National Football League
Tom Brady, Bucs rally late to score two TDs, beat Saints 17-16
National Football League

Tom Brady, Bucs rally late to score two TDs, beat Saints 17-16

Updated Dec. 6, 2022 9:02 p.m. ET

TAMPA, Fla. — For 54 minutes and 39 seconds Monday night, the Bucs were lifeless on offense, trailing 16-3 to the Saints and well on their way to a third straight home loss to New Orleans without scoring a single touchdown.

The Bucs had not crossed the New Orleans 40 since the opening drive of the game and had mustered 71 yards of total offense in the second half.

Then Tom Brady calmly pulled off the largest fourth-quarter regular-season comeback of his career — one point shy of the largest fourth-quarter comeback in Tampa Bay history as well — leading the Bucs for two touchdowns in the final three minutes and a stunning 17-16 win over the Saints.

Brady threw touchdowns to a pair of rookies, first to tight end Cade Otton with three minutes left, and then, more dramatically, to running back Rachaad White with three seconds remaining — the latest go-ahead touchdown to win in his 23-year NFL career.


"Just like we drew it up," Brady joked as he took the podium.

In consecutive games at Raymond James Stadium, Brady has pulled off two of the three latest fourth-quarter comebacks of his career. Four weeks ago, he threw a game-winning score to Otton with 0:09 left to beat the Rams, and Monday's winning touchdown came with just three seconds left.

"It was a great route by Rachaad, great catch. Byron [Leftwich] made a great call," Brady said.

Three plays earlier, as if the Bucs hadn't overcome enough, Brady thought he had thrown the game-winning score to Chris Godwin, but the touchdown was negated by a holding penalty on left tackle Donovan Smith, pushing the Bucs back to the 15-yard line with 0:16 left. But Brady found Godwin again for nine yards to the six, getting out of bounds with 0:08 left, and that set up the game-winner to White, who caught the short pass, turned and stretched out to extend the ball into the end zone.

"We're very appreciative, very grateful that we got out of there," White said.

The Bucs defense had kept Tampa Bay in the game, three times getting stops in the red zone to hold the Saints to field goals instead of touchdowns. The defense had set up each touchdown drive by getting a three-and-out to give the ball back to the offense.

Facing a fourth-and-10 from his own 25 with 7:06 left, coach Todd Bowles pondered going for it, but he trusted in his defense to get the ball back and punted the ball away. The defense got the three-and-out, and the Bucs took over with 5:21, but at their own nine-yard line.

Brady was masterful, leading his team 91 yards in 10 plays without going to third down once. He opened with passes to four different players — Godwin for 13 yards, receiver Mike Evans for 14, receiving Julio Jones for eight, then running back Leonard Fournette for 10 yards. Evans drew a 44-yard pass interference penalty to the one-yard line, and Brady found Otton for the first touchdown.

The defense came up with another stop, with Carl Nassib sacking Andy Dalton to set up a third-and-17, holding there for another punt to give the Bucs the ball at their 37 with 2:29 left and one timeout they wouldn't even need. The message on the Bucs' sideline? "Keep going, bro," defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. "Never die, never quit."

"It just reminded me of my time in New England," Hicks said of Brady's calm. "Something about the way he leads, something about the way he takes charge. Something about how when everything's on the line, he's able to make that one play that will make the difference. I have a lot of respect for him as a leader, not just as a quarterback."

This time, the Bucs went 63 yards in 11 plays, Brady connecting with six different players on the game-winning drive. Scotty Miller got a first down on third-and-6, Jones caught a 15-yard pass to the five-yard line, and after Smith's penalty, Godwin got nine yards to set up the final play.

"They showed grit, they played hard. It was a complete team effort," Bowles said of the win. "The defense got the ball back, the offense cashed in, got it back one more time, they cashed it in one more time."

The final rally marked Brady's 44th career fourth-quarter comeback, moving him past Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history. Teammates who have experienced far less than that found confidence in Brady's presence down the stretch.

"It's awesome. When you get the ball and you have a chance, there's never a seed of doubt," center Robert Hainsey said. "That's got to be your mentality. Go compete, do your job and go get it. It's really fun, a good feeling. It's what you work for. We didn't play the best game, and there's always things to clean up. But you get the win, which is what matters, and you get it by not giving up and never stopping the fight. That's what good teams are built on."

The Bucs are now 6-6, essentially with a two-game lead on the Falcons, who are 5-8 but would lose a tiebreaker to Tampa Bay. The Bucs have given themselves a small cushion atop the NFC South, which could help them with a short week and a tough game at San Francisco on Sunday.

With five minutes to play, it looked like the same frustrating story for the Bucs in Tampa against the Saints, who shut them out 9-0 last season and took a shutout into the fourth quarter in Tampa in 2020 on the way to a 38-3 rout. The Saints had a 16-3 lead — over the past five years, NFL teams were 2-530 when down 13 with four minutes to play, but the Bucs pulled off the unlikely comeback.

The only greater fourth-quarter comeback in Brady's career is the "28-3" Super Bowl comeback against the Falcons, when the Patriots were down 19 early in the fourth before rallying to win in overtime. In the Bucs' history, their only greater fourth-quarter comeback was from 14 down against the Saints in 2009, rallying to win in overtime.

"It's so surreal," Otton said of his role in the comeback. "There are times where I'm in the huddle and I look around and see who I am in the huddle with. It's just so unbelievable to me. At the same time, you hear the call, you line up, and you have a job to do."

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Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.


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