The first Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New Orleans Saints game of the 2012 season was a fireworks show, with the two offenses combining for nearly 1,000 yards in a one-score Saints win in Tampa. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, the rematch was much more one-side, as the home team built a 24-point halftime lead and cruised to a 41-0 victory. That marked the Saints first shutout of an opponent in 17 years.
Drew Brees threw four touchdown passes as the Saints completed the season sweep of their NFC South opponent. Both teams found themselves with 6-8 records after the decision, though that might be a slightly tougher pill to swallow for Tampa Bay, which was 6-4 and thinking of a playoff run a month ago.
Tampa Bay’s offense was unable to match blows with Brees’ crew in the rematch, which came as a surprise considering the Saints’ defense ranked 32nd in the league coming into Week 15. New Orleans did an outstanding job against the run early and essentially eliminated that part of the Bucs’ attack by jumping out to a quick lead. RB
New Orleans also fared surprisingly well against the Buccaneers’ top-ranked rush defense, gaining 149 yards on 25 carries, an average of 6.0 per tote. The Saints were just the fourth team to crack 100 yards against Tampa Bay’s rush defense this season, and the first to have more than 125 since Adrian Peterson and the Vikings put up 140 in Week Eight. The Saints 6.0 yards per carry was also the second-worst figure Tampa Bay has allowed this season after the Vikings’ 6.7.
The game was delayed almost immediately when FB Jed Collins was hurt on the opening kickoff and took several minutes to be helped off the field. When the Saints began the drive, at their own 26 after a fine 30-yard return by RB Travaris Cadet, Brees immediately directed a 74-yard touchdown drive that included five straight plays that picked up double-digit yardage. Brees first threw to Graham in the right flat for a gain of 13. A holding penalty backed the Saints up 10 yards, but a well-blocked toss-sweep to Sproles two plays later picked up 15 yards and made it first down inside Buccaneer territory. A 20-yard screen to Pierre Thomas got the ball down to the Bucs’ 11, and two plays later Brees finished it with an easy nine-yard toss over the middle to David Thomas.
The Bucs’ first drive was not nearly as successful, lasting just three plays. A good second-down run by Martin made it third-and-four and Freeman had a man open on the right side but the ball was batted down at the line of scrimmage by LB Curtis Lofton.
A 55-yard punt by
Freeman converted his next third-down opportunity with a 23-yard pass to RB
Brees absorbed big hits on two straight downs to start the next drive but still got off a 15-yard pass to Graham to convert a third-and-four. A 13-yard end-around by WR Devery Henderson picked up a first down at the Bucs’ 44, and Colston shook off a tackle at midfield on the next play to pick up 26 yards to the Bucs’ 18. A 12-yard catch by Lance Moore made it first-and-goal but the Bucs’ defense forced a third-and-goal from the two, followed by a false start by the Saints. Brees looked for Graham on third down but S
The Bucs and Saints then traded punts, with a sack by McCoy on third-and-10 stopping the Saints’ next possession. On the ensuing punt, Parrish eluded one tackler and dashed up the right sideline for 39 yards to the Saints’ 43. A 10-yard holding penalty on New Orleans was tacked on, and Martin got 11 more on a pitch to the right to start the drive. However, a near-miss on an end zone throw to Williams set up third-and-14, and apparent miscommunication between Freeman and Jackson led to a pass thrown directly to S Rafael Bush for an interception. Bush spent a long team weaving through traffic to eventually return his pick to midfield.
The Saints got out of a quick hole when CB
The Bucs had to start at their own 15 on the next drive but got 15 more on a first-down rollout pass to TE
Unfortunately, two incompletions and a sack by DE Will Smith made short work of that possession and it was the Saints who got another scoring opportunity after Sproles’ 37-yard punt return to the Bucs’ 38. Brees made the most of that opportunity, hitting Graham on a 24-yard pass down to the seven and then finding Moore in the end zone for the score.
The Bucs got the ball first to start the half but quickly faced a third-and-10. Freeman scrambled for nine yards but the punting unit came out on fourth down. However, it was a fake, as the ball was snapped directly to upback
The Saints were backed up at their own eight after the turnover but escaped right away on a 31-yard run by Ingram. New Orleans ran six times on the eight-play drive, but that just set up Brees to go deep to Josh Morgan from the 34-yard line for another touchdown, making it 31-0.
Catches of 10 and 21 yards by Williams got the Bucs moving on their next drive but Freeman soon faced a third-and-six at the Saints’ 40. He kept the drive moving with a quick timing pass to Clark off the line of scrimmage for a gain of 10 down to the 30. Another Freeman-Clark hookup converted the next third down but the play was erased by a holding call on Martin. After an incompletion, the Bucs went for it on fourth-and-14 out of necessity but Freeman found no one open and eventually threw it deep and incomplete.
The Bucs got the ball back fairly quickly and got back into Saints territory on consecutive 19-yard catches by Jackson. Jackson caught four passes for 57 yards on the drive, but it ended at the New Orleans 11 when Freeman’s arm was hit on a fourth-down pass attempt, forcing an incompletion on the last play of the third quarter.
On Tampa Bay’s next possession, Freeman took another shot deep, this time in the direction of
After a second Hartley field goal increased the Saints’ lead to 34-0, Freeman hit Underwood and Jackson over the middle to get the ball to midfield, but he was sacked from the blind side by Cameron Jordan, forcing a fumble that was also recovered by Jordan at the Bucs’ 43. The Saints brought in backup QB Chase Daniel, but a third-and-18 pass-interference call on Mark Barron set up Ingram for an 11-yard touchdown run.
With Orlovsky at quarterback, the Bucs drove down into the Saints’ red zone one more time but ran out of time to avoid the shutout, with Orlovsky’s final pass sailing out of the end zone as time expired.
- The Buccaneers declared the following seven players inactive before Sunday’s game: CB
- The Saints declared these seven players inactive: CB Corey White, RB Chris Ivory, LB Scott Shanle, T Zach Strief, DT Tyrunn Walker, TE Michael Higgins and DE Turk McBride. Strief, White and Ivory were out due to injury.
- Third-year CB
- After both teams were introduced but prior to the singing of the National Anthem, players, coaches and fans joined in a moment of silent reflection for the victims in Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.
- Though he had his lowest rushing output of the season, rookie RB Doug Martin did move up a spot in the rankings of the top yards-from-scrimmage seasons in franchise history. With his 35 yards he improved his season total to 1,647, surpassing the 1,641 James Wilder had in 1985 for the second-highest mark in team annals.