Saints Roll Over Buccaneers in Tampa Bay

Quarterback Tom Brady and Drew Brees embrace after tonight’s Sunday Night Football. (Photo by the author.)

By Terrance Turner

Everyone on tonight’s “Sunday Night Football” picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win tonight’s match against the New Orleans Saints. Six commentators – including Tony Dungy and Mike Tirico — picked the Buccaneers to win the game.

They were wrong.

The Saints scored almost right out the gate, with quarterback Drew Brees finding Tre’Quan Smith for a touchdown. That put them up 7-0. Tampa Bay went three-and-out — an ominous sign of things to come. But the Saints had struggles, too. Deonte Harris had a big catch-and-run on their next drive, but a Saints player was tackled near the 10-yard line, and the Bucs defense caused a fumble. Tampa Bay recovered the ball, but did little with it. Once again, they went three-and-out.

Saints took over. From the 35-yard line, running back Alvin Kamara rushed for 17 yards. That later led to a 1st-and goal. Saints scored again: Brees threw to rookie tight end Adam Trautman for the touchdown. It’s Trautman’s first NFL touchdown. His inaugural score made it 14-0.

Later, Taysom Hill hurdled over defenders for a big play that took the Saints near the 10-yard line. Then Brees hurled a pass to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for the touchdown. With the game 21-0, Bucs got the ball back. Things seemed to be progressing until Brady was intercepted AGAIN, this time by Saints #97. On the Saints drive, Hill gain flew down the field to make it 1st and goal. Alvin Kamara ran in for the score. Touchdown Saints!

It was a disastrous series for Tampa Bay: punt, punt, punt, another punt, and then an interception. The Buccaneers were able to foil the Saints’ drive, but then kicker Wil Lutz added to the Bucs’ misery with a field goal. The first half ended with the Saints up 31-0.

In the second half, both teams struggled on offense. The Bucs got as far as 1st and goal, but after four attempts to score, they couldn’t convert. On their drive, Brees fumbled the ball and gave it to Tampa Bay. But Brady got intercepted again, this time by Saints defender Malcolm Jenkins. With 9:07 left in the quarter, Brees threw to Josh Hill for the touchdown. An extra point made it 38-0.

The Buccaneers took over. With 7:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, Brady got under pressure and just heaved the ball in the air. He was flagged for intentional grounding. Then he was sacked by the Saints defense. On 3rd and 34, the pass was incomplete. on fourth down, the Bucs finally scored some points. Kicker Ryan Succop nailed a field goal to make it 38-3. And that’s how it ended.

The Saints win, 38-3.

Buccaneers Edge Giants In Dramatic Win

By Terrance Turner

“Monday Night Football” tonight was one for the ages. It was a lot closer than observers may have anticipated, but the result was exactly as expected. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers overcame a double-digit shortfall to run up the score and defeat the New York Giants, 25-23.

Things got off to a surprising start in the first half. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones hit Dion Lewis for a TD to make it 7-3 in the first quarter. Then he drove the team 77 yards, with Wayne Gallman running into the end zone from the 2-yard line with 1:46 remaining in the half. The Giants surprised viewers by scoring two touchdowns and stopping the Bucs from reaching the end zone. Brady was pressured and sacked, as drive after drive stalled. The Giants were up 14-3 early on, but Bucs kicker Ryan Succop nailed a field goal to make the score 14-6 at halftime.

In the second half, Succop drilled another field goal, making it 14-9. Then Brady found one of his favorite targets — Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski. With 6:05 left in the third quarter, Gronk caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Brady. The Giants defender punched the ball out after Gronk took a couple steps, but the refs upheld the TD. It’s the third week in a row that Gronk has caught a TD from Brady — and it’s their 93rd touchdown together.

