NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 15 Game Recap: New Orleans Saints 9, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0

Tampa, Florida, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of the multi-score Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the market expected, the Sunday Night Football audience was treated to a punt fest and an upset win by the New Orleans Saints.

Not one touchdown was scored as the Saints defeated their division rivals 9-0.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quarterback

Tom Brady struggled without Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette. The pass-catching duo left in the first half with injuries, and the running back didn’t last much longer before exiting with an injury.

Brady completed just six of his 18 pass attempts that traveled over 10 yards downfield, netting 103 yards and an interception. He averaged only 5.0 yards per attempt from a clean pocket.

The Bucs quarterback also made his fair share of mistakes, with three turnover-worthy plays in total, marking the third time this season he's recorded more than one in a single game.

In all, this was the second-least-efficient pass offense by a Brady-led Buccaneers team in terms of EPA per pass play generated behind only last year’s blowout loss to the Saints.

Running Back

The Bucs leaned on Fournette in the passing game before the running back suffered an injury. He was targeted seven times on 24 routes and caught all seven for 33 yards and two first downs. However, he didn’t get much rolling on the ground, with zero first downs on nine attempts.

Ronald Jones exceeded expectations on the ground with three broken tackles, 4.0 yards after contact per attempt and two explosive runs over 10 yards on eight attempts.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Tampa Bay endured two crushing blows in the first half of action as star wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans went down with injuries.

Godwin was targeted seven times on 15 routes, catching six passes for 49 yards. Evans was shadowed by Marshon Lattimore and was kept relatively quiet.

Mike Evans vs. Marshon Lattimore in Week 15 

Routes 12
Targets 1
Receptions 1
Yards 14
TD 0

Because of the injuries, Tyler Johnson, Rob Gronkowski, Scotty Miller and Jaelon Darden were all asked to step up, but no one from that group was able to do so. That group hauled in eight of their 21 targets for 88 yards with two drops and several missed catchable targets.

Offensive Line

Tampa Bay entered Week 15 as the highest-graded offensive line in pass-protection for the 2021 season. They were allowing a 19.2% pressure rate, the lowest in the NFL by more than three percentage points. This week, the Bucs’ offensive line was not up to snuff.

Buccaneers’ Offensive Line in Week 15

Player Sacks/Hits/Hurries Total Pressures Other Losses
LT Donovan Smith 0/0/4 4 3
LG Ali Marpet 0/1/0 1 2
C Ryan Jensen 1/0/1 2 1
RG Alex Cappa 2/1/3 6 1
RT Tristan Wirfs 1/1/1 3 2
Defensive Line

There were few negatives to speak of with Tampa’s run defense. The group combined for nine run stops and only one missed tackle.

Unfortunately, the pass-rushing was sorely lacking outside of edge defenders Shaquil Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, and even they underwhelmed. Barrett and Tryon-Shoyinka combined for eight of Tampa’s 11 pressures, and half of those were a cleanup or unblocked.

Linebackers

Lavonte David was the highest-graded Buccaneer on PFF’s first review of the game film. David recorded two tackles for loss against the run, cleaned up a sack, allowed only eight yards in coverage and recorded three passing stops.

Secondary

Taysom Hill targeted someone in Tampa’s secondary 16 times, and nine of those went Sean Murphy-Bunting’s way. The Bucs corner allowed three receptions for 54 yards but got lucky with four dropped or off-target passes thrown his way, which explains his poor coverage grade on PFF’s first review.

New Orleans Saints

Quarterback

The Saints may have gotten the win, but it wasn’t because of Taysom Hill’s performance — Hill finished with a poor passing grade on PFF’s first review.

On throws that traveled five or more yards downfield, Hill completed only 5-of-14 attempts for 105 yards. He also didn’t do much in the ground game, taking 10 designed carries for 28 yards with no broken tackles, no explosive runs and no first downs.

Running Back

Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II dealt with poor run-blocking all night long. The two Saints backs combined for 20 carries and saw -1.0 yards before contact per attempt on average. The longest run they could squeeze out of that was an eight-yard gain.

Kamara also had an unproductive night on the receiving front, as he dropped a pass, saw three uncatchable targets and generated only 0.76 yards per route run.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Almost all of the yardage from the passing attack went to wide receiver Marquez Callaway. He ran more routes than any receiver on the roster, saw nine of the teams’ 24 targets and picked up 112 of the 154 yards. Callaway generated 4.31 yards per route run, making him the lone player on the team to eclipse 1.00.

Offensive Line

While the run-blocking was extremely poor on the Saints’ front, they did provide ample clean pockets for Hill. The group combined for only three pressures allowed on 30 pass-block snaps, none of which were a sack or a hit. Bucs’ defensive coordinator Todd Bowles threw a blitz their way on over a third of the dropbacks, and the group consistently picked them up.

Defensive Line

Cameron Jordan was among the stars of the night. He had a multi-sack performance, tacked on another hit on Tom Brady, batted a pass and forced a fumble on the quarterback on a scramble run. It takes a lot to get into TB12’s head, but it’s safe to say Jordan did that on Sunday night.

David Onyemata and Marcus Davenport were also two productive pass-rushers. Each player was responsible for a sack and finished with an 18.6% pass-rush win rate. Onyemata posted eight pressures on first review, while Davenport came away with five.

Linebackers

Demario Davis let up three first downs in coverage just past the sticks but helped make up for it with one play on the ball and a passing stop.

Secondary

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson had a performance he won’t forget against one of the greatest to ever play the game. CGJ was New Orleans’ highest-graded defender on first review and allowed just 29 yards and one first down on eight targets. He snagged one interception, one forced incompletion and one passing stop.

Lattimore played well before and after the departure of Mike Evans, allowing 39 yards in coverage while forcing two incompletions and recording two passing stops.

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