdown by the Bucs’ defense. The Bucs showed blitz but then tried to audible into a Cover Two look, and the message clearly missed a defender or two because Graham ran free straight down the right numbers for the score. The Buccaneers had a chance to get another short field early in the second quarter when Clayborn sacked Brees and forced a fumble that McCoy recovered, but Clayborn was surprisingly flagged for unnecessary roughness and the ball was moved close to midfield. New Orleans subsequently got into scoring position but missed their chance to score when Hartley pulled his 43-yard field goal attempt to the right.
On the Saints’ game-opening drive, Clayborn made consecutive nice plays, breaking up a pass intended for TE Jimmy Graham and hustling to tackle RB Darren Sproles on a run down the middle, but Graham used a double-move to get free down the right sideline on third-and-five and the 21-yard gain got the ball into Buccaneer territory. The next third down came from the Bucs’ 31, after a TFL for Barron, but Brees found Colston down the right seam to convert that one, too, and put the ball just inside the Bucs’ red zone. McCoy’s first sack of the season put the Saints into a third-and-17 hole, and an attempted screen to Sproles misfired. The Saints settled for Hartley’s 44-yard field goal.
After the 69-minute delay, the Bucs started with a rollout pass to Jackson that picked up 10 yards to the 30. Two Martin runs gained only three yards, however, leading to a third-and-seven that failed when a short pass to Mike Williams gained just three. The game’s first punt rolled down to New Orleans’ 23.
The Bucs’ defense came up with a quick turnover when Watson picked off a Brees pass intended for WR Lance Moore at the Saints’ 35. Two plays later, Martin took a delayed handoff up the middle and blasted for 12 yards. After a false start cost the Bucs’ five yards, Martin got those five back but the Bucs still faced a third-and-10 moments later. Freeman took matters into his own hands by scrambling up the middle for 13 yards to the 10. A defensive holding penalty drawn by FB Erik Lorig move the ball halfway to the end zone, but a first-down fade to Williams was incomplete. On the next play, Freeman faked a handoff to Martin, backed up in the face of a blitz and calmly completed a five-yard TD pass over the middle to Ogletree.
After a touchback and a quick first down, Brees tried his first deep shot downfield on a post to WR Robert Meachem, but CB Leonard Johnson was with him step for step and the ball was overthrown. The Saints still moved the chains with a third-down completion to Graham to the New Orleans 44, and on the next play Graham obviously capitalized on a defensive breakdown, getting wide open down the left seam for an easy 56-yard score.
After a seven-yard run by Martin, Freeman tried a deep shot to Williams but just missed the connection. The Bucs converted the third-and-three with a direct-snap run to Martin on which Freeman successfully pantomimed the snap going over his head. On third-and-10, a pass over the middle to Williams was complete but got only five yards, leading to a punt.
The Saints started the next series at their own 25, and the Bucs appeared to get an instant turnover on first down. Clayborn dropped Brees with a blindside sack, causing a fumble that McCoy recovered. However, Clayborn was flagged for unnecessary roughness, which erased the turnover and gave New Orleans 15 extra yards. Moments later, Barron drew a similar 15-yard call on a helmet-to-helmet hit, and the Saints were into Bucs territory. Three plays later, Brees faced a third-and-six and moved the sticks with an 18-yard strike to Graham over the middle. The Bucs’ defense held at that point, however, and Hartley came on to try a 43-yard field goal. He missed it to the right, keeping the Saints’ advantage at just three points.
The Bucs took over at their own 33 but immediately lost five yards on a delay-of-game. A sharp second-yard pass to Jackson set up a manageable third-and-six, but an in to the same receiver failed to move the chains and the Bucs had to punt. The Saints started up at their own 17 and moved to midfield despite a Buccaneer replay challenge that sought to gain a ruling of a Mark Ingram fumble. A holding penalty on Zach Strief made it first-and-20 at the Saints’ 33 and the New Orleans’ offense couldn’t recover after a key tipped pass by S Mark Barron. Unfortunately for the Bucs, the Saints’ punt came to rest at the six-yard line.
