Buccaneers vs. Saints score, takeaways: Tom Brady brings Tampa Bay back to life with fourth-quarter stunner
Tampa Bay is now 6-6 on the season
The Bucs were trailing, 16-3, at the 5:31 mark of the fourth quarter when the Saints punted the ball back to the Tampa Bay offense. At that point, Brady and company marched 91 yards on 10 plays to score their first touchdown of the night and pull within six. The defense carried that momentum on the ensuing possession and forced a three-and-out on a Saints drive that lasted just 31 seconds and gave Brady the ball back with 2:29 left on the clock. As the 45-year-old has done throughout his career, he sliced and diced his way down the field and eventually connected with rookie Rachaad White for the touchdown that set up the game-winning extra point.
This win now moves the first-place Bucs to 6-6 on the season and gives them a bit of breathing room in the NFC South over both New Orleans (4-9) and the Atlanta Falcons (5-8).
Brady finished with 281 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 36 of 54 passing. Chris Godwin was his go-to target, catching eight passes for 63 yards. Andy Dalton was 20 of 28 for 225 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
For a more detailed breakdown of how this game unfolded check out our takeaways below.
Why the Buccaneers won
Truth be told, it was a rather lifeless effort by the Buccaneers offense for a majority of the game. The offense seemed to be following the theme that we've seen from it throughout the year of simply looking out of sync, as it was held to just three points for the first three quarters. However, the switch was flipped in the fourth, and that was when Brady turned in a vintage performance.
Just before the quarterback led the club on a 14-0 run to win it, however, Todd Bowles made a questionable decision to punt the ball back to the Saints on a fourth-and-10 attempt with the team down by 13 and the ball sitting at the Tampa Bay 25-yard line with just over seven minutes to play. While it looked like Brady wanted to go for it, the decision worked out in Bowles' favor, as the defense quickly forced a three-and-out to give the offense the ball back roughly 90 seconds later.
As the Saints were allowing the Bucs to hang around, Brady took full advantage, leading back-to-back touchdown drives while the Tampa Bay defense continued to suffocate New Orleans. Those final two drives were a flash of Brady's all-time brilliance, as he was 14 of 19 for 118 yards. Those were the most completions, attempts and yards in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter in his career (including playoffs),.
Why the Saints lost
New Orleans had plenty of opportunities to put this game away, and they were simply incapable of doing so. As we highlight in further detail in our "Turning point" section below, Dennis Allen had an opportunity to keep the offense on the field on a fourth-down try. Had the Saints converted, it would have helped take critical time off the clock and keep the ball out of Brady's hands. Instead of going down that route, he decided to punt it away. There was also a critical incomplete throw that was in the arms of Taysom Hill that also may have iced the game late.
While you can point to those late-game miscues as main reasons why the Saints are now 4-9 on the year, they also didn't do themselves many favors earlier in the game. The defense created two turnovers against this unit, and both times they only managed field goals. What makes that even more egregious is that each time the offense got into the red zone following the turnover. After a rare interception off Tom Brady in the second quarter, the Saints moved the ball all the way to the Bucs 19-yard line before settling for a field goal before halftime. Then, in the aftermath of Cam Jordan punching the ball from from Rachaad White in the third quarter, the offense got to the Bucs' 3-yard line and decided to kick the field goal, despite already being up two scores.
That failure of execution may get lost in the wild final minutes of this game, but had they found the end zone on just one of those trips, it likely would have been too much for Brady to overcome.
There were back-to-back drives late in the fourth quarter that really swung the momentum in Tampa Bay's favor. After forcing a three-and-out by the Bucs offense, the Saints got the ball back with a 13-point lead and 6:54 left on the clock. They brought the ball across midfield and to the Tampa Bay 44-yard line and were facing a fourth-and-1 situation. Instead of going for it in that spot with the lead to try and move the chain and kill clock, Dennis Allen elected to punt the ball away. Brady and the Bucs then drove 91 yards down the field for their first touchdown of the night to draw within six.
The Saints offense then went three-and-out, which included a second-down sack on Dalton to put New Orleans in a third-and-17 spot at their own 18-yard line. Even with that long way to convert, it appeared like Andy Dalton was going to put the dagger in the Bucs' comeback efforts, as he perfectly placed a throw to tight end Taysom Hill that would have given them a first down, but Keanu Neal popped it free to force the incompletion. That gave the ball back to Tampa Bay with 2:29 left on the clock, which was plenty of time for Brady to move down the field and win it.
Play of the game
There were a handful of plays throughout this game, and particularly during the comeback, that are worthy of being considered the top play (the Julio Jones catch on the final drive was a particular standout). However, let's highlight the touchdown that set up the game-winning extra point attempt. From the 6-yard line, Brady delivered a strike to White, who was leaking out of the backfield and sitting right at the 3-yard line before corralling the ball and reaching his way into the end zone.
White was a trusted outlet for Brady in this game, catching six of his eight targets for 41 yards and that touchdown. He also rushed nine times for 28 yards.
From here, the Saints will enter their bye in Week 14 and then gear up for another NFC South battle with the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15 on Dec. 18. As for the Bucs, they'll be in San Francisco next week, taking on a 49ers team that just lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (foot) for the season.
DID THAT JUST HAPPEN— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 6, 2022
That'll do it. Bucs are 6-6 and travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers next week. Saints are 4-9 and take their bye.
That was a great route by White, by the way. It looked like it was going to be an angle route over the middle, but he checked up instead and was able to get in the end zone because of it.
The Saints fully deserve this loss for punting on fourth-and-1 from the Bucs' 44-yard line up by 13 points with a chance to run so much more of the clock out, after throwing the ball on third down.
And it's Rachaad White underneath for the touchdown. Extra point will win it. Wow.
RACHAAD. WHITE.— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 6, 2022
Godwin's angry at himself for going out of bounds so quickly after that catch.
Aaaaaand Donovan Smith, who leads the league in penalties, gets caught again. Pretty clear hold.
Touchdown, Godwin. Wow.