Beginning the next series by itself 25, New Orleans went back to the ground. Kamara got 2 backyards on first down before Montgomery got two on 2nd to bring up 3rd & & 6. The Saints converted, with Brees discovering Sanders for a gain of seven. Montgomery got another two backyards on his next carry, but then Tampa Bays defense stepped up and made another massive play. White picked off Brees pass, returning it 28 backyards to the Saints 20.
Considering the relocations they made last spring and throughout the summertime, the Buccaneers were seen by many as the group that would be best fit to unseat the Saints atop the NFC South in 2020, stopping New Orleans department title streak at 3.
Things didnt quite work out that method. Tampa Bay lost its season opener in the Big Easy, 34-23, and later got blown out in your home by its department rival in Week 9 by a rating of 38-3. Regardless of having a lead in the NFC South throughout the early part of the season, the Bucs werent able to hold on and their season sweep at the hands of the Saints was a huge reason why. Eventually, Sean Payton and his group made a fourth consecutive NFC South crown while Bruce Arians team declared the leading NFC Wild Card spot.
With their 31-23 win over the Washington Football Team last Saturday, the Buccaneers made an area in the NFC Divisional Round and waited throughout the day Sunday to learn their opponent. Because the No. 6-seeded Rams defeated the No. 3-seeded Seahawks on Saturday as well, a 21-9 win for the No. 2-seeded Saints over the No. 7-seeded Bears established Bucs-Saints III for Divisional Round Sunday. Would this time go any differently for Tampa Bay?
The Bucs was available in with one significant modification along the offending line. While Ali Marpet, who missed the Week 9 loss to the Saints, has actually been dominating at left guard since, the group now has a new right guard starting this week. With Alex Cappas season-ending injury last week, Aaron Stinnie was called upon to play along with Ryan Jensen and Tristan Wirfs on the interior of the offensive line. Tampa Bay likewise had to deal with a minimal Ronald Jones II, who was sidelined versus Washington. Aside from the injury concern marks, the Bucs came into this third matchup against New Orleans as a much various team than the one who suffered those hard defeats in Weeks 1 and 9.
New Orleans, on the other hand, had to be feeling great entering into this one. After a 12-4 routine season and an easy win over Chicago on Wild Card Weekend, the Saints were staring fate dead in the face. Considering their current playoff failures and the reality that this is thought to be their last possibility at winning a 2nd Lombardi Trophy with Drew Brees under center, they were going to have to take care of service and get themselves to the NFC Championship Game. They were going to have to do it without Taysom Hill and Latavius Murray.
Heading into the game, the Saints were 2.5-point favorites, with ESPNs FPI providing a 53.7% possibility to win and set up an NFC title game date against the Packers.
Like the Week 9 video game in Tampa, the Bucs began this one slow. They could not get anything going on offense and had a hard time on unique groups, but the defense held up to keep the deficit at 6-0 after one quarter. A big turnover swung things in their favor in the 2nd quarter, causing a 10-6 lead. By halftime, it was a 13-13 ballgame. In the 2nd half, Tampa Bays defense dominated. After enabling a touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter, the defense required three turnovers and enabled no points, causing a 30-20 triumph that sent out the Bucs to Lambeau Field.
Jones chose up three more on the first play of the fourth quarter, setting up a 3rd & & 1. Jones broke off a 44-yarder on the next play, but a crucial holding get in touch with Tristan Wirfs brought the ball all the way back and offered Tampa Bay a 3rd & & 11. Rookie Tyler Johnson came up with an outstanding catch on 3rd down, however, getting 15 backyards and an initially down.
After another touchback, the Buccaneer offense returned to work from its own 25. Fournette got another first-down bring and got four backyards, then a second-down incompletion set up 3rd & & 6. The Saints brought the pressure and got to Brady for a sack, resulting in a 2nd successive three-and-out. Like the Week 9 video game, it was another bad start for Tampa Bay.
