What just happened? Seriously, how did that happen? The Saints won 16-14 at the gun on a dagger 27 yard field goal, and the Saints ran out of Tampa as fast as they could. Everything in between was painful, and the offense probably had their worst performance of the Sean Payton era. But a little luck and some clutch plays down the stretch erased what looked to be headed for a horribly devastating loss. I'm still in shock and I'm honestly not sure I can do this recap any justice. Here are some thoughts:
- I felt bad for the Bucs losing at first because of the way it happened, but then I remember how dirty they were with numerous cheapshots (particularly the ones on Sproles and Graham). They got what they deserved. This felt like a game against the 49ers from a physicality stand point, though. I'm sure the Saints will feel quite sore.
- The defense and Thomas Morstead kept the Saints in the game by repeatedly doing their thing.
- The offensive line performance was dreadful. Brees was sacked four times and took numerous blows, including one by Adrian Clayborn where I was surprised he got up. They didn't get the running game going, either, particularly when Mark Ingram got the ball.
- Mark Ingram was horrific again. No need to recount this, all Saints fans around the world are calling for his head. I'm not sure he deserves much more playing time moving forward.
- Jimmy Graham was the entire offense. Colston made a couple plays too, but it really started and ended with Graham. 10 catches for 179 yards. Without Graham I don't think the Saints would've passed the 50 in this game.
- Brees' two interceptions gave the Bucs their only points. One set up an easy touchdown and the other was a pick six. Take away those two picks and the Bucs don't score.
- The defense gave up 160 yards rushing and got virtually no pass rush, and yet they were fantastic. I don't really get how. But they held the Bucs to 5 of 13 on 3rd downs, often gave them long fields to work with (thanks to Morstead) and held them to 9 for 22 passing. I will say Josh Freeman's horrific performance deserves credit for stopping the Bucs.
- While Doug Martin had a ton of yards, interesting to note he had a bunch of gashers, and a bunch of stuffs. He wasn't consistently getting between 5 and 8 yards with his runs it seemed like. So while his stats were nice, the defense seemed to give him a nice big gainer, and then shut him down a couple of times.
- The Bucs had 10 penalties for 118 yards, consistently shooting themselves in the foot. Horrible discipline from them. They also had a long touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson called back for illegal formation.
- The end was nuts. It all happened in a flash. The Saints somehow stop Doug Martin on three straight carries, and the Bucs miss a 47 yarder. I thought they should have punted there. Then, the Saints have a minute left and three passes to Graham, Sproles, Colston, Brees clocks it, Hartley field goal, boom, game over. Crazy sequence. That 2 minute drill was executed flawlessly.
- The decision to go for it on 4th down before halftime was insane. Not only because you kick in that situation no matter what but Sean Payton took point off the board by accepting a penalty. YOU NEVER TAKE POINTS OFF THE BOARD IN THE FIRST HALF. I hated that decision even if the Saints had scored. But, of course, Ingram was manhandled right at the goal line.
- The thing about that decision is, I can see going for it if you're up against Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers and they're getting chunks of yardage at will on you. But Tampa's offense was horrific. Josh Freeman looked like death warmed over. So you take your 3 points and continue to mount pressure on an offense that's not performing.
A win is a win and we'll take it. But man that was ugly. Still don't know how they pulled that off. The Saints probably deserved to lose, but so did the Bucs. But here we are, 2-0, and the Saints will host the Cardinals and Dolphins next. Good opportunity for 4-0 now.