The New Orleans Saints defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-13, ending the Bucs’ four-game winning streak and chance to clinch the NFC South in Week 17. The Saints imposed their will on both sides of the football for the majority of the matchup, reaching a domineering 20-0 lead through the third quarter as self-inflicted wounds hindered the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay tallied four turnovers, which spurred the defeat.
The Saints scored on their opening offensive possession, capping off a 14-play, 73-yard drive with a Derek Carr connection with Juwan Johnson. New Orleans took an early 7-0 lead inside Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs then went three-and-out, following two Rachaad White runs sandwiched around a four-yard Cade Otton crosser underneath. On the Saints’ next offensive drive, Lavonte David snuffed out a screen on third-and-two, forcing a quick three-and-out.
On the ensuing drive, the Bucs were able to move down the field, courtesy of a 33-yard gain by Mike Evans crossing the middle of the field. Baker Mayfield lobbed a deep bomb to Trey Palmer on second down, but the pass was intercepted at the New Orleans’ two-yard line by Alontae Taylor early in the second quarter. On the Saints following drive, Yaya Diaby invaded the backfield and dropped Williams for a loss, setting up third down. Markees Watts was credited with a sack on the following play as he chased Carr out of bounds. The Bucs followed suit with a quick punt following a false start penalty and an incompletion to Chase Edmonds on third-and-long.
A 32-yard gain by Juwan Johnson set up the Saints’ 22-yard touchdown. Carr hit Taysom Hill, who contorted his body to make the grab. New Orleans extended their lead 14-0 with just under two minutes to play in the second quarter. The Bucs followed up with a quick three-and-out, following two incompletions and a sack on third-and-10 (Zack Baun). Before the half, Blake Grupe drilled a 45-yard field goal to make it a 17-0 shutout. The Saints held an advantage in yards (202-44), first downs (13-3) and plays (38-19) in their dominant first half over the home team.
To begin the third frame, the Bucs’ offense went three-and-out. The Bucs’ defense then took a stand and forced a punt, thrusting Mayfield and cast back on the field. Tampa Bay moved the chains following two 10-yard gains by Palmer and Chase Edmonds, however, a fumble recovered by Demario Davis set up the Saints at the New Orleans’ 45 (20-yard return). The Saints next seven-play, 45-yard drive culminated in a Grupe 28-yard field goal, which gave the Saints a 20-0 edge. Mayfield was sacked by Bresee for a loss of 10 on the ensuing Tampa Bay drive, which set up third-and-13. The Bucs were once again stopped short, and Jake Camarda punted 47 yards.
To begin the fourth quarter, Mayfield’s pass intended for David Moore was undercut and intercepted by Johnathan Abram at the New Orleans’ 46-yard line. The Saints took over with advantageous field position and Tampa Bay’s defense stepped up. Devin White broke up a pass intended for Johnson on third-and-eight, forcing a punt. With 7:50 left in regulation, the Bucs got on the scoreboard. A 16-yard physical catch by Chris Godwin set up the 22-yard Trey Palmer score. The eight-play, 91-yard drive trimmed the Bucs’ deficit, 20-7. In a microcosm of the day’s events for the Bucs, Mayfield lobbed a deep shot to Trey palmer, hitting him in stride. Palmer initially caught the pass for a gain of 54 yards but dropped the pass. The fumble was recovered by Saints’ Isaac Yiadom at the New Orleans’ 13-yard line, putting Carr back on the field. Despite late-game heroics, including a 47-yard Chris Godwin touchdown, too many miscues early on sealed the Bucs’ fate in Week 17.