Bucs 31, Saints 14, Final

Tampa Bay defeated New Orleans today for its first victory of 2007. Did you miss the game? Catch up with this in-game blog, with scoring updates, analysis and information on how the Bucs won their first game.

Saints score meaningless, 3:51 p.m.

Marques Colston just scored for the Saints, making it 31-14 Bucs with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter. The score is meaningless. This game has been over for a half.

I'm heading down to the field in a few minutes. Check out Bucsblitz.com later for complete coverage of the game. And don't forget to stop by the chat room at 10 p.m. EDT tonight to chat with me about today's victory.

Bucs add to lead, 3:44 p.m.

Matt Bryant just hit a 27-yard field goal to make it 31-7 Bucs with 7:35 left.

Consider this one wrapped up. With the fact that the Panthers and Falcons are both losing right now, the Bucs should end up tied for first in the NFC South by the end of the day.

That makes that meeting with the Panthers in two weeks that much more important.

Sticking with Caddy, 3:35 p.m.

I know the yardage isn't great, but Cadillac Williams is up to his 19th carry now and he just broke off a good chunk of yardage, 12 to be exact.

This is the stage in the game when Williams must be used liberally. If the game plan has worked correctly — and so far it has — Williams and the offensive line will have their way with opposing defenses. BTW, Caddy's over 20 carries now, and the Bucs don't lose when he hits 20.

Saints losing like men, 3:27 p.m.

New Orleans is going for it on 4th-and-5 from their own 27 with 12:28 left. Hey, at least Sean Payton has decided he's going to lose like a man. No sense in punting here, down 21 points already.

And Brees gets the first down himself.

Fourth quarter, 3:18 p.m.

If you're Tampa Bay, you need to run the football successfully here and keep the clock moving and keep the Saints offense off the field. The Bucs defense will play softer now, since they have a lead, and Drew Brees can take advantage of soft coverage as well as any quarterback in the league.

Saints finally get it going, 3:14

New Orleans finally has some offense going this drive, as David Patten turned a crossing route into a big gain inside the Bucs' 15-yard line.

The Saints, if they have any hope at all of winning this game, they need a touchdown here. And don't laugh. Or have you forgotten that Indy game on Monday night a few years ago? The Bucs aren't running the ball well, and a running game is your best friend in situations like this.

Mike Karney just scored for the Saints. It's 28-7 with :49 seconds left in the third quarter.

Bucs increase lead, 3:01 p.m.

Tampa Bay now has a 28-0 lead with 4:26 left in the third quarter. Carnell Williams scored his second TD run of the day, doubling his total from a year ago.

Only a miracle can save the Saints now.

Galloway's talking today, 2:59 p.m.

Joey Galloway just made an exceptional diving catch downfield with Roman Harper in coverage, his third big catch of the day. He's just victimizing this secondary.

And Carnell Williams is on the field in the goal-line package.

Carnell still out, 2:58 p.m.

As this drive begins, Carnell Williams is not on the field, but he is on the sideline. No update yet.

June's first INT, 2:55 p.m.

Cato June just picked off his 11th NFL pass — and his first as a Buc — with 7:05 left in the third quarter.

This is turning laughable, and in doing so the NFC South race appears to be turning away from the Saints. Two horrible games in a row means something in the NFL these days.

Dumb play, Reggie, 2:53 p.m.

After catching a play out in the flat with 8:07 left, Reggie Bush shoved Bucs linebacker Cato June to the ground, drawing a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call. It was hard to tell from the replay if June did anything to provoke it. It appears as if it was more a frustration penalty on Bush's part, which is the last thing the Saints need right now.

Haye in on act, 2:52 p.m.

Jovan Haye busted up the middle for his first sack of the season — and his career — with about 9:30 left in the third. That gives the Bucs two sacks today, as many as they had last week in Seattle.

Williams runs out, 2:48 p.m.

Carnell Williams just jogged off the field and down the tunnel after the Bucs first drive of the second half. There's 11:31 left in the third quarter. We don't know why he's left the field, but he didn't appear to be in pain or under duress. We'll keep you posted.

Bucs have ball, 2:44 p.m.

Tampa Bay starts the second half with the football and, first thing, opens up a big hole for a 6-yard gain by Cadillac Williams, followed by a first-down gain by Williams. Perhaps the offensive line has made adjustments — or the Saints defense is just dog tired.

Halftime report card, 2:29 p.m.

Bucs offense: B. The only thing holding them back from an A is a tepid running game. But the dissection of the Saints secondary by Jeff Garcia and company is more than making up for it.

