Saints self-destruct in 30-20 loss to Bucs in NFC Divisional

Saints self-destruct in 30-20 loss to Bucs in NFC Divisional
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White (45) intercepts a pass in front of New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) during the second half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. (Source: Brett Duke)

NEW ORLEANS (WAFB) - The New Orleans Saints committed four turnovers against the Tampa Bay Bucs and dropped the NFC Divisional in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, Jan. 17.

The Saints fell 30-20 to the Bucs. Tampa Bay scored touchdowns after three of the Saints’ turnovers. It is the third-straight season the Saints have lost in the playoff at home.

Drew Brees was 19-of-34 for 134 yards and a touchdown but he also threw three interceptions, the final one coming with 4:25 remaining in the game. Before the game, Jay Glazer reported Brees plans to retire. However, Brees said he’s going to take some time to reflect on the season before making a decision about his future.

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Alvin Kamara had 18 carries for 85 yards. He also caught three passes for 20 yards. Tre’Quan Smith returned from injury to catch three passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns. He missed three games with an ankle injury. Michael Thomas had no catches on four targets.

Two former LSU players were stars for Tampa Bay in this one. Linebacker Devin White had 11 tackles (10 solo), a tackle for loss, a fumble recovery, and an interception. If this is it, White was the player who caught the final professional pass thrown by Brees. Running back Leonard Fournette had 17 carries for 63 yards. He also caught five passes for 44 yards and a touchdown.

Two field goals by Wil Lutz gave the Saints the early 6-0 lead but New Orleans could have gotten many more points off those drives. After the Bucs went three-and-out, Deonte Harris returned the punt a season-high 54 yards to set up the Saints at the Tampa Bay 21-yard line. The drive ended in a 23-yard field goal by Lutz. A sack by Demario Davis resulted in another three-and-out by the Bucs. On the punt, Harris took the ball to the house for a 67-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, it was called back due to an illegal block in the back by Carl Granderson. The Saints had to settle for a 42-yard field goal on the drive. Harris suffered a neck injury on the drive and didn’t return.

The Bucs got on the board with a 26-yard field goal to close the gap, 6-3, early in the second quarter. Then, Brees was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Bunting, who returned the pick 35 yards to the New Orleans 3-yard line. On the very next play, Tom Brady connected with Mike Evans in the end zone on a quick slant to give Tampa Bay the 10-6 lead.

Later, the Saints ran a trick play that they “borrowed” from the Bears. With Brees on the sideline, Jameis Winson entered the game and lined up as a wide receiver and Kamara was in the shotgun. Kamara handed the ball to Emmanuel Sanders, who then pitched it to Winston, and Winston threw it to a wide open Tre’Quan Smith for a 56-yard touchdown to put the Saints back up, 13-10, with 8:08 remaining in the first half. For Winston, who was drafted by the Bucs, it was his first touchdown pass in a playoff game.

The Bucs made a 37-yard field goal as time expired to tie the game, 13-13, at halftime. The Saints received the opening kickoff of the second half and put together a nice 10-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Smith to put the Saints up, 20-13, with 9:43 left in the third quarter. It would be the last points for New Orleans.

Later, on a third down play, Cook caught a pass from Brees that would have resulted in a first down but he fumbled and White recovered. White returned the fumble 18 yards to set Tampa Bay up at the New Orleans 40-yard line. Just five plays later, Brady tossed a 6-yard touchdown to Fournette to tie the game, 20-20, with 2:22 to go in the third quarter.

The Bucs settled for another field goal to go up, 23-20, with 9:52 left in the game. The Saints defense gave up lots of yards but tightened up when it counted and only gave up three points. The final two drives by the Saints resulted in interceptions. First, White picked off a pass and returned it 28 yards to the New Orleans 20-yard line. It was his first interception of the season. Brady scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to put the Bucs up, 30-20, with 4:57 to go.

Then, a pass by Brees bounced off Cook’s arm and Mike Edwards was able to keep his feet inbounds after the deflection. Tampa Bay was able to pick up two first downs and run out the clock after New Orleans used up its timeouts.

The Bucs will travel up to Green Bay to face the Packers in the NFC Championship.

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