This one hurts. Really..
The Saints failed to clinch home field advantage for the NFC playoffs with a lacklusater 20-17 loss against the Tampa Bay Bucanneers.
New Orleans started the game quickly, scoring the game’s first 17 points and forcing Tampa turnovers. The Saints ran early and often on their first drive, finishing with an 8 yard Pierre Thomas TD run. The Saints struck again five minutes later with a 30 yard TD strike to Robert Meachem, set up by Darren Sharper’s 9th INT of the season.Garrett Hartley added a 28 yard field goal to put the Saints up 17-0.
But that’s when the Saints’ offense stalled. Tampa added a late field goal just before halftime to cut the lead to 17-3. Tampa showed signs of life in the second half, driving the ball down the field on their first drive of the half, which ended in a Tracy Porter INT in the end zone. The Bucs continued to put the pressure on the Saints, slowing the Saints’ offense down and moving the ball behind RB Cadillac Williams. Tampa drew closer on a 23 yard TD run by Williams., cutting the lead to 17-10.
Tampa again stalled the Saints and drove the ball once again. The Saints defense stepped again, stopping the Bucs on a key fourth down late in the 4th quarter. However, New Orleans could do very little with the ball and had to punt the ball back to Tampa. Michael Spurlock took the punt for Tampa and returned it 77 yards for the game tying score.
The Saints finally got a decent drive going after that and put themselves in position to win despite the teams’ struggles. But, Garrett Hartley missed a 37 yard field goal that would have sealed the win for the Saints.
In overtime, Tampa took the opening kickoff and rode Cadillac Williams down the field to set up Connor Barth’s game winning 47 yard field goal.
Drew Brees finished the game 32-37 for 258 yards and 1 TD. However, Tampa took away the deep throws downfield and put pressure on the offensive line, forcing Brees and the offense to settle for short and quick passes.
The Saints got back to running the ball again this week, rushing for 124 yards on 23 attempts. Pierre Thomas led the team with 60 yards before leaving the game with a rib injury.
So what happened? Is the Saints defense to blame? They did allow Tamp to rush for 176 yards on the day and could not stop Carnell Williams late in the game. However, they did force turnovers this game and made a key fourth down stop late in the fourth quarter and held the Bucs to just 17 points. How bout the offense? They stalled after a hot start, tallying just 112 yards in the five drives between the Hartley field goals. We’ll take a closer look and see what’s ailing the Saints the last few weeks.
With the loss, the Saints drop to 13-2 on the season. They finish the season on the road against a Carolina team that has blown out the Vikings and Giants in back to back weeks.
Let’s hope the Saints can find a way to cure their blues this week. We Saints fans are hurting for a win.