After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to Bucs

Officials break a brawl between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the...
Officials break a brawl between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)(Associated Press)
Published: Sep. 18, 2022 at 7:42 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Fourth quarter collapse

At the 12:55 mark of the fourth quarter, Tom Brady misfired on a deep pass to Scotty Miller forcing a Bucs punt. On the trip back to the sideline, Brady and Marshon Lattimore were jawing back and forth.

The next thing anyone knew an all-out brawl was underway. By the time the dust settled, Lattimore and Mike Evans were ejected (more on that later).

The Saints were simply never the same again.

Two plays later, Jameis Winston went deep to Chris Olave but was picked off in the end zone. On the very next drive, the defense gave up their lone touchdown of the game when Brady marched 80 yards on nine plays to hit Breshad Perriman in the end zone.

Two plays after that, Winston overthrew Juwan Johnson to get picked off by Jamel Dean again. The Bucs offense responded with a field goal. When Winston returned to action, he completed the hat trick when Mike Edwards stepped in front of a pass for Jarvis Landry, picked it off and returned it for six.

In an 8:44 stretch, the score went from 3-3 to 20-3 and effectively ended the contest.

Post brawl, the Saints were picked off three times including one pick-six, gave up an 80-yard drive and fumbled on their second-to-last offensive possession.

For as good as last week’s finish was, this week’s was equally as bad for the Saints.

Take Two: Breaking down the brawl

What started as Brady and Lattimore trash-talking after an incompletion somehow ended with a melee.

There’s little doubt who instigated it. Leonard Fournette was the first to lay a hand on Lattimore. When Lattimore responded, Evans came like a bolt of lightning to light up Lattimore. That’s when the benches cleared and chaos ensued.

Dennis Allen said after the game that the decisions to eject Lattimore and Evans ‘came from New York.’ If that’s indeed the case, then clearly history between both players played a role. Everyone knows this is not the first time these two players have gone at it.

A lot of people have said Fournette should have been ejected too. I disagree, while he definitely started things, I didn’t think his actions warranted an ejection. Definitely a flag, but not a suspension. Lattimore didn’t deserve to be tossed, but Evans once again went overboard and definitely deserved to be ejected.

I understand the team and fans’ frustration. It was unfair. However, it was only 3-3 at that point with plenty of football left to play. Both teams had to deal with star players leaving early. Yet, one team handled it much better.

Take Three: Jameis Winston is not healthy

Earlier in the week, Winston caught my attention when he commented on how sore he still was on Wednesday. Then came his limited participation in practice throughout the week with a back injury. Still, it never felt like his playing status was in doubt, but right before kickoff Sunday it was reported that Winston was dealing with four fractures in his back.

How much his health impacted his play, only Winston can answer. The bottom line is Winston and the team were confident in him suiting up to play, thus there was an expectation of performance for which he fell well short. Winston was erratic all day. He tried often to connect with Olave but never could. He was off target on several throws and appeared indecisive at times. He finished 25-of-40 with 236 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. It was his worst effort since week two of last season.

The Saints are now in an interesting scenario. Post game, Winston walked very slow and gingerly to the podium. If he’s still banged up but technically well enough to play, the team will have to gauge if that gives them their best chance to win. Or should they turn to a fully healthy Andy Dalton and let Winston heal up? This week of practice will go a long way in determining where they stand.

Take Four: Defense rebounds

The Saints defense played lights-out football for most of Sunday. They bounced back in a big way against the run. One week after surrendering over 200 yards to Atlanta, they only allowed 72 yards to Tampa Bay. Fournette only averaged 2.7 yards a carry. Plus, Tampa Bay only converted 5/17 on third down.

They also frustrated Brady for much of the game. His numbers were fairly pedestrian: 18/34, 190 yards and a touchdown. It also felt like early on that the weight of Brady not beating the Saints in the regular season as a member of the Bucs really got to him. He was really animated and frustrated earlier in the game.

All in all, it was the type of effort we’ve become accustomed to with this defense, and likely proof that last week in Atlanta was an outlier.

Take Five: Other Observations

- Interesting decision by Allen to punt at the end of the half instead of going for a 57-yard field goal. It wasn’t an easy kick by any means, but Wil Lutz has proven to be more than capable. If Lutz connected, it would have made the score, 6-0. Allen clearly feared a miss, which would have given Brady the ball with plenty of time remaining near midfield.

- The brawl doesn’t occur if Saints didn’t have 12 men on the field on the punt attempt three plays prior. That penalty lengthened the drive.

- Speaking of impactful penalties, it was a bad call on Bradley Roby’s personal foul. That penalty extended Tampa’s only offensive touchdown drive. If that’s unnecessary roughness, then football is simply not football anymore. However, I felt the Saints caught a similar break earlier in the game when Lavonte David was flagged for the same thing. Neither seemed overly egregious and didn’t warrant such harsh penalties.

- The Saints offense has been on-point for one quarter this season. They’ve been anemic for the other seven. That must get figured out.

- Through two games, Pete Werner has shown why the Saints had enough faith in him to hand him the starting weakside linebacker position. He finished with eight tackles and two pass breakups. In several short yardage situations, even if he didn’t make the tackle, he was in the backfield disrupting the play.

- Shy Tuttle had a fantastic day and led the team with nine tackles.

- Two games in a row of big mistakes for Mark Ingram. His fumble Sunday crushed what was their best offensive drive of the game.

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