Bucs' offensive numbers sparkling, result unsightly
The longest passing play in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history wound up resulting in New Orleans' winning touchdown drive. That's the sort of day it was for a Tampa Bay passing attack that saw team records fall, but in a 35-28 loss.
Receiver Vincent Jackson had a team-record and career-high 216 receiving yards and quarterback Josh Freeman had the first 400-yard passing day of his career in completing 24 of 42 passes for 420 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The two hooked up on a 95-yard pass play midway through the third quarter that was the longest in franchise history, eclipsing the previous long of 89 yards from Vinny Testeverde to Willy Drewrey on Dec. 12, 1990. The play, however, failed to reach the end zone.
Jackson, who cleared two defensive backs along the left sideline and had nobody in front of him for 70 yards, fell just short of the goal line as New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins tracked him down and tackled him the 1-yard line. Trailing 28-21, Tampa Bay failed to score on four consecutive plays.
"There is nobody around, so the first thing is just run to see what happens,'' Jenkins said of the play. "As I go down the field, I saw him start to slow down a bit and saw that I was able to catch him. It was a huge break for us to get them down inside the 5 and just give our team a chance.''
Jackson admitted a calf issue that caused him to be limited in practice during the week might have cost him the yard he needed to get into the end zone.
"I obviously wasn't 100 percent today, but I went out there to fight and gave it everything I got every play,'' said Jackson, who had his first career 200-yard receiving game.
The failed possession by Tampa Bay handed the ball back to New Orleans and quarterback Drew Brees, who on the change of possession marched the Saints 95 yards on 12 plays to give New Orleans a 35-21 lead.
"They are about to tie the game . . . and then all of a sudden we're going down and making it a two-possession game,'' Brees said. "That was a huge sequence of events, a huge momentum shifter.''
The change of events took away from what was an otherwise stellar day for a Buccaneers offense that piled up 513 total yards, the second-highest total in team history after the 573 yards Tampa Bay gained against Minnesota on Nov. 16, 1980.
Freeman threw for more than 300 yards for the fifth time in his career and became the first Bucs quarterback to have consecutive 300-yard passing games since Testaverde in 1989. Freeman's three touchdown passes gave him 62 total and moved him into fifth place on the team's all-time touchdown pass list, past Steve DeBerg (61 from 1984-93). Testaverde holds the team record of 77. "I'm really pleased, our quarterback had tremendous output and production,'' Greg Schiano said of the offense.
But the only number that mattered to Freeman was the one loss the team incurred. "We go in and prepare as well as we can, and the next week you try to go out and prepare even better,'' he said. "We come out and we give it all we got. This week it didn't go our way.''