Holding an opponent to only nine points is usually enough to eke out a win. That wasn’t the case for the Buccaneers on Sunday night, when the three field goals surrendered mirrored the number of offensive starters injured over the course of the game.
Prior to Sunday’s matchup, Tampa Bay led the league in both points scored and yards per game. However, the Buccaneers did not look like a team that averaged 31.54 points per contest on Sunday.
The Saints dealt Tom Brady his first shutout in 15 years in a contest that the Bucs hoped would clinch their first NFC South title since 2007.
In the first half, Tampa Bay lost Pro Bowl receivers Mike Evans (hamstring) and Chris Godwin (knee) to injury on back-to-back drives. Running back Leonard Fournette, who led the Bucs with seven receptions, was helped back to the locker room by two trainers in the second half with what the team called a hamstring injury; he did not return for the remainder of the game.
In addition, Bucs linebacker Lavonte David also had to leave the game with a foot injury in the fourth quarter.
“It hurts more losing all the players we lost,” Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said, via ESPN. “We lost about seven starters in this game, so I’m more concerned about that right now.”
In addition to the injuries that occurred on the field, Tampa Bay also was without receiver Breshad Perriman, who has been on the reserve/COVID-19 list since Friday, and Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards, who were both given three-game suspensions after misleading the team about their vaccination statuses.
“Those guys play a huge role on our team, so we have to uplift them and do a better job,” running back Ronald Jones II said. “Just guys going down and fighting adversity. We didn’t fight through today.”
Overwhelmed by the number of missing players, the Buccaneers’ offense struggled to keep it together. Following Fournette’s exit from the game, the only player with more than 25 receptions this season left on the field was tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Brady relied heavily on Gronkowski, but the duo connected on only two of 11 targets.
Over the course of the game, Brady was sacked four times and tallied two turnovers on third down. The quarterback was 28-of-48 for 213 yards and one interception, marking his worst statistical game with Tampa Bay to date.
“I don’t think we were much good at anything tonight,” Brady said.
While Tampa Bay neared the red zone late in the third quarter, New Orleans defensive lineman Cam Jordan forced a Brady fumble.
The 9-0 loss was only Brady’s third shutout as starting QB. He holds the second-longest record for avoiding shutouts with 255 consecutive games behind Drew Brees with 304. This is also the first time that Brady was defeated by a team that failed to score a touchdown.
Brady was evidently frustrated and reached his breaking point after his interception. He yelled obscenities toward his opponent’s sideline and broke his tablet after throwing it into an equipment truck.
While there has been no update on injured members of the offense, Brown and Edwards will return to the team on Monday.
“It’s in the best interest of our football team. Both of those guys have served their time and we’ll welcome them back,” Arians said after he previously noted it was up in the air if Brown would be released by the team.
With three games left in the regular season, the Buccaneers have their next chance to win the NFC South when they play Carolina in Week 16.
“It’s really disappointing, losing at home especially,” outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka said. “It is what it is, but there are a lot more games left to be played — a lot more meaningful games left to be played.”