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Bucs hit Saints with FitzMagic in season-opening win

Wayne Masut | Senior Staff Photographer

The 2018 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially kicked off today in New Orleans. With Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games, Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Tampa Bay offense against perennial hall of famer Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. 

While the veteran QB filled in for Winston a season ago, he will be working with arguably the deepest receiving corp he has ever had in his career. The re-tooled defense will look to limit Alvin Kamara and Drew Brees. The Bucs looked to start the season off strong against a Saints team that has had some early season struggles in the past.

No go for some rookies, while one starts

Rookie running back Ronald Jones was inactive for the Bucs today along with defensive tackle Vita Vea (calf). Wide receiver Justin Watkins was also in active, but not due to an injury. Tampa’s other second round pick Carlton Davis was a bit different than his rookie counterparts. The other second round pick for the Bucs got the start today in relief of the injured Brent Grimes. Other Bucs draftee MJ Stewart didn’t start, but did get some playing time in the game.

Monken takes over

For the first time in his NFL head coaching career Dirk Koetter didn’t make the offensive play calls. Offensive coordinator Todd Moken took over playing calling duties for this game, and through the half the decision was paying off. He was utilizing a very balanced attack to get to the Saints defense and coordinator Dennis Allen. At the end of the half the Bucs had scored 31 points, that’s tied for most in the first quarter in team history. It’s also tied for third most in any quarter in team history. The last time Tampa scored in each of it’s first four possessions was in 2002 against the Minnesota Vikings. Their 48 points at one time tied a team record (1987 vs Atlanta Falcons, 2001 against the Saints and of course Super Bowl 37 against the Oakland Raiders).

Kamara strikes early

On one of the first plays of the game, Alvin Kamara showed why a season ago he was the offensive rookie of the year. Drew Brees dropped back and found Kamara short, before the second year back would take the pass 35-yards. A few plays later with Brees slotted as a wide receiver, Kamara would get a hand off from back up QB Tayson Hill and ran it up the gut for five yards and a 7-0 Saints lead after the PAT was good.

Number Twenty Seven

DeSean Jackson was brought in before the 2017 season to be a deep threat for the Bucs. Most of last season it didn’t seem to work, but in the Bucs first series he and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick connected. On the fourth play of the series Fitzpatrick dropped back an unleashed a deep ball to a seemingly wide-open Jackson for a 58-yard TD. That was the 27th career 50+ yard touchdown of Jackson’s career. The Touchdown tied the game 7-7 after Chandler Catanzaro made the PAT. The touchdown was a welcome sight for Bucs fans who have been waiting for Jackson’s deep threat ability. Jackson is now tied for third in NFL history with Terrell Owens.

A back and forth first half

After Jackson’s TD the Saints would get a 36-yard FG. Shortly after Fitzpatrick would drive the Bucs down the field and rush in for a three yard TD. Following a 35-yard pass to end the first quarter, Brees would find veteran Ted Ginn Jr for a 28-yard TD. Tampa would answer back with a 33-yard Chandler Catanzaro FG. Both teams started the game with three possessions and three scoring drives. The Bucs would finally get a stop when new Buccaneer Vinny Curry would sack Brees and force the Saints into a 4th and 11. The Bucs offense came to play, heading into their fourth possession of the game the stats were looking very good.

Ryan Fitzpatrick 6/8 153 yards 2 TD’s (1 passing – 1 rushing)

Peyton Barber 6 rushes for 41 yards

DeSean Jackson 2 catches 65 yards and a TD

Chris Godwin would join in making it 4-4 on scoring drives to start the game with a nine yard TD grab.

Both Evans score

Bucs safety Justin Evans wanted to get in on the scoring and did just that following a Vernon Hargreaves forced fumble. He would take the fumble recovery 34-yards for a Tampa Bay TD and a 31-17 lead. New Orleans would answer right back with a six yard Michael Thomas TD to cut the Bucs lead to 31-24.

Later in the 3rd quarter the Evans (Mike) who normally is the one scoring, notched a 50-yard TD pass from Fitzpatrick. The TD gave the Bucs a 41-24 lead. With that TD Mike Evans notched his 33rd TD of his career. He is now one away from Jimmy Giles who has 34.

Kicking not an issue….today

Bucs fans have claimed that since the Bucs let go of Matt Bryant, they have been cursed. Sure there were a few good seasons of Conner Barth, a few good moments of Patrick Murray. While there was A LOT of bad clearly very little good. One of those “bad” times was drafting a kicker in the second round in 2016 (Kickers name withheld due to bad memories). New Bucs kicker Chandler Catanzaro seems to be slowly breaking that curse, at least for one game. Catanzaro only missed one FG all day..

2/3 on FG’s

6/6 on XP’s

FitzMagic appears

Fitzpatrick only missed on 7 passes all day, with zero interceptions so let that sink in for a moment. Everyone was doubting the Bucs with Fitzpatrick at the helm for the first three games, but in the this game he out-rushed the Saints Alvin Kamara. Fitzpatrick rushed nine times for 38-yards with one touchdown, Kamara rushed eight times for 29-yards and two touchdowns. Passing-wise, Fitzpatrick was as perfect as he could be..

21/28

417 yards and 4 TD’s

If Fitzpatrick continues the solid play, it could be a while before the fans see Jameis under center for the Bucs. Mike Evans and Desean Jackson benefitted from the great play of Fitzpatrick…

Mike Evans 7 catches for 147 and a TD

DeSeasn Jackson 5 catches for 146 yards and 2 TD’s

Defensive struggles

The re-tooled Bucs defense had two takeaways, but that was about it. While Brees was pressured and sacked, he was well… Drew Brees. The Saints QB went off 37/45 for 439-yards, zero interceptions. The only thing worse than the Bucs defense, was the Saints defense. Now it will take both defense time to really get going, and things could be very different when the teams meet again December 9th in Tampa.

Next Up:

The defending World Champion Philadelphia Eagles come in Raymond James Stadium at 1pm next week (9/16/18)

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