Bucs lose 38-3 to Saints in a "total team collapse"
Congratulations to all the NFL fans who don't root for Tom Brady. The ones who don't wake up and cheer for Jeff Bezos to win Powerball. All those who think Meryl Streep shouldn't clear more shelf space for another Oscar.

Brady was sailing along at age 43 with his new Tampa Bay Buccaneers team in first place in the NFC South entering a showdown with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football.

He already had Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette, a virtual Pro Bowl team. Then at his request, the Bucs added temperamental but talented receiver Antonio Brown just in time for the biggest game of the year.

Brady even had one of the best defenses in the NFL. His team was 6-2 and all that was left was to take the crown off the Saints' heads. But instead of a coronation, it was an abomination for Brady and the Bucs in Sunday's 38-3 loss to the Saints.

Brady was intercepted three times and the offense went three-and-out on its first four possessions. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, meanwhile, passed for 222 yards and four touchdowns. Tampa Bay was never in the game, trailing 31-0 at halftime.

"This was pretty embarrassing from the start of the game," linebacker Shaquil Barrett said of the loss, which matched the largest margin of defeat at home in team history. "I don't think we stopped them less than a handful of times this whole game. Like, we couldn't stop them the whole time on defense … we just didn't make the plays we needed to make. Offense, they couldn't get going. It was just a collapse. A total team collapse."

The Bucs couldn't run the ball, and they couldn't block for Brady, who was sacked three times and hit on nine other occasions. Receivers couldn't get open and the defense couldn't stop the other Hall of Fame quarterback, who put on a clinic. The 41-year-old Brees connected on 14 of his first 16 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns before the Bucs managed to have a first down. He also spread the ball to 11 different receivers.

When Brees wasn't carving up the Bucs, Taysom Hills was. He completed two passes for 48 yards and led the Saints with 54 yards on seven carries. Brady had gone 200 passing attempts without an interception before throwing three Sunday. One was an obvious miscommunication with Brown, who broke off a route. Brown had three catches for 31 yards on five targets.

"The first one was a tipped pass," Brady said. "You hate to have those happen. The guy made a good play. Then the fourth-down (interception), I kind of threw it up in the air. You know the other one, I definitely saw something and kind of pre-determined what was going to happen and made a bad play. I certainly have to play better. Turning the ball over against a good team never helps. We just didn't play the way we're capable of playing. Everyone has got to do a lot better and it starts with me."

The Bucs avoided their first shutout since 2012 when Ryan Succop kicked a 48-yard field goal with 5:52 left in the game. One series was particularly illustrative of Brady's night. On back-to-back plays, he was sacked due to a mostly porous offensive line that was playing with left guard Ali Marpet.

Then on third down, Brady rolled to his right and threw a prayer across the field in the direction of Gronkowski that safety Malcolm Jenkins camped under like a centerfielder gloving a pop-up. He finished 22-of-38 for 209 yards with a 40.4 passer rating, the third-worst of his career in the regular season. It's possible the Saints just have Brady's number. Five of his interceptions have come in two games against the Saints while he has thrown only two in the other seven games combined.

The Bucs clicked off a lot of television sets for NBC. Raymond James Stadium had not hosted a Sunday Night Football game since 2008, the last time the Bucs won the NFC South. Based on the way they played against the Saints, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth may never want to come back. In fact, the Bucs are 1-2 in primetime games this season, with losses to the Bears and Saints and a lackluster 25-23 win against the Giants.

"We've stunk in those games," coach Bruce Arians said. "We won one of them. We should've won the other one but we didn't and this one we just basically handed it to them."

Sunday marked the 333rd start of Brady's career, including playoffs, and he had never trailed by 30 points or more at halftime. A win would have given the Bucs a 1.5 game lead in the division and a series split with the Saints. They also would have been the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Instead ... "Everybody is (ticked) off but too late now; we've got to get ready for Carolina," Arians said.

Rick Stroud, Tampa Bay Times, published 9 November 2020