It’s rare enough that Drew Brees, ranking third on the list of career TD pass leaders, has the sort of off-day where he does not throw a single touchdown pass. But two in a season?
Better yet, make that two consecutive games this season. That’s the sort of ugly day it was for the Saints offense, as dropped passes and errant throws were the underlying theme for their normally-feared passing attack.
It didn’t all start with the offense, however. The first quarter saw both teams trade three-and-outs. Then Jameis Winston, with the help of three Saints penalties, marches the Buccaneers downfield to the Saints 23-yard line, on a drive that took 9 plays and 3:00 off the clock. This set up a 41-yard Robert Aguayo field goal, and gave the Bucs the first 3 points of the game.
After another Saints three-and-out, the Bucs march down the field again on a drive that continued into the second quarter, and ended in a 1-yard Doug Martin touchdown run to put the Bucs up 10-0. This drive took 11 plays and 9:00 off the clock, so it was safe to say that the Bucs offense, for the most part, had their way with the Saints in the first quarter.
The Saints’ offensive woes continued into the second quarter, when Drew Brees threw his first interception of the game to Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves.
And, not surprisingly, the Bucs turned the mistake into another lengthy drive which took 10 plays and 4:45 off the clock, and ended with another Robert Aguayo field goal to extend the Bucs’ lead to 13-0. It seemed that Tampa Bay was well on their way to dominate the rest of the game.
However, the Saints offense finally woke up in the middle of the second quarter, and put together a nifty drive of their own, capped by a 42-yard Wil Lutz field goal to cut the Bucs’ lead to 13-3. And on the kickoff following the field goal, newly signed Bucs WR Josh Huff drops the return and pins the Bucs on their own 1-yard line. This crucial error gives way to a safety on the very next play, and yet another long drive capped by another Wil Lutz field goal to make the halftime score 13-8.
The third quarter began with another stalled Saints drive that was once again choked by three Saints penalties, including an unnecessary taunting penalty by Willie Snead before the Saints punted.
After the Bucs returned the favor by having a stalled drive of their own, the Saints marched down the field again on an 11-play, 76-yard drive that was almost sealed with a Brandin Cooks touchdown.
But the officials reversed the call on the field when, after viewing the instant replay, they saw the ball hit the ground before Cooks could secure it in his hands. Therefore the Saints had to settle for yet another field goal, and the score was 13-11. That play could very well have been a killer for the Saints, because those were the last points the offense would score for the rest of the game. The final three drives for the Saints offense in the fourth quarter resulted in: interception, punt, interception.
Drew Brees ended the day with his worst performance of the season, completing only 60.9% of his passes (a season-low for him, believe it or not), and his second consecutive game with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
While there were a couple of occasions Brees’ receivers dropped passes (see: Brandin Cooks would-be TD), there were also several more occasions where Brees himself was off target. He missed a wide-open Brandin Cooks in the second quarter that would have been an easy touchdown, and some of his other incompletions were either behind his receiver or too low.
Besides Brees’ subpar performance, many Saints fans likely noticed the many penalties called against their team this game. The Saints committed a total of 13, the highest number of penalties called against them in one game this season (including 8 in one half). So it’s certainly not just the offense having problems, but it appears as if there are some coaching problems as well. At least this game certainly can’t be pegged on the defense; they did their job this time around.
Jameis Winston certainly didn’t look much better than Brees. He only completed 16 of 26 passes for 184 passes, with no touchdown passes. But with adequate help, the majority of quarterbacks just need to be efficient and do enough to win.
And, thanks to a sputtering New Orleans offense, 16 points was all it took.