Saints 3, Bucs 0 (first quarter)

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The Saints drove deep into Bucs territory on their opening run and took a 3-0 lead through a 31-yard field goal from Will Lutz this afternoon at the Superdome in New Orleans.

The Bucs are seeking their first win of the regular season over the Saints in five tries since Tom Brady’s arrival ahead of the 2020 season. The Bucs are 0-4 against the Saints in their last two regular seasons and 1-7 since 2018.

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Tampa Bay is without wide receivers Chris Godwin (torn hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee) and left tackle Donovan Smith (extended elbow), who injured themselves in last weekend’s season-opening win over the Cowboys.

New Orleans is without running back Alvin Kamara. Quarterback Jameis Winston is playing despite four back fractures.

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give it away

The first break of the game went for the Saints when a poor exchange between Bucs center Robert Hainsey and quarterback Tom Brady led to a fumble that linebacker Demario Davis recovered at the New Orleans 25.

The Bucs didn’t bring up much on the first and second down on their first possession, but they converted two third downs before the fumble on third-and-1.

A 33-yard pass from Brady to Scotty Miller in third and ninth gave Tampa Bay a first down at his 48-yard line.

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Brady later found Mike Evans for 13 yards at third and sixth over center, giving the Bucs a first down at the Saints ’35.

Lavonte David fired Jameis Winston in third and fifth of the New Orleans 30, but Keanu Neal was penalized for unnecessary rudeness, giving the Saints a first down with their 37.

Move at will

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston comes by in the first quarter.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston comes by in the first quarter. [ BUTCH DILL | AP ]

The Saints’ offensive line opened huge holes as New Orleans pushed deep into Bucs territory on their opening attack.

Mark Ingram carried three times for 23 yards. James Winston found running back Tony Jones for 7 yards.

A 13-yard pass from Winston to wide receiver Michael Thomas delivered the ball to the Tampa Bay 33.

Taysom Hill saved 13 yards down the middle to 17 on a quarterback draw.

But the drive faltered at 12 after Ingram passed without a win, a 5-yard pass to Jones and Winston’s incompleteness forced the Saints to contend with a 31-yard field goal from Will Lutz and a 3-0 to satisfy leadership.

Caught in her grip

Bucs quarterback Tom Brady is sacked by Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) in the second half of a 36-27 loss in New Orleans last season.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady is sacked by Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) in the second half of a 36-27 loss in New Orleans last season. [ BUTCH DILL | AP ]
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They lost in Tampa and in New Orleans.

They lost to Drew Brees and Jameis Winston. Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill.

They have lost high-scoring games (36-27) and low-scoring games (9-0).

Regardless of the circumstances, the Saints have had the Bucs’ number in their last four regular seasons, winning seven of their eight games.

Things haven’t improved much since the arrival of Tom Brady, as Tampa Bay moved all four regular-season contests to New Orleans, though the Bucs defeated the Saints in a 2021 divisional round playoff game.

So what gives?

Penalties and turnover were certainly factors. But the Bucs have struggled to establish the run, too, and the Saints’ ability to consistently press while downing just four linemen has given them an advantage. Tight back-end coverage has allowed New Orleans pass rushers to break through to the quarterback. It’s a plan that appears to be giving Brady and his teammates fits.

Will this be the year the Bucs finally end the Saints’ hold on them?

There were encouraging signs in last week’s season-opener win over the Cowboys.

A remodeled offensive line was physical at the line of scrimmage, paving the way for 152 rushing yards, including 127 from Leonard Fournette. The Bucs avoided penalties for the most part, and a more conservative game plan limited risk, resulting in just one turnover in the 19-3 win.

On the other side of the ball, a stifling defense limited a Dallas offensive that led the NFL to a lone field goal in 2021. Tampa Bay kept the running game in check, coming to quarterback four times.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the Saints had to recover from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Falcons 27-26 in their opening game. Winston led a couple of touchdown drives before New Orleans won with 19 seconds left with Will Lutz’s 51-yard field goal.

Are the Bucs better positioned to beat the Saints this season? Has Atlanta uncovered some vulnerabilities in New Orleans that Tampa Bay can exploit?

We’re going to get some answers today.

You’ve been a long time coming.

Julio Jones, Donovan Smith will not play

Bucs veteran Donovan Smith suffered a sprained elbow during last weekend's season opener against the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas.
Bucs veteran Donovan Smith suffered a sprained elbow during last weekend’s season opener against the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. [ MICHAEL AINSWORTH | AP ]

Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith and receiver Julio Jones, both injured in last weekend’s season opener against the Cowboys, are inactive and won’t play the Saints today.

Other inactive players: quarterback Kyle Trask, running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, tight end Kyle Rudolph, cornerback Zyon McCollum, and receiver Chris Godwin. Perpetual Pro Bowl backwater Alvin Kamara (RIBS) is among the Saints’ inactive players.

Read Joey Knight’s story here.

Scene before the game

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A little reading

Here’s some of our content leading up to today’s game:

Practice creates masters? For Bucs, it depends on your age

For Bucs receiver Mike Evans, it’s “The Catch”

Winfield shows he can do it all as Bucs uses more nickel packs

Can Bucs fix his red-zone issues in New Orleans Sunday?

Julio Jones back in Bucs practice, Chris Godwin won’t play Saints

Tom Brady’s greatest transgressions happened against the Saints

Josh Wells has evolved from passer to protector in the football odyssey

The Saints’ Jameis Winston is hoping to have the last dance again

Bucs-Saints will need some ‘give and take’ to reignite the rivalry

Romano: Hurry up and hop on the Todd Bowles train

Analysis of the Saints’ 7-game regular-season winning streak against Bucs

Butterflies still visit Tom Brady before the first game

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