Harris burned the Buccaneer punt group again on Pinions second punt, with Ryan Smith and Pat O Connor missing out on takes on that resulted in a 67-yard return for a goal. The Bucs did get bailed out, however, with an illegal block in the back bringing the ball back to the Saints 30-yard line.
Sean Murphy-Bunting made an outstanding diving pass break up on very first down of the 2nd New Orleans drive. A second-down screen pass to Harris was sniffed out by White, who got the deal with to set up 3rd & & 10. The defense couldnt get off the field, though, with Brees finding TreQuan Smith for a gain of 13 lawns. A 10-yard tripping charge on Jason Pierre-Paul followed, getting the ball across midfield. Kamara got another 10 yards on the next play, continuing to put pressure on the Tampa Bay defense. After a five-yard run by Ty Montgomery and a four-yard pass to Jared Cook, Kamara picked up yet another initially down.
At the Tampa Bay 25, New Orleans stalled. The Bucs brought some pressure on 3rd down and Pierre-Paul broke up Brees pass at the line, requiring another field objective.
The Bucs almost required a three-and-out on the next drive, however a third-down penalty gave the Saints a first down, their fifth of the game by method of penalty. A one-yard run by Kamara and a pass break up by Jamel Dean forced a 3rd & & 9, then Ross Cockrell separated Brees third-down pass to bring Morstead out for a punt. He booted a 55-yarder, but a 13-yard return by Mickens set Brady and the offense up at their own 21.
Jones got 6 yards on the first play of Tampa Bays next series, bringing up a 2nd & & 4 after completion of the 3rd quarter. With 15 minutes to play, the Bucs and Saints were knotted up at 20.
Fournette continued to get the ball regularly as the Buccaneer offense took the field in the second half. He got 14 backyards on 3 consecutive touches, however a short pass to Godwin and a missed out on facemask call raised an ultimate 3rd & & 5. On that 3rd down play, Brady could not transform, resulting in a quick punt– the last thing the offense required after the Tampa Bay defense was on the field for a 10-play, five-minute scoring drive.
After Pinions punt was caught for a fair catch at the 15, Brees and his offense returned to work. White dropped Sanders for no gain on a first-down screen prior to a short two-yard work on 2nd down brought up 3rd & & 8 for New Orleans. A holding call on Murphy-Bunting extended the drive, however, then he hopped off the field after a totally free 20 backyards. On the next play, Antoine Winfield Jr. juuuust missed out on a big interception, mistiming the dive to require an incompletion. Winfield made up for it on the extremely next play, though, requiring a Jared Cook fumble that White recovered and returned to the Saints 40.
A couple of plays later on, with a 3rd & & 5 ahead of them, the Bucs transformed again. This time, it was Scotty Miller coming up substantial, running a terrific path and coming down with a 29-yard gain to the Saints 31. After a Tampa Bay timeout, Jones ran for 12 more backyards to get the ball inside the red zone.
The Saints went from their own 25, needing to move down the field quickly. Mike Edwards transported in a tipped pass for an interception, marking the Saints fourth turnover of the day.
With a 13-13 halftime rating, its not a surprise that things were quite even in the box rating. Despite their sluggish start, the Bucs were only outgained 171-143. The Saints had the edge in very first downs (11-9), lawns per play (5.5-4.0) and time of ownership (15:42 -14:18), while the Bucs had the benefit in total plays (36-31), turnovers (1-0) and red zone efficiency (1-for-3 to 0-for-1).
Tom Brady had a peaceful first half, throwing for simply 93 lawns and a goal on 10-of-21 death. By the end of the game, though, his stat line looked much better. He finished 18 of his 33 pass attempts for 199 yards and two touchdowns while adding a hurrying score late to clinch the video game.
Leonard Fournette was greatly involved in the Buccaneer offense once again today, rushing for 63 lawns on 17 carries while catching five passes for 44 yards and a goal.
Cameron Brate was key for the Bucs once again today also, capturing 4 passes for a team-high 50 backyards.
Ronald Jones II had a successful go back to the field, setting up 62 yards on 13 brings in spite of really clearly playing through some discomfort.
