Tensions rise, turnovers mount in Saints’ loss to Tampa

Jude Papillion, Editor-in-Chief

A scuffle broke out between the Saints and Bucs on Sunday when Leonard Fournette and Marshon Lattimore shoved each other before Mike Evans delivered a blindside hit on Lattimore. (Matthew Tate)

The New Orleans Saints fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-10 in Caesar’s Superdome on Sunday in a defensive battle that slipped away from the Saints after they turned the ball over five times in the fourth quarter. After a fight broke out between members of both teams early in the fourth, the Buccaneers quickly scored 17 consecutive points to beat the Saints for the first time in the regular season during the Tom Brady era after losing the last four consecutive matchups. 

Tampa started the fourth quarter with two Leonard Fournette carries that set up third and one. The hometown product Fournette was stopped short of moving the chains on the next play, but the Buccaneers extended their drive after Saints were penalized for having 12 men on the field. 

Following a Brady sack and subsequent incompletion on third down, a scuffle broke out between both teams. Fournette and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore were shoving each other when Buccaneer receiver Mike Evans left the bench and delivered a blindside hit to Lattimore. The New Orleans and Tampa Bay benches emptied after the hit and it took the officials several minutes to restore order on the field. Both Evans and Lattimore were ejected from the game. From there things got ugly for the New Orleans Saints.

On the Saints’ second play following the fight, Winston was intercepted by Jamel Dean on a deep pass intended for rookie Chris Olave. Tampa, with the help of calls against the Saints for unnecessary roughness and holding, drove 80 yards down the field before Brady tossed a 28-yard dot to Breshad Perriman to give the Bucs a 10-3 lead.

Things got even worse for New Orleans when, after being sacked on the first play of the ensuing drive, Winston threw another careless interception to Dean, giving Tampa the ball on the Saints’ 29. Yet, the Black and Gold defense stood tall and limited Tampa to another 47-yard field goal.

Winston’s barrage of interceptions was not over. After driving to Tampa’s 42, he threw his third interception — this time to Mike Edwards who ran 68 yards for a pick-six, giving Tampa a 20-3 lead with 4:11 left. 

After throwing three interceptions over the course of his last six passing attempts, Winston was able to drive the field, connecting with Thomas in the endzone for a 7-yard touchdown with three minutes remaining.

The Saints forced the Bucs to punt on their next drive, but an Olave fumble after a 56-yard reception gave possession back to Tampa and ended the Saints’ hopes of winning. 

The matchup was a tight defensive battle prior to Winston’s string of interceptions, and superstars on both teams kept either offense from scoring for most of the game. Mark Ingram, starting for injured Alvin Kamara, rushed three times for 23 yards on the Saints opening drive as the Black and Gold drove all the way to Tampa Bay’s 12-yard line and chipped in a 31-yard Wil Lutz field goal. The loaded Buccaneer defense prevented the Saints from getting anything going on offense again until late in the fourth quarter and sent Blake Gillikin on the field to punt on five consecutive drives.

Despite his three interceptions, Winston went 25-of-40 for 236 yards and a touchdown. Winston also faced Tampa with four fractures in his back after being injured against the Falcons. “It feels like my back,” Winston said when asked how his back feels. “What’s really important is protecting the football. I have to do a better job of doing that to give ourselves a chance to win the game.” The Buccaneers sacked him six times for 30 yards, and linebacker Devin White led Tampa’s defensive unit with 11 total tackles and a sack. 

Ingram led the Saints with 60 of the team’s 102 total rushing yards while Olave led the Saints with 80 receiving yards on five receptions. Thomas finished with six receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown.

Booming jeers erupted from the crowd of 70,040 as the Tampa Bay offense took the field for the first time. Brady found Scotty Miller for an early 23-yard reception on third down; however, the Bucs would ultimately turn the ball over after a Brady fumble gave the Saints possession on their own 25.

Tampa turned the ball over on downs at the New Orleans’ 9-yard line on their second possession and lacked significant offensive production until they broke the game’s long scoring drought after Ryan Succop nailed a 47-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3 with 6:44 left in the third.

The Saints defense limited Brady to 190 yards and one touchdown while also standing tall against the Bucs ground attack, allowing just 72 total yards rushing with 65 yards coming from Fournette. Brady praised Fournette’s performance after the game. “He’s been great. He’s played so hard [and] run so hard. He sets the tone for us.”

Fournette had a less efficient outing against the Saints than his 127-yard performance against a strong Cowboys defense last week. “Their front’s good,” said Fournette after the game. “They have great chemistry, so every time that we play them it’s very tough.” 

Shy Tuttle led the Saints with nine total tackles and half a sack, closely followed by Pete Werner who had six solo tackles and eight combined. 

After Tampa’s field goal, the Saints used Mark Ingram, Michael Thomas and Dwyane Washington to drive to the Buccaneer’s 10-yard line, but the game took a turn in Tampa’s favor when Logan Ryan forced a fumble on Ingram that was recovered by the Bucs late in the third quarter as things began to unravel for New Orleans. 

The Saints will travel to face the Carolina Panthers at noon on Sunday, and the Buccaneers will welcome the Green Bay Packers at 3:25 p.m. Both games are slated to air on FOX. Because of the altercation between Evans and Lattimore, Evans will be suspended for the first half of the Green Bay contest.