TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints 20-10 on Sunday a Caesars Superdome to continue its unbeaten start to the season.
The visitor's defense forced Saints quarterback Jameis Winston to throw three interceptions, with one of them returned by safety Mike Edwards for a touchdown.
The Bucs headed into the game with key injuries but saw a major player, wide receiver Mike Evans, get ejected from the game due to a confrontation with New Orleans cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
The victory marks the first time Tom Brady has beaten the Saints in the regular season in a Tampa Bay uniform, and the first time the Bucs won against the NFC South rival in the regular season since 2018.
The Bucs will continues its tough schedule as they face the Green Bay Packers at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium for the team's home opener.
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Times have changed since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last defeated the New Orleans Saints in the regular season.
Tom Brady was still with the New England Patriots, Jameis Winston was on the Bucs roster and Todd Bowles was the head coach for the New York Jets when Tampa Bay defeated New Orleans 48-40 during the opening weekend of the 2018 NFL Season.
However, Winston was not the man in the pocket during that game. Instead, it was Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is now retired from the league, as he threw four touchdown passes.
Fast forward four years later, Brady and Bowles are now with the Bucs as they try to make another Super Bowl run while Winston is the starting quarterback for the Saints.
In the regular season, Brady has lost each encounter against New Orleans since joining the team two seasons ago. His only victory against the NFC South rival occurred in a 30-20 victory in the 2020 NFC Divisional Round.
The seven-time Super Bowl champion has also thrown more interceptions, eight, than touchdown passes, six, in four regular season games against New Orleans with Tampa Bay.
Brady has an all-time 4-5 regular season record against the Saints. Only one other squad in the NFL has a winning record versus the G.O.A.T. and it's the Seattle Seahawks at 2-1.
"Coach Bowles said today, ‘It’s not a rivalry unless there’s some give-and-take.’" Bucs offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs said. "We definitely want to come out and put our best foot forward."
Speaking at his weekly press conference Wednesday, Bowles said one of the reasons why the Bucs failed to defeat the Saints in the past is because of New Orleans' defensive strength.
“They’re making plays, they’ve got a good scheme, they’re executing more than we are and they’re making more plays than we are,” he said. "[They're} Well coached, very physical, very smart football team and they play good football. Anytime you lose to a team more than once or twice, you try to put a finger on what they’re trying to do and what you’re doing and what you can do differently.”
On defense for the Bucs, the highly-talented unit has given up more than 30 points in three out of their last four regular season games against the Saints.
However, according to cornerback Carlton Davis III, the defensive unit this year has tweaked a couple of things to take them to another level.
"Overall, our defensive scheme, we’ve switched it up a little bit," he said. "You don’t want to be redundant in what you do. Tweaks are always good to keep them guessing.”
Davis said credit goes to Bowles with what he does behind the scenes. Tampa Bay was the only NFL group to not allow a touchdown in Week 1.
"He does a lot of good things well and his disguises are crazy, you never know when the blitz is coming or where they’re coming from," Davis said. "He’s really versatile in how he likes to bring pressure and how he stops the run first. I think that’s one of the biggest things in this league is to make teams one dimensional.”
Tackle Tristian Wirfs has not seen a victory against the Saints in the regular season, but admits it's time to finally win one for Bucs fans.
"One game could be us shooting ourselves in the foot, penalties and in the next game, we get the penalties under control but then give the ball to them and turn it over. It’s [about] honing everything in, having good fundamentals and technique, good attitude, good effort and going out there and playing a tough game.”
This time around, the Bucs will not be facing a Saints team with Sean Payton as their head coach. The 58-year-old announced his retirement at the end of the 2021 season.
New Orleans has since promoted Dennis Allen to head coach and the organization has also gained new additions on both sides of the ball as wide receiver Jarvis Landry and safety Tyrann Mathieu joined the team in the offseason.
Winston is back under center after getting injured against his former team last season with a torn ACL (similar to Chris Godwin's injury). He threw two touchdown passes in the team's nail-biting season-opening win against the Atlanta Falcons.
Although Bowles worked with Winston for one season, he said it does not provide an advantage for his side.
"We play against ex-teammates all the time, so it’s just understanding the scheme and trying to execute.”
It would be an ideal situation for the Bucs to have all of their starters fit and ready to play in week two, but the team suffered injuries to key players in Chris Godwin and left tackle Donovan Smith during their 19-3 win against the Dallas Cowboys.
According to the team's injury report on Wednesday, Godwin and Smith did not participate in practice due to hamstring and elbow injuries, respectively. Bowles has not yet ruled out either player, but we believe Godwin is almost certainly not suiting up.
"They’re just getting treatment and we’ll see how it goes at the end of the week,” he said.
If Smith is a no-go, Bowles said Josh Wells is expected to take his role within the offensive line as he did against Dallas.
"We thought he stepped in and did a good job. You know, there are some things that we can get better at there, but overall, I thought he did a good job.”
With Godwin most likely sidelined, Brady will still have plenty of weapons to help in finally taking down New Orleans, including Evans, Julio Jones and Russell Gage. Jones and Gage also did not practice on Wednesday, but that should not play a factor in their availability status this weekend.
Kickoff for the Bucs' game against New Orleans is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at Caesars Superdome.
Be sure to watch The Blitz every Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on 10 Tampa Bay as Sports Director Evan Closky and Sports Anchor David Schiele give you full Tampa Bay Buccaneers coverage leading up to each game.