The strongest indication yet that Buccaneers injured defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is about ready to resume playing came on Saturday afternoon. That’s when the team officially activated the veteran pass rusher off the “Non-football Injury” list and onto the active roster, where he could potentially play Sunday.
The Buccaneers get set to take on the Titans in a crucial early-season game to try to get back near the .500 mark.
Coach Bruce Arians said Friday after JPP participated all week in a helmet and pads for the first time since his neck fracture earlier this year, that the veteran looked good:
“The one thing about the guy – he’s always in shape. It’s amazing. He’s absolutely amazing.”
Pierre Paul has been sidelined, since his one car accident early on Thursday morning May 2nd on I-95 South near Pembroke Pines. That’s when the FHP says, that the 30-year old former Super Bowl-winning defensive end for the Giants lost control of his Ferrari on the rain-slicked road and did a 360 degree wipeout into a guardrail.
Pierre-Paul had a passenger with him and both of them were transported to a local hospital, treated and then released. Pierre-Paul is not facing any charges from the one car accident and the FHP said in the report that he was not impaired.
After the Buccaneers team physicians had an opportunity to evaluate him with their own tests and scans, it was learned that Pierre-Paul has suffered a fractured vertebrae in his neck.
Pierre-Paul chose not to have surgery, which would have likely ended any hope of him playing this season. He had been wearing a neck brace for months and began the rehab process, in September. It’s nothing short of an amazing recovery that he could be back playing in an NFL game in just five months.
Pierre Paul was acquired in a trade from the Giants in March of 2018 and became the first Bucs pass rusher in over a decade to register double-digit sacks in a season with 12.5 last year.
The Bucs have found a suitable pass-rushing replacement for Pierre-Paul, when free-agent Shaq Barrett burst on the NFC scene with nine sacks in the first four games of the year setting an NFL record. Barrett was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September has now been held without a sack in each of the last two Buccaneer games.
Saints bounce back for impressive win over Bucs
The Bucs were hoping to make it back-to-back wins, as the first place Saints came limping to town Sunday. But in the end, the same mistakes that have plagued them throughout the first nine games of the season came to the forefront again, and New Orleans rebounded to beat them decisively 34 – 17.
Drew Brees (above) bounced back from a poor game last week in a 26-9 loss to Atlanta to throw for three touchdowns, and the Saints defense collected four interceptions on Bucs QB Jameis Winston in the victory.
New Orleans jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead on a pair of Will Lutz field goals, the second of which was set up when Winston passed to O.J. Howard and it bounced off of his hands deflecting into the air and was picked off by linebacker Demario Davis.
One play later, Brees found Michael Thomas, the league’s leading receiver in receptions and yards per game, but was somehow wide open with a 16 yard score and a 13-0 lead. The Saints, who had their six-game winning streak snapped a week ago, stayed on the gas and when Brees found tight end Jared Cook for a leaping 3 yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone, it was 20 – 0.
The Bucs 32nd ranked pass defense looked the part for a lot of Sunday, as well.
Meanwhile, Winston and the Tampa Bay offense finally got on the board, when RB Peyton Barber concluded a seven play 75 yard drive with a 6 yard touchdown to trim the lead to 20 – 7. Then, the Bucs were moving the ball late in the first half for another possible score, but Winston was intercepted on another deflected pass by DB Vaughn Bell. And, the Saints took a 13-point lead to the locker room.
In second half leading 20 – 10 New Orleans extended the lead with an 10 play 75 yard drive that culminated, when Brees found Ted Ginn wide open at the goal line from 6 yards out to make it a 17 point advantage.
The Bucs continue to fight, got a WR Chris Godwin 30 yard catch and run TD and got the ball back down 10 points.
Driving out to midfield, Tampa Bay looked like they had a 4th down conversion with 11 minutes to go in the game, when Winston completed a slant pass to Mike Evans. However, the referees called offensive pass interference and Coach Bruce Arians challenged the play. The New York replay command center agreed with the officials that it was interference and at the call stood.
So, that erased a Bucs first down and put the offense in a fourth and long. The Bucs decided to punt after the controversial penalty.
The Buccaneers defense held and got the ball back, but after getting a quick first down, Winston was picked off for the third time in the game. This time by Marcus Williams, who raced 55 yards for the pick six touchdown and basically, the clinching score.
Winston did finish with 313 yard passing, but with four more interceptions, he still leads the NFL with 18 picks through 10 games.
As for the Saints, they clearly got their swagger back on the road after scoring only nine points at a home last week. New Orleans completes the season sweep of Tampa Bay with the victory and looks to stay in the hunt for a first weekend bye in the NFL playoffs with a now 8 – 2 record.
The Buccaneers are now 3 – 7 and headed towards what is apparently going to be a fifth losing season in their last 6 years and their 10th in their last 12 seasons overall.
And, the questions will only continue to mount about the franchise keeping Winston beyond this season. He is not signed to a long-term deal and his record is now 7 – 22 in his last 29 games he’s started in last three seasons.
Saints bad injury news is good for Bucs- Evans matchup
As the Bucs get set the host of first place Saints Sunday, Tampa Bay has caught a break with a key injury in New Orleans secondary. This after the Saints have already ruled out defensive back Marshon Lattimore due to a hamstring injury.
Coach Sean Payton informed the media after Saints practice that Lattimore, who left last week’s game with Atlanta with the injury, will not be able to suit up, specifically to go one-on-one against Bucs WR Mike Evans.
And, former first round pick Lattimore has usually gotten the better of the head-to-head matchups over the past three seasons (above) with Evans. This would include the game in New Orleans earlier this year, when the Saints/Lattimore held Evans without a reception for the first time in over four seasons.
However, Evans has been coming on since then, including back-to-back games against the Titans and the Seahawks where he had over 175 five yards receiving and two touchdowns in each. A week ago, the former number one pick finished with four catches for 82 yards in the Bucs 30 – 27 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
New Orleans may likely put former #1 pick Eli Apple on Evans, now, for much of the game.
Payton also ruled out starting offensive guard Andrus Peat due to a fractured forearm, which further complicates a run game with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray that has yet to get on track this season.
Meanwhile for Tampa Bay, they will be without pass rusher Carl Nassib for the second straight game due to a groin injury and Coach Bruce Arians also told the media that defensive back M.J. Stewart will not play due to an injured knee.
The Buccaneers secondary is in flux after releasing former number 1 pick Vernon Hargreaves earlier in the week but it is expected that rookies Sean Murphy Bunting and Jamel Dean will see action in Hargreaves is place against Drew Brees in the high-powered Saints offense. Dean had the critical interception of Kyler Murray late in the game last week, which led to the Bucs eventually game winning TD drive.
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