Turnovers haunt Bucs again in loss at New Orleans
The suffering continued for the Bucs in the regular season against the Saints Sunday after they hurt themselves with penalties and a lack of poise. The pain was all over the face of Devin White following the 36-27 defeat at the Superdome, the sixth straight regular-season loss to the reigning NFC South champions.

First, White ached for Jameis Winston, who suffered a serious knee injury in the second quarter after the linebacker's horse collar tackle of the Saints quarterback. White also remorseful for his two personal fouls and being flagged for taunting among the 11 penalties for 99 yards levied against the Bucs.

"That was an embarrassing display of football," Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. "We talked about what it was going to take to win, and to play like that obviously starts with me. Obviously, we weren't ready to play. Penalties. Turnovers. You're not beating anybody that way."

Arians is wrong, of course, because the Bucs beat themselves. Brady had another awful game against the Saints. He passed for 375 yards and four scores but threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Seven of his 17 INTs since joining the Bucs have come against New Orleans.

The Bucs overcame a 23-7 deficit and took the lead when Brady connected on a 50-yard TD pass to former LSU track star Cyril Grayson with 5:44 remaining in the game. But Brady couldn't outduel Saints third-string quarterback Trevor Siemian, who used a defensive holding penalty on Ross Cockrell to set up Brian Johnson's 23-yard field goal for a two-point lead.

Brady needed only to move the Bucs back into field-goal range with one timeout and 1:41 remaining, but he was intercepted by safety P.J. Williams, who returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. "I think I just threw it to the wrong guy," said Brady, who was trying to connect with Chris Godwin (8 catches, 140 yards, 1 TD. "I had Mike (Evans) open. It cost us the game."

The Bucs beat the Saints in a division playoff game on their way to winning the Super Bowl last year. But Brady has no clue why he saves his worst performances for New Orleans. "Bad throws," he said.

The Bucs fell to 6-2 with the loss entering the bye week with the hope of getting some injured players back. Speaking of pain, tight end Rob Gronkowski tried to play after missing four games with fractured ribs but had to leave the game with back spasms. Arians said afterward it was probably a bad decision to play him.

Credit the Saints and coach Sean Payton for having the Bucs' number. He's consistently out-coached Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles in the series, even if New Orleans lost the one the mattered most in January. "(Eleven) penalties. They couldn't make a first down," Arians said. "It was all 15-yard penalties for roughing the quarterback. Stupid."

On one drive, White and a helmetless William Gholston were flagged for back-to-back roughing-the-passer penalties on Siemian. The Bucs' penalties resulted in six Saints first downs. Gholston's late hit erased an end-zone interception by safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Adding insult to Winston's injury, Winfield mocked the Saints' fallen quarterback by "eating W's" in the end zone following the apparent pick.

After the game, the bad blood between the Bucs and Saints continued. Some shoving erupted between New Orleans safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Bucs running back Leonard Fournette during the postgame handshakes.

White knew he hurt his team but wouldn't apologize for the fire he brings to the huddle on every play. "Just playing hard, especially on my part," he said. "I thought the call with Jameis, his momentum, whatever they (saw), I'm going to go back and look at it. But I thought I had him in his pads and the hand was too high to his nameplate. I'll take that one.

"On the one I was trying to get the sack, I was just finishing the play. On the sideline, that was on me. I take full responsibility. But with me and Mark Ingram jawing all night just going back and forth, I mean, I'm going to just keep being me. I'm a fiery guy."

The Bucs enter the bye with a half-game lead over the Saints. But considering the logjam of teams with one or two losses in the NFC, they can ill-afford to enter the playoffs as a wild card this year instead of a division champion. "You drop down and start going on the road in the playoffs, it's different," Arians said.

The Bucs lost an important game. The Saints lost their starting quarterback, perhaps for the season. Pain? Yeah, there was plenty of it during and after the game Sunday. "I think the most important thing," White said, "is we've just got to get healthy."

But right now, the Bucs are hurting.

Rick Stroud, The Tampa Times, published 1 November 2021