Trevor Siemian leads Saints to victory over Buccaneers, Tom Brady

Tom+Brady

Matthew Tate

Although plagued with key injuries, forced to evacuate due to Hurricane Ida and losing eight assistant coaches due to the pandemic in a loss to Carolina, the Black and Gold have relentlessly found ways to get the job done.

Jude Papillion, Sports Editor

The New Orleans Saints beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers 36-27 in the Caesar’s Superdome on Halloween despite losing starting quarterback Jameis Winston for the season. The matchup was the 60th all-time meeting between Tampa and New Orleans and was a revenge game: it was the first matchup between the two since last season’s NFC Divisional round where the Saints fell 30-20 in Drew Brees’ final NFL game.

With back-up Taysom Hill already inactive following a concussion against Washington, the Saints were led by third-string quarterback Trevor Siemian, who took his first snaps since 2019 and recorded his first touchdown pass since 2017. Siemian outdueled Tom Brady, completing 16 of his 29 passes for 159 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers after replacing Winston. The Saints’ defense had another dominant performance, forcing Brady to fumble before throwing two interceptions, including a pick-six that put a dagger in the Bucs’ hopes of winning. 

Sunday was also Mark Ingram’s first game as a member of the Saints since his first stint with the team from 2011-2018. Ingram led the deafening crowd of 69,170 in the pregame “Who Dat” chant and finished with 52 total yards. Alvin Kamara led the Saints in rushing with 19 touches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Kevin White led New Orleans in receiving with 38 yards after being activated off the practice squad for the matchup. 

Despite boasting the league’s top ranked rush defense, the Bucs’ defense was a major contributor to their loss, allowing 152 rush yards while committing several penalties in critical moments of the game. Linebacker Devin White alone handed the Saints three first downs from penalties but led Tampa Bay with 10 total tackles. As a team, Tampa totaled 11 penalties for 99 yards while the Saints just had two for 10. 

The ballgame started with valiant defensive performances by both teams. The Saints forced the Bucs to punt on their opening drive while New Orleans turned the ball over on downs on their first series. Tampa was first to get on the board, following a 12-yard touchdown catch by Chris Godwin. New Orleans responded by driving 75 yards and scoring a touchdown on a 16-yard pass from Winston to Tre’Quan Smith. 

Tragedy struck on the Saints’ first play of the second quarter when Winston scrambled and was injured after being tackled by the linebacker White, ending his 2021 season due to a torn ACL and damage to his MCL. Winston, the former first overall pick by the Bucs, finished 6 of 10 for 56 yards and one touchdown before the injury. 

The Saints were forced to punt on the drive, but Cameron Jordan sacked Brady on the ensuing drive, forcing a fumble recovered by David Onyemata. The Saints capitalized with a 23-yard field goal and were able to force another turnover on Brady shortly after, this time an interception returned 26 yards by Chauncy Gardner-Johnson. New Orleans extended its lead to 16-7 entering halftime, as Siemian found Alex Armah in the endzone. 

The Saints opened the second half with a 10 play, 76-yard drive culminating with a Kamara touchdown to give the Saints a 23-7 lead. Facing their largest deficit of the day at 16 points, Tampa responded with an impressive 75-yard drive ending with a score from Giovani Bernard. 

The Bucs defense held strong on the next possession, forcing the Saints to punt the ball back to Brady who led Tampa on another scoring drive. Brady struck receiver Mike Evans for a 41-yard touchdown reception, cutting the New Orleans lead to 2 with 1:15 on the clock in the third. Both teams exchanged punts before the Saints pushed their lead to 26-21 after making a 35-yard field goal with 8:31 left in the game.

With 5:44 left to go, Tampa had a shot to win the game after taking a 27-26 lead when Kenner native and former LSU track star Cyril Grayson was left wide open after a blown coverage and hauled in a 50-yard touchdown. Grayson was elevated from the practice squad on Saturday, and the touchdown was the first of his career and just his second reception in the pros. New Orleans subsequently drove 70 yards downfield , converting another field goal to take a 29-27 lead with 1:41 remaining – plenty of time for Brady to drive the Bucs into field goal range. 

It was the Saints’ defense, not Brady, that proved to be clutch. On the second play of Tampa’s next drive, P.J. Williams intercepted Brady and returned the football 40 yards to the house for a pick six, the final score in the Saints’ 36-27 victory. New Orleans ended the game in victory formation after a Kwon Alexander sack on Brady forced a turnover on downs. 

Postgame, I asked seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady about the adjustments he made after his rough first half, where he acknowledged his team played better in the second half but said they must play better for all four quarters. “It’s tough to win when you turn the ball over like we did, so I have to not throw interceptions. That’s the key,” said Brady. 

Despite his three total turnovers, Brady finished with 375 yards and four touchdowns. Since joining the Buccaneers Brady is 0-3 against the Saints in the regular season and has thrown just six touchdowns while being picked off seven times. Brady targeted Godwin eight times for 140 yards and a score, while New Orleans native and St. Augustine High School alumnus Leonard Fournette finished with 43 yards from scrimmage.

With the win, the Saints now have the opportunity to sweep the Bucs for the third consecutive season in a Dec. 19 Sunday Night Football matchup in Tampa Bay. New Orleans now stands with a 5-2 record and will face the divisional rival Atlanta Falcons at noon on Nov. 7 in the Superdome. The game will be broadcast on FOX and can be heard locally on WWL 105.3FM/870 AM. Last week, the 3-4 Falcons fell to the Carolina Panthers 19-13 last week, finishing with just 213 yards of total offense and two turnovers.