Bucs lose to Saints on last-second field goal
For the second straight week, the Bucs defense played well enough to win but was stranded on the field by the offense like a hitchhiker on the side of the road — tired, wet and looking for a way home.
Despite sacking the Saints' Drew Brees four times and intercepting him twice — including linebacker Mason Foster's 85-yard touchdown return — and making a goal-line stand at the end of the first half, the Bucs lost on a field goal in the final seconds for the second straight Sunday. With no timeouts, Brees completed three consecutive passes for a combined 54 yards, setting up Garrett Hartley's 27-yard field goal as time expired that gave New Orleans a 16-14 win.
Rian Lindell, who gave Tampa Bay a lead over the Jets with 34 seconds left a week ago, missed a 47-yard field goal with 1:06 remaining. Brees then engineered his 22nd winning drive during the fourth quarter or overtime with completions of 15 yards to tight end Jimmy Graham, 8 yards to running back Darren Sproles and 31 yards to wide receiver Marques Colston.
The loss was similar to the season opener, when rookie quarterback Geno Smith — aided by a late hit penalty on linebacker Lavonte David — led the Jets to the winning field goal with two seconds remaining. "I thought there was a lot of good things on defense," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "Unfortunately, it will be overshadowed by the loss. This team is a resilient team. Their head coach is a resilient guy. He's tough, and we're going to fight our way right off it. I understand there will be a huge contingent that will try to make it difficult for us to do that. But it doesn't matter."
The loss, the seventh in its past eight games, dropped Tampa Bay to 0-2. Since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, only 11.6 percent of teams winless after the first two weeks have earned a postseason berth. The loss also spoiled a monster game by running back Doug Martin, who rushed 29 times for 144 yards. Once again, the player who let the Bucs down time and time again was quarterback Josh Freeman, who went 9-of-22 passing for 125 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble while being sacked.
With a chance to convert a third down that would essentially seal a victory, for the second straight week, Schiano took the ball — and the game — out of Freeman's hands. Last week, Tampa Bay faced third and 3 at the Jets 19 trailing by a point. But a run by Martin netted no gain. Lindell kicked a 37-yard field goal to give the Bucs the lead, but a first down would have eventually left the Jets with no time to respond.
On Sunday, Tampa Bay faced third and 6 at the Saints 32 with New Orleans out of timeouts. But Schiano opted to run the ball with Martin, who fell 3 yards shy of a first down. "The only decision is do you go for it on fourth and 3 or do you kick the field goal," Schiano said.
Schiano said Freeman will start next week despite a report on cbssports.com that the quarterback likely will seek a trade before next month's deadline. That was news to Freeman and Schiano. "The first I heard of it was, literally, 10 seconds ago, right before I walked in here," Freeman said after the game. "But no, without a doubt I'm a Buccaneer, and I try to go out and prepare every week and give myself a chance to win the game."
Including the preseason, it was the fifth straight game Freeman completed less than 50 percent of his passes. "I'm going to have to look at the tape to tell you what's going on because it isn't just the quarterback," Schiano said. "It's squarely on me. I'm the head football coach, and we're not doing things offensively that we're capable of doing; mostly in the pass game. "We have to look at what we're doing coaching-wise; what we're doing execution-wise. Again, it falls on me. It doesn't fall on anybody else."
Schiano also might want to look at why his team was hurt by penalties, 10 for 118 yards. They included shots to the head by end Adrian Clayborn, safety Dashon Goldson and safety Ahmad Black, and an illegal formation that nullified Vincent Jackson's 73-yard touchdown catch. Brees said he visualized the comeback after Lindell's missed field goal. "We're going to go down and score and win this game," he said. "You just believed it would happen."