This gave the Bucs their first lead of the game. The Buccaneers attempted a two-point conversion, but it was unsuccessful. That left the score 15-14. But Brady and Gronk have nevertheless accomplished a singular feat: they have now passed Steve Young and Jerry Rice in the record books. The only QB-WR duo with more TDs is Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

In the fourth quarter, Jones threw yet another pick. (He has 13 interceptions for the season — more than any other quarterback besides Philadelphia’s QB Carson Wentz.) On the next possession, Brady launched a crucial connection with Tyler Johnson.

The Giants added a field goal in the fourth quarter. But the team later got flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit, putting the Bucs closer to the goal line with nine minutes left. Then Brady hurled the ball 8 yards to receiver Mike Evans, who made a highlight-reel catch for the go-ahead touchdown. That made it 22-17.

On their next drive, the Buccaneers moved down the field. Brady connected with Gronkowski for 18 yards. A would-be catch for Mike Evans got flagged for pass interference, helping the Bucs move forward. But they were again stymied by a stalwart Giants defense. Fournette was stuffed at the first-down line. Instead of going for it, Arians elected for a field goal, which Succop sent right through the uprights. It was now 25-17.

The Giants struggled after getting the ball back. Jones, under pressure, backed up and threw the ball on a prayer. The result was a miraculous catch by Darius Slayton. Later, Jones managed to convert on 4th and 16, keeping the drive alive. And out of nowhere, Jones launched a 19-yard touchdown to Giants receiver Golden Tate. With 28 seconds left, the New York Giants had sprung to life.

The score was now 25-23. All the Giants needed was a two-point conversion to tie the game. But it wasn’t to be. On the final play Jones’ pass to Dion Lewis hit Bucs player Antoine Winfield in the arm, bouncing off to land as an incomplete pass. The refs threw a flag, indicating possible pass interference. But the referees eventually decided there was no foul committed. “There is no flag for pass interference on the play,” the ref announced.

That sealed the deal. The Buccaneers won, improving their record to 6-2. This is Brady’s 30th win after trailing by 10 or more points — more than any other quarterback in the NFL.

National Tight Ends Day

By Terrance Turner

Oct. 25, 2020 (Updated Oct. 28)

Today is National Tight Ends Day. Although this may sound like a made-up holiday, San Francisco tight end George Kittle designated the day as the last Sunday in October. Kittle is one of the league’s leading tight ends, along with Chiefs TE Travis Kelce and Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski. Kittle explained the holiday in a video:

Kittle credited San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with the holiday’s genesis. “I’m pretty sure it was a day [that] all the tight ends were active, and so Jimmy G was like, ‘What is it, national tight end day’?” Kittle recalled. That moment sparked Kittle to establish the occasion for the last Sunday in October.

Famous for his aggressive, exuberant play, Kittle has become one of the league’s premier tight ends. He is frequently ranked among the league’s best at his position, along with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. (The two faced each other in this year’s Super Bowl, with Kelce’s Chiefs besting Kittle’s 49ers 31-20.) Both Kelce and Kittle are known for their fun-loving approach to the game of football: Kelce is known to celebrate touchdowns with funny dances; Kittle will laugh hysterically after pancake-blocking a defender.

Both of them noticed the other’s festive style. Kittle studied film of Kelce while in college at Iowa. “I think the thing that really kind of stands out the most is you see his personality when he plays and how much fun he has,” Kittle said. “Very similar to (Rob Gronkowski) and his personality, the way it shows. I think they just kind of opened the door for tight ends like me to be able to express ourselves on the football field.”

Kelce returned the compliment during Super Bowl media week. “George Kittle, man. I was just talking about his tenacity,” Kelce told the NFL Network. “How he runs routes. How he plays the game with a certain level of energy and enthusiasm. Man, you gotta love it.” Both Kelce and Kittle power their respective teams with energetic, enthusiastic play. And that similarity was not lost on Kelce.

“I think we’re both positive guys,” Kelce said with a big smile. “We both love to play the game and, at the same time, we both love life.”

