Bucs Drop Home Opener 16-14 After Last-Minute Field Goal by Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin

New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley nailed a 27-yard field goal attempt as time expired Sunday to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-14 in a weather-delayed divisional matchup at Raymond James Stadium.

Just moments earlier, on third-and-6 at the New Orleans 32, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman handed the ball off to running back Doug Martin, gaining 3 yards on the carry. Schiano said the decision to run the ball versus a pass play was discussed significantly on the Tampa Bay sideline.

“An incomplete pass and the clock stops. They had no timeouts. We thought that was a run that wasn’t your everyday run — it was a specialty run, and we thought that it had a great opportunity to make the first down or get, at least, real close where it’s fourth down and you’ve got to decide. It just didn’t get as close as we thought it would.”

“It was a unanimous decision — we all thought that was the play.”

Martin, who had amassed 144 rushing yards on the day fell short. Kicker Rian Lindell was then brought out to attempt a 46-yard field goal. It sailed wide left, giving the Saints possession at their own 37 yard line.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees quickly drove the ball downfield, completing three consecutive passes of 15 yards, 8 yards, and a 31-yard deep ball to Marques Colston before spiking the ball at the 9, setting up Hartley’s winning kick.

“We lined up across the board on everybody and played the coverage out. He made some great throws, and finished out the game,” said cornerback Darrelle Revis, who finished with four tackles and a pass breakup. “At the same time, we have to execute. Down the stretch at the end, we didn’t execute to get the win.”

Brees said he could already visualize the missed kick and the winning drive before it happened — he’d seen it before.

“This happened back in 2009 against Washington. They line up for a field goal and you just visualize that they’re going to miss it, and we have this amount of time and these are the plays we’re going to run  and we’re going to go down and score and win this game. It was the scenario there. You just believed it would happen.”

For a while, it seemed like it wouldn’t. Brees was battered and beaten by the Buccaneer defense that sacked him four times and intercepted him twice, including an 85-yard pick-6 by middle linebacker Mason Foster with 13:01 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“I looked to the right and I [saw] Jimmy Graham was right there so I knew he was probably working that area. I knew [Brees] was trying to go to Graham on third down so just dropped and tried to make a play. Luckily I got in the window and he threw it right to me,” said Foster.

“I [saw] everybody running — even in practice, we do it all the time, everybody running down the sideline, getting blocks — I knew even though no matter how tired I was, that if I stayed on my feet, I’d have a chance to get pretty far. I [saw] Lavonte and Leonard and everybody running next to me. So I knew if I could stay on my feet, I’d have a chance to score.”

Brees’ other interception came on first-and-10 from the New Orleans 23 yard line. Linebacker Dekoda Watson picked off Brees on a short pass intended for wide receiver Lance Moore, setting up a 5-yard touchdown strike from Freeman to wide receiver Kevin Ogletree.

“We needed that down there in the red zone. It was important that we got that score. It was a look that we anticipated. We got the time. The line gave us enough time, and we executed it well,” said Ogletree on his first touchdown catch as a Buccaneer.

It was the only offensive touchdown for the Buccaneers.

“I thought we stuck together good. I thought the offense as a whole had a good first half. With everything going on, our defense playing so well, getting us the ball, we converted off that sudden changed — we’ve just got to sustain a little more and put a couple more points on the board. But other than that…we’ll get going as a unit.”

Ogletree marveled at the play of teammate Doug Martin, who rushed for 144 yards on 29 carries.

“He’s a horse, that guy can carry the load…whatever noun, adjective you want to use to describe him. He’s amazing…We’re blocking our tails off for him on the outside. You love to see those runs get to you and you be a part of the play when you’re making blocks downfield. We’ve just got to put some more points up there and keep giving him the ball.”

Although more in-sync than last week, the Bucs passing game still looked shaky. Freeman went 9 of 22 for 125 passing yards, with a touchdown, and an interception thrown to Malcolm Jenkins on a pass intended for Vincent Jackson. Jenkins was brought down at the Tampa Bay 39 yard line.

On fourth-and-5, from the Tampa Bay 34, the Saints lined up to attempt a field goal. A false start on Ben Grubbs took them out of field goal range, however.

Freeman also had a costly fumble. On third-and-10 at the New Orleans 38, Cameron Jordan sacked Freeman, stripping him of the football with linebacker Junior Galette recovering it.

On the Saints’ third possession, Brees found a completely-unaccounted-for Jimmy Graham on a go-route for a 56-yard touchdown, putting the Saints up 10-7. Brees finished his night 26 of 46 for 322 yards passing, a touchdown, and two interceptions.

The Bucs made a critical goal-line stand just before halftime, with the Saints taking four shots at the end zone from the 1 yard line and coming away with nothing.

On that drive, the Bucs were slapped with two unnecessary roughness penalties – one on defensive end Adrian Clayborn for his sack on Drew Brees, and the second on Ahmad Black for a tackle made on Jimmy Graham. Graham then caught what was initially ruled a 30-yard touchdown, but officials ruled he was down at the 1.

Dashon Goldson was also flagged for unnecessary roughness for a hit on running back Darren Sproles. It was his second-consecutive week receiving the penalty.