Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson struggled to find time to and receivers to throw to against the Saints. Johnson completed just 5-of-15 passes for 47 yards in the first half. Johnson looked sharp on the team's first drive of the second half. He completed passes to TE Todd Yoder, WR Keyshawn Johnson and WR Keenan McCardell, all of which helped the team score its first touchdown of the game. McCardell caught Johnson's touchdown pass. There weren't too many times when Johnson remained standing after a pass attempt, and he threw 52 times. The constant pressure from the Saints caused Johnson to become noticeably uncomfortable in the pocket. Even when he had time to throw, he missed some open receivers. He also had several passes dropped by his receivers. Johnson was 28-of-52 for 278 yards and threw two touchdowns. Even under the constant pass rush from the Saints, Johnson managed to not throw any interceptions. Perhaps Johnson's most important play of the game came when he completed a pass to McCardell with :20 remaining. Instead of running another play with no timeouts remaining in the fourth quarter and trailing by three points, Johnson looked to the sideline and called the special teams unit onto the field. It was a heads up play on Johnson's part. Johnson took a beating against the Saints. He fared as well as any quarterback would have under the amount of pressure he was under all game.
Bucs running back Michael Pittman took his first carry seven yards upfield. He made a nice cut and gained 21 yards on the last play of the first quarter. That play put the offense at 48-yard line. Pittman was the only highlight on offense for the Bucs in the first half. He rushed five times for 33 yards (6.6 avg.). Pittman rushed 12 times for 50 yards (4.2 avg.) against the Saints. Pittman was quite effective in the passing game. He caught five passes for 31 yards. Pittman was somewhat effective, but the running game had plenty of room for improvement.
Fullback Mike Alstott didn't receive his first carry until the third quarter. The "A-Train" came up big in the passing game on two plays in the second half. Alstott carried the ball six times for 11 yards. But he hauled in four passes for 48 yards.
Tampa Bay wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson hauled in a 12-yard pass on the first play of the second quarter. Johnson hauled in a 38-yard pass over the middle of the field in the third quarter to put the offense on the Saints' five-yard line. But Johnson dropped a pass thrown perfectly by Brad Johnson, which stalled a Bucs' drive headed into Saints' territory. Johnson was also flagged for an illegal pick. He also dropped the pass on the same play, which stalled another drive in New Orleans' territory. Johnson did a nice job of breaking up what would have been an interception with 1:00 remaining. Johnson caught five passes for 76 yards.
Bucs WR Keenan McCardell dropped a pass inside the red zone during the second quarter. But McCardell came up with a huge 16-yard catch with :02 remaining in the second quarter, which allowed the Bucs to attempt a field goal, but it was blocked. McCardell followed that up in the third quarter by diving for Johnson's pass and hauling it in for a five-yard touchdown score. That made the score 13-10 Saints. McCardell made another nice grab on the sideline in the fourth quarter, which moved the Bucs 13-yards up the field. McCardell led the team in receptions with six for 63 yards. He had to leave the game late in the fourth quarter with cramps.
Tampa Bay WR Joe Jurevicius got involved in the game late, but he caught a two consecutive passes late in the fourth quarter, including an 11-yard touchdown pass from Brad Johnson to make the score 20-17 with 2:41 remaining in the game. Jurevicius caught four passes for 37 yards. He filled in well in McCardell's place.
Tampa Bay converted just 7-of-19 third down attempts (37 percent). The receivers didn't have much time to run out their routes due to the poor play of the offensive line, but the receivers dropped too many passes.
Tampa Bay tight end Todd Yoder hauled in a 10-yard pass in the third quarter which put the Bucs on New Orleans' 41-yard line.
Bucs TE Ken Dilger caught two passes for seven yards. Neither he nor Yoder were able to get involved in the passing game because they had to stay in and help the offensive line block. Marco Battaglia was hardly involved.
Tampa Bay right tackle Kenyatta Walker was inactive for the Bucs' game against New Orleans. Cornell Green started in Walker's place at right tackle. He struggled to say the least. Green and right guard Todd Washington hindered a drive toward the end of the second quarter when they were called for a chop block, which penalized them 15 yards. Washington was flagged for a personal foul in the fourth quarter, which moved the Bucs back 15 yards and hindered another drive. Washington had a horrific performance against New Orleans and was one of the main reasons why Brad Johnson spent more time on the ground than he did standing up against the Saints. The sooner Bucs starting right guard Cosey Coleman comes back, the better. Washington has not fared well in place of him.
Tampa Bay left guard Kerry Jenkins did a nice job of blocking for Pittman. He opened up a hole on the left side for Pittman's 21-yard gain on the last play of the first quarter. Jenkins had the best performance of any of the offensive linemen, but it wasn't great by any stretch of the imagination.
Bucs center Jeff Christy was called for holding with under 1:00 remaining in the second quarter, which knocked the offense out of field goal range.
*Tampa Bay's offensive line allowed three sacks and allowed Brad Johnson to get knocked down on what seemed like every passing play.
Tampa Bay defensive end Simeon Rice blocked Brooks' pass on a third down toward the end of the second quarter. But other than that play, Rice wasn't much of a factor. He recorded just one tackle.
Bucs defensive tackle Anthony McFarland whiffed on Brooks in the third quarter, which allowed the Saints' mobile quarterback to scramble up the middle of the field for a first down. McFarland recorded six tackles.