But both match their appetite for fun with high-level play. Kelce is tied for the NFL record for the most seasons by a tight end with 1,000 or more receiving yards (four seasons and counting), according to FOX Sports. In 2018, Kittle broke the record for most receiving yards by a tight end, racking up 1,377 receiving yards (His 88 catches that season were also the most for his position.) Kittle broke the previous record of 1,327 yards, set by legendary tight end Rob Gronkowski. But that’s far from the only record Gronk has set.

While with the Patriots in 2011, Gronkowski racked up those 1,327 yards and 17 touchdown catches — the most ever by a tight end. He had 18 total touchdowns that year, also the most ever for a tight end in a season. (A pass Gronk caught for a score against the Colts was later ruled a lateral pass, making it a rushing TD. “My first rushing touchdown ever,” Gronk marveled after the game.) Gronkowski became the first tight end EVER to lead the league in receiving touchdowns, according to NFL.com.

Additionally, Gronkowski is the first player at his position to have 10+ touchdowns and 1000+ receiving yards in three different seasons (2011, 2014-2015). He had three consecutive seasons with 10 or more touchdown catches (2010-12). He has the most catches (23) and receiving yards (297) by a tight end in Super Bowl history, according to USA Today. His gloves are on display at the Patriots Hall of Fame.

And he’s not done yet.

Last week, Gronk caught his first TD of the season during a 38-10 win against the Packers. It was his first touchdown as part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and his first in nearly two years. (Gronkowski retired briefly in 2019, citing health concerns.) On Sunday — National Tight Ends Day — he caught another touchdown from Tom Brady. That was the 92nd touchdown between them. Brady and Gronk are now tied for second place on the all-time list. The only quarterback-receiver duo to connect for more touchdowns is Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

Like Kelce and Kittle, Gronkowski also likes to have fun — on and off the field. His parties are legendary: he had a traveling party bus in 2015 and a party boat in 2016. He even hosted a topless pool party in Vegas in 2012, as seen below.

Rob Gronkowski Hosts Topless Pool Party

Gronk has cemented his legacy as one of the league’s best tight ends. But the true GOAT may be Tony Gonzalez. The tight end played 12 seasons for the Chiefs and five more for the Atlanta Falcons between 1997 and 2013. In the process, he racked up a ton of dazzling stats. Gonzalez is the all-time leader for receptions (1,325) and receiving yards (15,127) at his position, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. He also has the most career touchdowns (76) in Chiefs franchise history. Gonzalez joined Gronk, Kelce and Kittle for a sitdown earlier this year, just before the Super Bowl. Gronkowski noted that “this is the first time in history, I would say, that the two top tight ends in the league are in the Super Bowl, facing each other. What’s that relationship like?”

Find out in the video below.

UPDATE: Tight end Hayden Hurst made a crucial catch tonight for the Falcons. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw the ball so low that it nearly hit the ground, but Hurst reached out his arms and caught the ball with his fingertips. The ball touched the ground as Hurst reeled it in, but upon further review the catch was upheld. The crucial catch eventually led to a field goal. The Falcons eventually won the game, 25-17.

Catch the crazy play below.

Buccaneers Steamroll Packers Amid Sports Frenzy in Tampa Bay

By Terrance Turner

The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup.

The Tampa Bay Rays are headed to the World Series.

And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 4-2.

The Buccaneers stunned the once-undefeated Green Bay Packers Sunday evening with a burst of offensive power. Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady shined, leading the team to its fourth win. According to UPI, Brady completed 17 of 27 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-10 win on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers went 16 for 35 and threw two interceptions.

The Packers jumped out to a 10-point lead early, but then the Buccaneers scored 38 unanswered points. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers got picked off by Bucs cornerback Jamel Dean in the second quarter. Dean lit up the team with a 32-yard interception return to the end zone. That pick-six put the Bucs on the board.

Another interception by Rodgers opened the door to a TD rush by Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II. That touchdown put Tampa Bay up 14-10, its first lead of the day. It was a lead that the team would never let go.