The Tampa Bay offensive line held up well even without Alex Cappa, permitting simply one early sack and just 3 quarterback hits.
With his 2nd interception in as many weeks, Sean Murphy-Bunting ended up being simply the 2nd player in Buccaneer history to record interceptions in back-to-back playoff games. He joins Ronde Barber, which is elite business, and he became the first NFL player to achieve the accomplishment given that Richard Sherman did it in 2015.
Murphy-Bunting completed with that interception, two passes defended and a take on for loss.
Devin White played Sunday nights video game like he actually disliked missing recentlys Wild Card win. He amounted to 11 takes on (10 solo), a deal with for loss, a pass protected, a fumble healing and an interception.
Antoine Winfield Jr. came through with a clutch required fumble in the third quarter and played very well throughout the secondary.
Mike Edwards came up with the game-sealing interception to send out the Bucs to a 30-20 triumph.
Michael Thomas was held without a catch on four targets in the video game.
As a defense, Tampa Bay obstructed three passes and totaled eight passes protected.
Ryan Succop delivered, linking on all three of his basket attempts and all 3 of his extra point tries.
Tampa Bay went 8-of-17 on 3rd downs and 1-of-1 on 4th downs.
In the end, the Bucs outgained the Saints 316-294 and won the turnover battle 4-0.
Next up for the Buccaneers is a trip to Lambeau Field. Theyll play the No. 1-seeded Packers at 3:05 p.m. next Sunday with a journey to the Super Bowl on the line.
Going from the 20 with just over 7 minutes to go, the Bucs had an opportunity to potentially put the game away with a goal. After a brief Jones run, Brady found Gronkowski for a 13-yard gain to the 4-yard line. Jones got three lawns on the next play, then Brady snuck his way into the end zone to provide the Bucs a HUGE insurance touchdown. With Succops PAT, Tampa Bay held a 30-20 lead with 4:57 to go.
Holding a 10-point lead with just over four minutes left, the Bucs went to deal with the clock. A couple of runs and a quick pass to Godwin got an initially down and ran the Saints out of timeouts. A few more Fournette runs brought the video game to the two-minute caution and the celebration was currently on for the Buccaneers.
A couple of minutes later on, the Bucs were formally headed to the NFC Championship Game for the fourth time in franchise history. Their 30-20 victory over the Saints set them up for a meeting versus the Green Bay Packers next Sunday at Lambeau Field.
That kept the New Orleans offense on the field. After another first down, Jameis Winston came onto the field. The Saints ran some trickery, the ball ended up in Winstons hands and the former Buc unloaded a 56-yard goal pass to Smith to give the Saints a huge response.
On the first play from the 3, Brady looked to Mike Evans, who took the touchdown. With Succops PAT, the Bucs all of a sudden had a 10-6 lead early in the 2nd quarter.
Tampa Bays offense started its 3rd drive of the video game with simply one overall backyard, which brought Ronald Jones II onto the field for the very first time. A first-down incompletion was followed by a nine-yard run by Jones, but no gain on 3rd down set up a 4th & & 1 at the Bucs 34. The Bucs lined up to go for it, and Brady slipped it to get the groups first down of the video game. Fournette returned into the game after that and selected up five and 8 lawns on his next two carries to get the ball to midfield. Two straight incompletions set up 3rd & & 10, however a neutral-zone infraction made it a more manageable third down. Brady took benefit, finding Chris Godwin for an 11-yard gain to the Saints 35. A two-yard run by Jones sent the video game into the second quarter with the house team leading 6-0, though the visitors were driving.
New Orleans got moving, with Kamara getting 5 lawns prior to conclusions of 10 and 16 backyards to Sanders. Brady then found Godwin for 8 backyards before another screen to Fournette, who got a solid 14 backyards to get throughout midfield. The Bucs did run on third-and-short out of the timeout and chose up the first down, then Brady saved a near-fumble on the breeze of the next play and discovered Brown for 10 yards to the 24. White selected off Brees pass, returning it 28 lawns to the Saints 20.