Bucs defensive end Greg Spires and backup Chuck Darby combined to sack Brooks in the fourth quarter. Darby also made a nice play by tackling RB Deuce McAllister on a well-designed screen play. Spires recorded an impressive nine tackles.
Tampa Bay under tackle Warren Sapp recorded a sack on Brooks with just under 6:00 minutes remaining, which caused the Saints to punt. It took Sapp a while to be recognized in the game. He didn't get much penetration on New Orleans' offensive line. He recorded three tackles.
*Tampa Bay allowed RB Deuce McAllister to rush for 109 yards, but he carried the ball 31 times and averaged 3.9 yards per attempt. Tampa Bay's backup defensive linemen were more effective at times than the starters, which is a bit disturbing. In the their defense, the starters were a bit gassed due to the amount of time they were on the field in the first half.
Tampa Bay middle linebacker Shelton Quarles was in on nearly every play against New Orleans. But Quarles was flagged for holding on a third down, which gave the Saints a first down with 9:00 remaining in the game. If the penalty hadn't occurred, the Saints would have had to punt since Brooks' pass attempt fell incomplete. Quarles recorded eight tackles.
Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks was penalized for a personal foul on the Saints' first drive. The penalty put New Orleans inside Tampa Bay's red zone. But Brooks came up huge at the end of the third quarter when he intercepted QB Aaron Brooks, which stalled New Orleans' drive, which was in Tampa Bay territory. Brooks was blocked out on too many plays and with the exception of the interception and penalty, he wasn't much of a factor during Sunday's game. Brooks quietly recorded 10 tackles.
Bucs strongside linebacker Al Singleton hit Brooks, which caused Aaron Brooks to under throw his receiver. The ball was picked off by Derrick Brooks. Singleton recorded three tackles.
New Orleans' offense attacked the middle of Tampa Bay's defense with success. The Saints were 10-of-20 (50 percent) on third down conversions on Sunday.
Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber came up big for the defense on a three different occasions during the first quarter. He had the best game of any player in the secondary by far. Barber recorded five tackles, all of which were solo.
Tampa Bay strong safety John Lynch missed a few tackles. He had coverage on on WR Boo Williams on the 37-yard touchdown play toward the end of the second quarter. That score put the Saints up 13-3. Lynch had to leave the game with cramps, but did return. He recorded six tackles, but missed some others.
The Bucs had trouble containing WR Joe Horn. Bucs CB Brian Kelly had good coverage on him most of the time, but both QB Aaron Brooks and Horn were on the same page and timed pass plays nicely. Horn hauled in six passes for 67 yards in the first half. Kelly recorded eight tackles in the first half alone. Kelly led the team in tackles with 11. Horn led the Saints in receptions with eight for 108 yards.
Neither Kelly nor FS Dexter Jackson could contain WR Donte' Stallworth when he hauled in 41-yard pass from Aaron Brooks for a touchdown.
*Tampa Bay's secondary allowed QB Aaron Brooks to complete 24-of-42 passes for 260 yards and he threw two touchdowns. The secondary had a tough time stopping the Saints on third down on Sunday. In the Bucs' defense, Aaron Brooks played very well.
Kicker Martin Gramatica drilled a 52-yard field goal in the second quarter to make the score 6-3 Saints. Gramatica's second field goal attempt of the game, a 47-yarder, was blocked as time expired in the second quarter. Gramatica missed a 53-yard field goal attempt at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Gramatica's biggest kick came as time expired. It was a 39-yarder, which sent the game into overtime.
Bucs CB Corey Ivy made a nice play after P Tom Tupa's punt toward the end of the second quarter. Ivy batted the ball out of the end zone before it hit the ground to pin New Orleans' offense at its own two-yard line. Ivy downed another Tupa punt on New Orleans' two-yard line in the fourth quarter. Ivy was called for being offsides on Tampa Bay's kickoff after Jurevicius' touchdown score, which negated a touchback.
Bucs backup linebacker Ryan Nece recorded a tackle on special teams, but he was flagged for holding on a punt late in the game, which pinned Tampa Bay's offense back 10 yards while they trailed by 10 points.
Bucs FS John Howell was called for an illegal block in the back on a punt return, which gave the Bucs the ball at the 35-yard line instead of the 45 in overtime. The Bucs eventually punted from the 50-yard line. But Howell's second mistake of the game would be the most costly. He was beat badly by Fred McAfee on the right side of Tampa Bay's punt formation in overtime, which allowed McAfee to get a hold of P Tom Tupa, which led to Tupa throwing the interception that ended the game.
Bucs punt returner Karl Williams had fared well against the Saints until he fielded a punt within his own 10-yard line and and lost four more yards in his return attempt, which set the Bucs up on their own five-yard line in overtime.
Bucs kick returner Aaron Stecker averaged 29.5 yards per return, including a long of 37 yards. Stecker and Co. did a nice job of setting Tampa Bay's offense up with good field position, but the offense couldn't capitalize.
Tampa Bay punter Tom Tupa had a great night punting the ball. He averaged 43.9 yards per punt. But with just under 3:00 remaining in overtime, Tupa attempted to punt from his own end zone, but was nearly sacked for a safety by Fred McAfee, so he threw the ball to John Howell, but the ball was intercepted by James Allen, which won the game for the Saints, 26-20.
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