Bucs defense: A. They've taken an offense I believe has some of the best weapons in the NFL and rendered it useless. They owe Tony Dungy a thank you note. You don't think they watched the Saints' opening loss to Indy with interest, do you?

Bucs special teams: B. The coverage has been fine, and Mark Jones has done a serviceable job on punt returns.

And a note: Bucs end Greg White recorded his first NFL sack late in the second quarter.

Bucs final drive, 2:25 p.m.

Tampa Bay just added to their lead.

The Saints secondary is awful. Jeff Garcia and Ike Hilliard just burned them for a 41-yard play into Saints territory. Hilliard must have lined up in the slot because LB Scott Fujita ended up in coverage, an easy matchup for Garcia to exploit.

Garcia just hit Galloway on a slant for his second touchdown catch of the day. Jason David was not in coverage. Josh Bullocks was this time.

Bucs now leading 21-0 with 1:05 left. Did anyone see THIS coming?

Saints sputter, 2:21 p.m.

Barrett Ruud got to Drew Brees enough on that third down play at the Saints 40 to force an incompletion and fourth down. The Saints have to put again. Mark Jones has had a busy day, and he just put together a nice return for about 16 yards to give the Bucs one more shot at the end zone with 1:41 left at their own 35.

Saints make it, 2:17 p.m.

Reggie Bush goes for the sideline and gets the first down. It may be the spark the Saints need offensively.

Stubbing their toe, 2:14 p.m.

Jammal Brown was just called for holding after he practically horse-collared Tampa Bay's Greg White on a pass rush. White beat Brown horribly on the play, and if Brown hadn't held White would have clobbered Drew Brees from the back side.

It was the Saints' second holding call.

Bucs caught a break as Lance Moore's catch on 3rd-and-20 came up just short of a first down. But the Saints, down 14 with 3:15 left before halfitme, appear to be going for it.

Ball possession, 2:11 p.m.

Terrance Copper nearly muffed a punt, the fourth such ball possession issue for the Saints today.

Reggie Bush has nearly fumbled twice, including a spectacular fumble on the sideline that flew up into the air and landed in the hands of teammate Eric Johnson.

The Saints can't afford to make another such mistake in a game where they're already down 14 points.

One thing the Saints are doing better, 2:06

As the Saints drove down for the first time in the second quarter it occurred to me that their offensive line is doing a much better job than Tampa Bay's.

The last two plays the Saints have provided huge holes for fullback Mike Karney and running back Deuce McAllister to put together big gains and put the Saints in Bucs territory.

Even on small gains, the Saints OL are creating a crease for McAllister and Bucs to get through and at least get a few yards.

The Bucs aren't doing that so far. The line is getting no push at all to this point, and you can tell by Cadillac Williams' numbers — a pedestrian 4 yards on 8 carries. Actually, that's not pedestrian. That's awful. The line isn't even creating creases for Caddy to get through.

Olindo Mare just missed a field goal for the Saints. Guess I'm going to have to drop him from my fantasy team.

Bucs take it to the house, 1:52 p.m.

Joey Galloway just scored on a 69-yard run and catch to make it 14-0. Actually, he caught it on a slant and took up the middle of the field. He got a great block from Michael Clayton on the Saints' Kevin Kaesviharn (it's the only think Clayton appears to be good at right now) and took it to the end zone.

It's a big touchdown for an offense that barely had a pulse by the end of last week's the game. The Bucs have a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter and the Saints look defenseless.

BTW, you're going to see that Clayton block a lot this week. It drew plenty of "oohs" from the crowd at RJS.

End of first quarter, 1:44

Cato June just unloaded on Deuce McAllister to end the quarter. The Saints will have to punt.

So far the Bucs have taken it to the Saints on both sides of the ball. The defense must have heard the criticism this week and decided to step up.

Saints' third drive, 1:39

The Saints offense is definitely sluggish. Reggie Bush nearly fumbled again on one play, but recovered. The Saints got a first down, a positive sign, but they're not getting much down the field yet.

On that drive, a curious switch came inside, as fifth-round pick Greg Peterson came in at the nose and Chris Hovan moved to under tackle. First time I've ever seen Hovan there. They did that for two plays.

Credit Phillip Buchanon with two great plays on that drive, batting away two passes — one a downfield route and one on a short route as the Saints were trying to covert a third down.

The Bucs are doing a great job of substituting on the D-Line, which is necessary today with the heat.

Bucs take lead, 1:28 p.m.

This second drive provided the Bucs a chance to cash in a turnover, something they did precious little of last year.

How did they do? Carnell Williams scored from a yard out to give Tampa Bay a 7-0 lead. That matches his touchdown total from all of last season.

QB Jeff Garcia showed great presence throughout the drive, stepping up in the pocket, making progressive reads and hitting his safety valve receivers twice for big gains. He even had the presence of mind to use a shovel pass to B.J. Askew on a jail-break pass rush by the Saints.

Then on 3rd and 6 inside the Saints 10, Garcia didn't slide to get the first down. He went head first into a tackler to try and score.

All in all, a great drive from the Bucs to take early control of this game.

That's a fumble, 1:16 p.m.

Deuce McAllister definitely lost that football on the way down, the result of a strip by Barrett Ruud. McAllister fell right on the football, and then Ruud grabbed it and ran with it. The question is whether McAllister's falling on the football allowed him to regain possession, and whether the replay official has a good view of the play after the fumble.

The ruling? The call is reversed. It's a fumble and it's Tampa Bay's ball. It's Barrett Ruud's first big play as a Buccaneer.

BTW the ref didn't start looking at this play until after the commercial break. It's this supposed to take 90 seconds?

A twist on the rush, 1:12 p.m.

On third down it appears the Bucs are moving Kevin Carter inside to under tackle, and Greg White to Chris Hovan's nose tackle position, in an effort to get a better rush. That means first-round pick Gaines Adams is on the right end and Greg Spires is on the left.

The Bucs are challenging the previous play, saying Deuce McAllister did indeed fumble on third down near midfield.

Carnell starts, 1:06 p.m.

Carnell Williams started and his first carry was a disappointing three-year loss.

Earnest Graham came in the next play, a passing down. Expect the backs to rotate plenty today. It's pretty hot, with a heat index of 96 degrees.

A horrible start for Tampa Bay. Carnell's three-yard loss, Galloway's catch went nowhere and a false start penalty made the down and distance an unmanageable 3rd and 17. The Bucs will punt.

Going nickel early, 1:05 p.m.

The Saints go three and out. The Bucs went to a nickel package on the first play, with Sammy Davis out on the field. They did so again on third down, with Cato June coming off the field on what became a passing down.

BTW, Mark Jones is returning punts, or at least he fair caught that first one from Steve Weatherford.

We're underway, 1:03 p.m.

The Bucs kicked off and the Saints downed it inside the end zone. We're underway.

Honorary captains, 1 p.m.

Shelton Quarles and Dave Moore appear to be honorary captains today for the Bucs and are on the field for the coin toss.

Moore, of course, retired in June and is the color commentator for the Bucs' radio broadcasts. Quarles is working in the Bucs' scouting department, but hasn't officially announced his retirement.

Caddy in uniform, 12:41 p.m.

It goes without saying that, if he's not inactive, he's in uniform. Cadillac Williams warmed up with the first-team offense and appears to be set to start, which is good news for the Bucs offense, since he averaged 5 yards per carry last week against Seattle.

Today's inactives, 12:04 p.m.

Today's inactives for Tampa Bay: QB Chris Simms, QB Luke McCown (third quarterback), CB Brian Kelly, LB Jeremiah Trotter, DE Patrick Chukwurah, G/T Anthony Davis, G Dan Buenning, DT Ryan Sims.

Today's inactives for New Orleans: QB Tyler Palko (third quarterback), WR Robert Meachem, CB Fred Thomas, RB Pierre Thomas, G Andy Alleman, T Jermon Bushrod, TE Ronnie Ghent, DE Renaldo Wynn.

Phillip Buchanon will start for Kelly. The Saints put TE Mark Campbell on injured reserve and signed Palko.

Even though McCown is the third quarterback, he is available to play. But that also means that Bruce Gradkowski is Jeff Garcia's immediate backup.

Warming up, 11:30 a.m.

I'm at Raymond James Stadium watching pre-game warm-ups. Right now it's mostly special teamers. No uniforms yet.

Naturally, everyone wants to know if Carnell Williams will be out there. Haven't seen him yet. I'll let you know when I do. I'm betting he plays, though.

Just finished reading the Tampa Tribune, which had a great article on linebacker Derrick Brooks and whether he's lost a step. Very balanced article that presented both sides. Read it if you get a chance.

I addressed this in a blog earier this week. Yes, Brooks is 34. Yes, he has lost a step. But who hasn't at that age? He's still going to log 125-150 tackles this season and make some big plays. You just have to expect that, at his age, that he's going to miss a few, too.

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