And so it goes.
Saints 23 – Bucs 20
How fitting is it that in the last moments of the final game of a season which has been characterized by most teams owning the Tampa offensive line and making sure that quarterback Josh McCown met the turf early and often, that the Bucs would allow him to be sacked in the end zone for a safety to nullify any chance of last-minute victory? This, after surrendering a 13-point lead in which they had out-gained the New Orleans Saints on the ground and through the air.
That was when Saints quarterback Drew Brees remembered he was Drew Brees.
Despite the game having no bearing on New Orleans’ post-season hopes (they were eliminated last week after losing to division rival Atlanta), the Saints starting QB remained in the lineup, engineering the comeback and relentlessly chipping away at Tampa’s lead. It was the very definition of “playing for pride.”
Tampa looked very solid in the early going, assembling a 20-7 lead going into halftime. Despite the Bucs offense suddenly dropping into Neutral, the defense kept things under control, denying the Saints for the entirety of the third quarter. That’s when Brees found the handle, guiding the Saints to an early 4th quarter touchdown and cutting Tampa’s lead to 6. The Bucs managed to hold off New Orleans for most of the remaining time, but then the Saints notched another TD as the 2-minute warning glided past.
With one more chance to pull off a miracle, the Bucs took over on their own 20 after the ensuing kickoff, but the final drive went backwards, first due to a penalty and then the second of three sacks McCown suffered on the day. Then McCown took his third sack, which happened to be in the Tampa end zone. Safety!
And that was pretty much all she wrote.
There were a few bright spots. Wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans and running back Doug Martin all turned in solid performances, despite the troubles the Bucs continue to experience with their injury-riddled offensive line. Here’s hoping they can get the O back up to shape next year, and give their quarterback, whoever he may be, some badly needed support.
The loss drops the Bucs to 2-14 for the season, and the winners of the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. I can’t imagine Tampa would’ve preferred a shot at the Super Bowl, right?
As usual, speculation is all over the map with respect to Bucs head coach Lovie Smith. I’d be surprised if he gets fired after a single season, but I suppose odder things have happened.
As another disappointing season comes to a close, I fold my Bucs flag and put away my saber before settling in to watch the post-season action before beginning the countdown to next year’s preseason.
And so it goes.