The Buccaneers had a miserable opener, a miserable week filled with reports of tension in the ranks and they had plenty of misery in the early part of their Week Two game against the Saints, but it looked like it would all be prelude to a hard-fought victory.
Mason Foster returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Bucs a 14-13 lead, a fitting way to move in front given how well the Bucs defense had played all day. Drew Brees was hurried and harried into another pick and the Bucs sacked him four times and it looked like they would put all the problems from the day — two turnovers, 10 penalties and multiple timeouts called because the team couldn’t substitute without the chaos of a K-Mart on Black Friday — when Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson ate clock with first downs down the stretch.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. Rian Lindell missed a 47-yard field goal with 66 seconds left to play, Brees awoke from his slumber to complete three passes in a row to gain 54 yards and Garrett Hartley hit a 27-yard field goal as time expried to give the Saints a 16-14 win.
The Saints can’t feel good about their offensive performance, but they should feel good about being 2-0 (and 2-0 in the division) on the back of another strong game from their rebuilt defense. Martin ran well, but Josh Freeman was 9-of-22 for 125 yards on the day while turning the ball over twice in the second half. It’s not a perfect group by any means, but giving up seven points a week after holding the Falcons to 17 is notable.
As is the complete lack of discipline shown by the Buccaneers. Whatever the Saints defense did, the Bucs should have won this game and they didn’t because they continually sabotaged themselves with mistakes that show a glaring lack of focus from the head coach all the way down to the last man on the roster.
Their penalties were stupid in the first half and didn’t get any smarter in the second half when an illegal formation penalty wiped out a 73-yard Jackson touchdown. Two members of the team even got unsportsmanlike conduct penalties celebrating Foster’s touchdown, which shows that the Bucs have yet to miss an opportunity to hurt themselves this season. If Greg Schiano can’t get his players in line, the ugliness of the first two weeks could presage a lost season in Tampa.