Friday, March 24 2023

TAMPA, Fla. — Lifeless for 55 minutes, the Buccaneers woke up in the fourth quarter, getting two touchdown passes from Tom Brady to stun the Saints with 0:03 left and escape with a 17-16 win at Raymond James Stadium.

Brady threw a touchdown to rookie Rachaad White just before time expired, and Ryan Succop’s extra point gave the Bucs an unlikely win.

Down 16-3 with 5:21 to play, the Bucs drove 75 yards to score a touchdown and pull within six points with three minutes to play. The defense forced a three-and-out to give Brady another chance, starting from his 37 with 2:29 remaining.

On the game-winning drive, Brady went 8-for-10 and passed for 63 yards, with a touchdown to Chris Godwin negated by a holding penalty. Given another shot from the 6-yard line with 0:08 left, Brady threw to White for the winning touchdown.

The Bucs (6-6) are back at .500 with the unlikeliest of wins. The Saints fall to 4-9, giving up a 13-point lead in the final five minutes.

The Saints had extended their lead in the third quarter after Cam Jordan forced a fumble from rookie running back Rachaad White. New Orleans had three shots from the 4-yard line, but had to settle for a short Wil Lutz field goal for a 13-3 lead with 2:46 left in the third. They did it again midway through the fourth, driving to the Bucs’ 11 and getting another Lutz field goal.

The Saints defense had had the Bucs’ number in Tampa over the last two years, shutting them out 9-0 last season and taking a shutout into the fourth quarter in 2020 in what ended up a 38-3 victory.

Monday’s game looked much the same for a half — the Bucs took the opening drive and marched 15 plays for 72 yards, but the drive stalled inside the 10. Leonard Fournette rushed for 2 yards and Brady threw 1-yard screens to Chris Godwin and Fournette, forcing them to settle for a 21-yard field goal by  Succop.

Tampa Bay’s defense forced two punts to open the game, but the Saints clicked on their third drive. Dalton threw for 18 yards to receiver Rashid Shaheed and 20 yards to tight end Adam Trautman, then found Taysom Hill wide open for a 30-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead.

As the Bucs tried to drive before halftime, linebacker Demario Davis picked off Brady near midfield — just the third interception all season for Brady, and for the Saints defense as well. The Bucs held the Saints to a Wil Lutz field goal and a 10-3 lead at halftime.

The prime-time showdown was a chance for the Bucs to get some separation atop the NFC South, which they came in leading despite a losing record. The Falcons‘ 19-16 loss to the Steelers on Sunday in Atlanta meant that the Bucs would be leading the division no matter what.

Tampa Bay faces a short week and a trip to San Francisco to play the 49ers, while the Saints have their bye week ahead.

Top stories from FOX Sports:

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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