Martin’s fine eight-yard run on first down was followed by a one-yard loss, and a first-down-producing completion on third down was erased by an illegal-formation call. On third-and-eight, Freeman got a last-second pass off in Jackson’s direction under heavy pressure but it was barely incomplete. After the punt, the Saints had another shot on offense with 2:33 to go and the ball on the New Orleans’ 43.
Another personal-foul call deep downfield, this one on S Ahmad Black, made it first-and-10 at the Bucs’ 34. Two plays later, Brees found Graham again down the right seam for an apparent 30-yard touchdown However, a replay review put Graham down at the one and the Bucs followed with a fantastic goal-line stand. Big stops by Goldson and Revis created a fourth-and-goal, and the Saints initially elected for a field goal try before Johnson jumped offside on the 20-yard attempt. That prompted New Orleans to send the offense back onto the field to go for it from the one, but Foster filled the gap on the left side and stood Ingram up short of the goal line.
The Bucs’ offense came out firing in the second half, with Martin picking up 23 yards on his first two carries and Jackson catching a 22-yard pass in traffic over the middle to convert a third-and-13. However, on third-and-10 from the Saints’ 38, Freeman had the ball knocked out of his hand by DE Cameron Jordan, with the Saints recovering and getting it down to Tampa Bay’s 40.
Lance Moore’s 15-yard catch got the ball down to Tampa Bay’s 14, but a holding call and a well-defended screen to Thomas made it third-and-13 at the 17. Brees never got a pass off on third down as David blitzed off the right edge and dropped the QB for a six-yard sack. New Orleans settled for a 41-yard Hartley field goal to make it 13-7.
The Bucs once again had a big play erased by penalty when Jackson’s 73-yard TD came back on an illegal formation penalty on Demar Dotson. However, Martin immediately answered with a 28-yard run that took the ball to the midfield stripe. Two plays later, Freeman tried to throw downfield to Jackson but it was intercepted on the run by Malcolm Jenkins, who took it back 31 yards to the Bucs’ 39.
The Bucs’ defense stood up again, thanks to a tackle-for-loss by David and a third-down hurry on a blitz by Foster. The Saints initially came out to try a 52-yard field goal but then elected to punt after losing five yards on a false start.
The Bucs got the ball back out to midfield on a 34-yard sideline pass to TE Nate Byham, but the drive stalled there. Michael Koenen’s punt was fair caught at the Saints’ 11, but New Orleans quickly got back into scoring territory, thanks largely to a 37-yard pass-interference penalty on Barron. A near-interception by Clayborn forced a third-and-seven at the Bucs’ 22, and Brees was forced to burn a timeout before the next snap. After the break, Foster made the game’s biggest play, picking off a pass intended for Graham in the left flat and rambling 85 yards for the score. On the return, he narrowly stayed inbounds in Buc territory on the right sideline, then
Pass-breakups by Leonard Johnson and Mark Barron created the first three-and-out of the night for Tampa Bay’s defense, forcing a punt that gave the ball back to the Bucs’ offense at its own 17 with 11:24 to play. Martin started the drive with an 18-yard run but it stalled there when Williams couldn’t quite get his second toe down on a third-down catch on the left sideline.
The Saints got one first down on their next possession but eventually had to punt after Barron blitzed into the backfield for an eight-yard sack. The Bucs had to began at their own 14 but converted a third-and-nine on Freeman’s precision 20-yard sideline strike to Jackson. Freeman found Jackson two plays later for an 18-yarder over the middle, getting ball over midfield as the clock ticked down to four minutes. Three more runs by Martin moved the chains, and the Bucs elected to give it to him two more times as the two-minute warning approached, burning the Saints’ timeouts. He gained four yards on first down but was stopped on second down, setting up the final run that came up three yards short.