On the very first play of Tampa Bays occurring ownership, Brady found Brate for a 19-yard gain to the 21. Jones picked up 10 yards on the next play to enter the red zone, then he got another offer to the 6-yard line. 2 plays later, Brady converted the turnover into points by finding Fournette for a six-yard score. With Succops PAT, the Bucs connected things up at 20-20 with 2:22 left in the third quarter.
Tampa Bays offense didnt do anything to take momentum back on its next drive. Jones ran for seven and two yards to set up 3rd & & 1, then Brady inexplicably looked deep for Antonio Brown. The ball was no place near being completed and Marcus Williams came down with it, however he only got one foot in bounds. To add to what had currently been an outrageous night of officiating, Williams was initially ruled in. After a review, the call was reversed. The Bucs had to punt once again.
Pinions punt was a great one, going for 47 backyards. And with a facemask call on the return team, the Saints had to begin inside their own 10-yard line at the 9. New Orleans got moving, with Kamara getting five lawns before conclusions of 10 and 16 backyards to Sanders.
With 2:28 to enter the half, the Bucs went from their 18. A three-yard run by Fournette and after that a drop on a screen raised the two-minute warning with Tampa Bay facing a 3rd & & 7
. After the break, the Bucs transformed with a check-down to Fournette. Brady then found Godwin for 8 backyards before another screen to Fournette, who got a strong 14 lawns to get across midfield. Fournette took another check-down a number of plays later on and got eight yards to the New Orleans 41. That brought up a 3rd & & 2 and resulted in the Bucs calling their first timeout with 54 seconds to go in the half.
The Bucs did run on third-and-short out of the timeout and picked up the very first down, then Brady conserved a near-fumble on the snap of the next play and discovered Brown for 10 backyards to the 24. 2 incompletions brought up 3rd & & 15 with 18 seconds to go, however Brady discovered Brate for a pickup of 10 and called a timeout to set up Succop for a prospective game-tying field goal.
The Saints began the 2nd half from their own 25 and drove quickly down the field, just getting to third down once. Kamara was the workhorse of the drive, getting a couple of strong gains before breaking one for 17 backyards into Tampa Bay area. A 13-yard pass to Ty Montgomery got the ball inside the red zone, then Brees discovered Smith for a 16-yard rating to put the Saints back on top. With Lutzs PAT, the Bucs were trailing 20-13 with 9:43 left in the third quarter.
The Saints won the coin toss and deferred, implying Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay offense would get a shot at taking an early lead. Instead, the Bucs went three-and-out. After a touchback, they started from their own 25-yard line and went to Leonard Fournette on initially down for 2 lawns.
Devin White dropped Alvin Kamara for no gain on initially down, however the Saints picked up an initially down on the next play thanks to a completion to Emmanuel Sanders and an extremely questionable individual nasty call on Jordan Whitehead. He linked, but the Bucs trailing simply 3-0 after providing up that return to Harris had to feel like a win.
Kamara got 11 and 6 backyards on the first 2 plays of the Saints next drive, however a false start pushed things back to 2nd & & 9. Tampa Bay brought White on a blitz on second down and flushed Brees out of the pocket, requiring a throw to Michael Thomas that Murphy-Bunting intercepted and jumped. He returned it to the 3-yard line, providing the Bucs some impressive field position. It was the 2nd interception in as many profession championship game for the second-year corner out of Central Michigan.
The Saints had the edge in first downs (11-9), lawns per play (5.5-4.0) and time of possession (15:42 -14:18), while the Bucs had the benefit in total plays (36-31), turnovers (1-0) and red zone effectiveness (1-for-3 to 0-for-1).
The Bucs started the 2nd quarter hot, with Brady striking Brate for a 16-yard gain to the Saints 17-yard line. Fournette got six backyards on the next play, then got another 3 to bring up 3rd & & 1. Brady couldnt quite get in touch with Gronkowski on 3rd down, bringing Ryan Succop out for a basket. He hit a 26-yarder, bringing ball game to 6-3 in favor of New Orleans.