The Saints are now 2-0 on this young NFL season, and the victories are weighty, crucial ones for the Black and Gold since they come against division opponents Atlanta and Tampa Bay.
Sunday’s win on the road against the Bucs started out being a day game, but after the one-hour and nine minute lightening delay in the 1st quarter, the game would stretch into the night.
Once the game finally got going again, the Saints narrowly averted a possible nightmare on a last minute drive before halftime.
The Saints had the ball on first and goal at the Tampa Bay one-yard-line, but a pass and two runs failed to deliver it into the end zone.
Kicker Garret Hartley made the 20-yard field goal, and the score would have been 13-7 going into the half.
However, the Bucs jumped offsides, and the Saints decided to get creative after quarterback Drew Brees lobbied head coach Sean Payton to try for a touchdown once more, which meant taking points off the board.
The Saints decided to go for it on fourth down, but running back Mark Ingram was stuffed at the line, actually losing a yard. To add insult to injury, it appears Tampa Bay only had 10 men on the field during the play.
“I take the blame for that,” Payton said. “It wasn’t a very good sequence. The first play was a play-action pass, we had trouble getting Jimmy out and sometimes it just gets congested where they kind of grab and reroute guys like him down there, but we’ll be better there.”
Considering the Saints won by a 2-point margin of victory, that call could have been the difference in this game, but Payton says don’t blame the players.
“I watched it again. The goal line sequence is on me,” Payton said. “I did a poor job of really giving our guys the best opportunity. We kind of had a plan going in. I got off of that at the one yard line with the play action pass. So, that’s something we’ll continue to work on, but that was coaching. It wasn’t the players.”
Tackle Zach Strief isn’t letting Payton shoulder the load alone.
“They actually didn’t come out in goal line. They came out in an over front, which mucks up the blocking scheme a little bit,” Strief said. “At the end of the day, that play has to get in. Brian De la Puente would be the first to tell you, ‘Man if I just got a naming point on that one, we get in.’ I know Mark
Ingram says, ‘I’ve got to get through that guy.’ It’s kind of one-on-one on the goal line. Look, it’s a team deal. There’s no finger pointing around here. We all take accountability when it’s on us.”
In the end, the Saints won the lengthy, hotly contested battle 16-14 on a last second, 27-yard field goal from Hartley.
A win is a win, and the Saints are now looking ahead to the Arizona Cardinals.
But the memory of just how ugly this could have been lingers in the backs of the minds of the offense, who did not have their best foot forward.
This is the first time since 2010 Payton’s team failed to score more than 16 points in a win.
Brees threw 2 interceptions that resulted ultimately in Tampa touchdowns. He finished with a quarterback rating of 67.5, one of his lowest ratings ever in a victory, yet Brees says he’s walking away satisfied the Saints could overcome.
“When you’re down and things haven’t been going your way, you’ve got to prove it to yourself that you can go out there and continue to win football games like this,” Brees said. “There are a lot of games like this in the NFL. We proved a lot to ourselves.”