By Terrance Turner
Today was the first time since 2000 that Tom Brady hasn’t started for the New England Patriots. Instead, he served as quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But while the Patriots cruised to a win earlier this afternoon, Brady and the Bucs…didn’t. The New Orleans Saints’ sensational offense and bruising defense obstructed them at every turn.
The game began promisingly enough. Brady scored the team’s first points himself, rushing into the end zone for a touchdown that made it 7-0. But the Saints answered with a touchdown of their own: running back Alvin Kamara scored a rushing TD to tie the game. After Brady was intercepted by Saints’ Marcus Williams early in the second quarter, Kamara seized the moment and scored again, putting his team up 14-7. It was his second touchdown in 90 seconds.
By the midpoint of the second quarter, the game was already getting chippy. On one play, the jostling between Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore turned serious. After the play, when Evans’ back was turned, Lattimore shoved him from behind. Evans turned around and appeared to throw a punch at Lattimore, knocking off his helmet. The two began scuffling, and their teammates joined in. The referees had to break up the action before it turned into a brawl:
Lattimore got flagged for unnecessary roughness; the 15-yard penalty went against the Saints. But they recovered rather quickly. A Buccaneers drive stalled when Brady got sacked; their field goal was blocked by a Saints defender. The Saints ended up scoring a field goal of their own to end the half, making the game 17-7.
After halftime, more woes awaited the team. Brady was intercepted again by Saints’ Janoris Jenkins, who returned the ball for a pick-six. That made it 24-7. The Buccaneers rallied to narrow that lead, helped by a 45-yard penalty against the Saints. That set up a touchdown for the Bucs. Brady found tight end O.J. Howard for a 9-yard touchdown to make it 24-14. Later, kicker Ryan Succop nailed a field goal to bring the Bucs within one score.
A volley of sorts ensued: Saints receiver Emmanuel Sanders scored a touchdown to make it 31-17; that was followed by a field goal from Saints kicker Wil Lutz. The Bucs responded when Brady hit receiver Mike Evans for a 2-yard TD. But the Saints recovered an onside kick, and a 38-yard catch by Kamara set up 1st and goal. Kamara rushed in for a touchdown, but it was overturned on replay. (Kamara had stepped out of bounds just nanoseconds before the ball crossed the plane.)
It didn’t matter. Kamara (who just signed a $75 million, five-year extension yesterday, after rumors of a trade) was all smiles. It wasn’t hard to see why. The Saints began their season with a convincing win, 34-23.