Later, Brady slung another touchdown pass to Bucs receiver Tyler Johnson as the second quarter wound down. Then, with just over a minute left in the first half, Brady threw a laser-point pass to Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski. It was Gronk’s first touchdown of the season — and his first in nearly two years. The last time Gronkowski caught a touchdown, it was 2018 — 679 days ago — in a Patriots game versus the Miami Dolphins.

That added to an already commanding lead. The game was 28-10 at halftime.

Rodgers continued to struggle in the second half, contending with an aggressive Bucs defense that swarmed and sometimes sacked him. (Tampa Bay’s Ndamukong Suh was especially difficult to evade.) Rodgers’ woes continued when Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari suffered a chest injury and had to return to the locker room.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay continued to roll. Kicker Ryan Succop drilled a 50-yard field goal to give the Bucs a 21-point lead. And the team benefited from some costly mistakes by its opponent. A massive defensive pass interference call on the Packers was followed by a flag for having too many men on the field. Those penalties set up Tampa Bay’s next (and final) touchdown, courtesy of running back Ronald Jones. The Buccaneers defeated Green Bay handily, 38-10.

Notably, the Buccaneers were one of the most penalized teams going into this game. But they managed to play this game from start to finish without any penalties. The Buccaneers haven’t played a penalty-free game since 1983.

“… It was good. I think not turning the ball over helped a lot and I think not being behind on down and distance helped a lot,” Brady said after the win, per the team. “But certainly (there are) better things that we can do (and) things better than what we did today. We’re going to keep working at it.”

Brady & Bucs Stymied By Saints In Season Opener

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.

Gronk Comes Out of Retirement to Join Brady on Bucs

This is the same face I had when I learned about the trade. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

By Terrance Turner

Last night, former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski appeared on “Watch What Happens Live” (at Home). Host Andy Cohen said rumors were swirling that Gronkowski wanted to join ex-Patriots teammate Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cohen asked Gronkowski if he was considering coming out of retirement to join Brady on the Bucs.

Gronkowski (aka “Gronk” to fans and teammates) responded equivocally. “Andy, you wanna know what’s so great, man? The day that I retired — within 24 hours — there were already rumors that I was coming out of retirement,” Gronk said. “I’m feelin’ good right now; I’m happy where I’m at–“

“You’re done,” Cohen interjected.

“You just never know, man,” Gronk replied.

“Oh, you never know,” Cohen repeated.

“You never know,” Gronk said. “I’m not totally done.”

He isn’t. The next day, NFL reporter Ian Rapoport confirmed a stunning update:

Earlier this afternoon, NFL insider Ian Rapoport tweeted: “Retired #Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski has told New England that he’s interested in playing football again — and would want to do it with the Bucs and Tom Brady. A trade would have to be worked out for this to happen.” Rapoport later added that Brady was interested in such a deal, too. At 3:21 pm, Rapoport confirmed that the Patriots were trading Gronk and a seventh-round pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for a 4th-round pick.

Gronkowski, 30, played the entirety of his NFL career with the New England Patriots. During the 2011 season, Gronk had 17 touchdown catches — the most ever by a tight end in one season. A Week 13 score was classified as a rushing touchdown, giving him a total of 18 TDs. He became the first (and only) tight end EVER to lead the league in touchdowns. The next season, he tacked on 11 more touchdown receptions, making it his third season in a row with 10 or more TDs. (He would achieve that impressive touchdown feat again in the 2014 and ’15 seasons.)

He won three championships with the New England Patriots in 2015, 2017, and 2019. (He told Cohen that the last match — the 13-3 snoozefest vs. the Rams — was the easiest to win.) It was his 29-yard catch late in Super Bowl LIII that set up the game’s only touchdown (courtesy of teammate Sony Michel). That catch helped him set two more records. His 23 receptions and 297 receiving yards are the most by a tight end in Super Bowl history.

As news broke of the trade, Andy Cohen added another credit to his multi-hyphenate career: