I guess it’s only fitting that on “Throwback Weekend,” Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman wishes he could have a few of those passes to do over.
Division games are always important, no matter how well your rival is doing in the standings, because at this point in the season you just never know how or if that other team will find a way to climb back into the thick of things. That’s exactly the situation the 2-3 Bucs faced today coming into this game against the Saints and their 1-4 record. A loss here would give New Orleans a much-needed leg up back into the division race.
It certainly started out well enough, with the Bucs sporting those “classic” creamsicle colors and Bucco Bruce the ambiguously gay pirate on their oh-so white helmets. Hey, I can talk smack here, because I do so with love, and after having worn my share of Bucs Orange in the 1970s and 80s. Seeing the old colors and logos brought back a lot of fun memories of games at Tampa Stadium, where I used to work as a vendor. Good times, those.
Tampa jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, aided by a timely interception of Saints quarterback Drew Brees as well a solid scoring drive led by Bucs QB Freeman. New Orleans was able to answer with a TD of their own, after which the Bucs added another 7 points to their tally.
Then, Drew Brees and the Saints got serious.
After scoring 21 unanswered points to close out the first half, New Orleans proceeded to confound and frustrate the Bucs’ every attempt to close the gap. To be fair, Tampa’s defense also did their part, with each team keeping the other scoreless throughout the third quarter. The Saints would notch another touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and with Tampa’s defense keeping things close, it seemed like Freeman and the Bucs O had chance after chance to get back in the game.
After pulling to within one touchdown with four minutes left to play and with the Bucs defense forcing a late New Orleans punt, Freeman had one last chance to tie things up and trigger overtime. That it came down to the very last play was both exciting and heartbreaking all at the same time. Freeman’s touchdown throw to receiver Mike Williams as the game’s final seconds ticked away was ruled incomplete due to penalty: Williams had stepped out of bounds during the play, and by rule you can’t be the first player to touch the ball even after you re-establish yourself in bounds. Game over.
Lots of things for Coach Schiano and his staff to look over during their upcoming short prep week. Far too many mistakes on defense, and Tampa’s apparent allergic reaction to finding the Red Zone when the going gets tough is still a problem. That’s something we’d like to see addressed before next season, yo.
Tampa drops to 2-4, four games behind the 6-0 Atlanta Falcons who were enjoying a bye this week. New Orleans improves to 2-4, tying them with the Bucs but also giving them the tie-breaker edge within the division. Even Carolina almost managed to sneak in a win, before the Cowboys woke up and remembered who they were playing. They’re down at 1-6, but they’re always good for a spoiler game or two.
Next up, the Bucs travel to Minn-eh-SOH-ta to take on the Vikings on Thursday night. The Vikes are coming off a win, so I imagine they’ll be on their game in front of that national audience and on their home turf.
Hopefully, the Bucs are up for being like that one drunk friend of yours who always dicks up the party by puking in the punch bowl before hitting on the host’s wife. Bring it, Tampa!