The Bucs overcame the 16-3 deficit to score two touchdowns in the final 3:03 and swept the season series against their NFC South rival.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In a complete role reversal from last week — when the Cleveland Browns trailed nearly all game and came back to defeat the Buccaneers in overtime — the Bucs (6-6) overcame a disastrous deficit to score two late touchdowns to defeat the Saints.
Quarterback Tom Brady connected with rookie tight end Cade Otton for a 1-yard touchdown to cut the Saints’ lead to 16-10, and then on the next possession completed two passes to Julio Jones, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller to go with a 10-yard run from Leonard Fournette.
A holding call on left tackle Donovan Smith wiped out a Godwin touchdown in the back of the end zone, but Brady connected with running back Rachaad White for the 6-yard game winner. It was Brady’s 44th career fourth-quarter comeback, breaking Peyton Manning’s record.
QB breakdown: Without All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs, Brady struggled with not only the deep ball but also the screen game. He also failed to account for linebacker Demario Davis dropping into coverage, and he was picked off on a pass intended for Russell Gage that set up a 38-yard field goal just before halftime. While it was just Brady’s third interception all season, it was his second time failing to account for a linebacker in coverage. Of course, none of that mattered when Brady eventually led the two scoring drives to clinch the victory.
Troubling trend: The red zone continues to be an issue — if they can even get down there. And the franchise’s leading receiver, Mike Evans, who was targeted nine times and mustered just two catches last week, didn’t even see his number called until 1:26 to go in the first half despite cornerback Marshon Lattimore being inactive. Brady and Evans did hook up at the beginning of the second half for a 22-yard play, but it was futile after White fumbled the ball.
Key number: The Bucs’ goal each week on defense is to hold their opponent to 17 points or fewer. That mark was on the money Monday, but the offense’s inability to put points on the board at times has made for unrealistic expectations. However, Brady was able to save the game this time for a defense that was without several key players in its secondary: Antoine Winfield Jr., Sean Murphy-Bunting and Mike Edwards.
Eye-popping NFL Next Gen Stats stat: Brady has had a turnover in all six regular-season games against the Saints since joining Tampa Bay in 2020 and now has 12 total against them. He has no more than three against any other team.
Next game: at San Francisco 49ers (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
New Orleans Saints
The Saints saw their season slip away in the span of three minutes.
The Saints (4-9) were in control for most of the night in a pivotal matchup against the Buccaneers that could have put them in contention for the NFC South division. But a costly 44-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Paulson Adebo put the Bucs at the Saints 1-yard line.
The Bucs scored and the Saints offense failed to respond, essentially paving the way for the late comeback. Quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked for a loss of 10 yards on second-and-7 with 2:54 left, and then a pass to Taysom Hill for a would-be first down was dropped on third-and-17.
The Bucs then drove methodically down the field to score, dashing the Saints’ hopes for a winning record in coach Dennis Allen’s first season in the role — and also any dream of gaining ground in the division in the final month. The Saints have taken a number of tough losses this season and have often lamented losing games by virtue of their own mistakes, whether those be key penalties or turnovers.
That’ll certainly be the case with this one, as it likely dealt the final blow in their attempt to salvage the season.
“That one was tough because we really had an opportunity to win this game, and we didn’t finish, we didn’t get it done,” Allen said. “It stings. It sucks.”
QB breakdown: While Dalton played well for most of the game, his string of prime-time road losses will continue after the Saints failed to respond offensively toward the end of the game. Dalton completed 20 of 28 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown, but he took a sack on the team’s final offensive drive and wasn’t helped by his pass-catchers, with Hill dropping a deep throw that would have been a first down. Dalton didn’t make any big mistakes, but the Saints kicked too many field goals instead of getting into the end zone and couldn’t come up big when it counted.
Rashid Shaheed‘s breakout performance: The undrafted rookie wide receiver from Weber State has increasingly been getting more chances in the offense thanks to his blazing speed and return potential. Shaheed did more than just flash Monday, he proved on a national stage that he should be a weekly part of the offense. Not only did Shaheed return a punt for 41 yards, but he was electrifying almost every time he caught the ball, finishing with a career-high four receptions for 71 yards. He has been one of the bright spots for the struggling Saints.
Promising trend: The Saints have been one of the worst teams in the league in turnover differential all season, heading into Monday with only two interceptions from the defense. It took Brady to change that. Brady had only two interceptions all season coming into this game, but he has been a prime target for picks against this defense since he joined Tampa Bay in 2020. New Orleans picked him off once, increasing his total to nine interceptions against the Saints as a Buccaneer, and also forced a fumble. While it could be a sign their luck is changing in that department, it also feels like too little, too late to save their season.
Eye-popping NFL Next Gen Stats stat: Hill’s 30-yard receiving touchdown was the first TD he has scored in 10 career games against the Buccaneers. He has not faced any other team more than three times without a touchdown.
Next game: vs. Atlanta Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Dec. 18)