The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense has a lot of new faces in 2018, but after the Bucs deferred and kicked the ball to the New Orleans Saints to start the season, the results looked all too much like they did in 2017, as Saints marched right down the field, mostly on the back of explosive plays by Alvin Kamara who punched it in from a few yards out to put the Saints ahead 7-0 before most people could dip into their chips and dip.
The results for the Bucs offense were much more positive however, as Ryan Fitzpatrick found Desean Jackson twice, including a 58-yard play action pass for a game-tying touchdown.
The Saints once again looked unstoppable on offense on their second drive, but the Bucs were able to force New Orleans into a field goal which the Saints knocked through for the 10-7 lead.
The Ryan Fitzpatrick show continued when the Bucs got the ball, and after a great catch by Chris Godwin, and another by Mike Evans, it was Fitzpatrick who punched the ball in to put the Bucs ahead 14-10.
The shootout continued on the following drive as Brees and company walked down the field again, and Carlton Davis who had been so good throughout training camp and the preseason, continued to have a welcome to the NFL kind of day, as he was beat by Ted Ginn Jr. for another lead change as the Saints went ahead 17-14.
Defense continued to be non-existent for both clubs, but the Saints were able to hold the Bucs to just a field goal this time, so the score became tied again as Chandler Catanzaro hit a 33-yard field goal to push the score to 17-17 with just over 11 minutes to play in the first half.
Finally, after each team had moved the ball almost at will throughout the half, the Bucs defense forced a 3-and-out on the Saints after Vinny Curry picked up his first sack of the season forcing the Saints to punt.
The Bucs offense continued to be red-hot, and Ryan Fitzpatrick continued a flawless first half on the following drive. Fitzpatrick seemingly pulled the ball down to run at the right times all half long, and he continued to find receivers all over the field, as he finished the drive with an outstanding touchdown pass to Chris Godwin to put the Bucs ahead 24-17 with under five minutes to play in the first half.
The defense came up with a huge play just moments later as the Saints handed the ball to Mike Gillislee to give Kamara a break. Vernon Hargreaves forced a fumble, and Justin Evans scooped it up and took it to the house to put the Bucs ahead 31-17.
The Saints wouldn’t be held without more points in the first half though, and Brees led the team back down field, going 6-7 on a 75-yard drive to cut the lead to 34-27 heading into the half.
The first drive of the second half was full of emotion as the rivalry continued to heat up on the field after a pair of roughing the passer calls against New Orleans. Fitzpatrick was once again able to drive the Bucs deep into Saints territory, but the drive stalled inside the 10-yard-line, and Catanzaro came in to push the lead to 10, as the Bucs went ahead 34-24 on the drive.
The Buccaneers defense hadn’t been that good on the afternoon, but they came up with a big stop on the Saints first possession of the second half, giving the offense an opportunity to make it a three-score game when Fitzpatrick brought the offense onto the field at the 25-yard-line. The Bucs couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity though, going 3-and-out, and punting for the first time all afternoon.
The Bucs defense would give the offense another shot, forcing another rare punt, and this time the offense would pay it off. Fitzpatrick continued his nearly flawless afternoon with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans to put the Bucs ahead 41-24, as the team who entered the weekend as the NFL’s biggest underdog continued a shocking start to their season.
The defense continued to make plays when the Saints returned to the field, and after Brees found Michael Thomas on a big play, Kwon Alexander knocked caused a fumble which was recovered by Tampa Bay, and the Bucs would head into the final quarter ahead 41-24.
After the Bucs defense came up with another huge takeaway when Kwon Alexander forced a fumble after a big Michael Thomas catch, the Bucs wouldn’t play it safe with their 17-point lead. Instead, Fitzpatrick would go back to the air, and would throw another deep touchdown pass to Desean Jackson to put the Bucs ahead 48-24.
The Saints wouldn’t give up down 24 though, and Drew Brees did what Drew Brees does, finding a way to put the Saints back in the end zone, and after another short Kamara touchdown run, the Saints pulled within 16 at 48-32 when Kamara also completed the 2-point conversion.
The Bucs would once again move the ball into Saints territory in the following drive as Fitzpatrick found Jackson on another deep ball, and pushed his passing yards over 400, but Catanzaro missed a field goal, and it remained a 16-point game as Brees and Saints took the field.
As if the Bucs defense didn’t want to hold the lead, Brees quickly worked the ball down field before finding Kamara again for a touchdown. A Ted Ginn 2-point conversion later, the Saints were back to within eight points at 48-40.
It looked as if the Saints and Brees would get a chance to pull off the magical comeback, but instead it was Fitzmagic that basically ended the game when Fitzpatrick pulled the ball down and picked up the first down with his feet on a 3rd-and-11 at the 2-minute warning that allowed the Bucs to seal the game.