(It’s the final regular season game for the Buccaneers and the Saints. Two long time NFC South rivals meeting, yet again. Our resident Bucs historian, Paul Stewart of BucPower.com in London, is back one last time some of his favorite games in in Tampa the series. As always, click the score of the game for photos and videos on his site of the games he recaps.)
THE BUCS AT HOME TO THE SAINTS
This will be the Saints’ 23rd trip to Tampa dating back to the final game of the 1978 season with the Bucs currently trailing 8-14 in this home series. We looked at three of the best road games with the Bucs’ division rivals earlier in the year, so we now feature a trio of games played in Tampa.
Sunday 23 December 2001 at Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48 New Orleans Saints 21
The most well-known statistic about the Buccaneers for their first 30+ years was not being able to return a kickoff for a touchdown. Until Micheal Spurlock ended the great curse in 2007, this game with the Saints was the closest they came. RB Aaron Stecker took the opening kick and returned it 86 yards, weaving and dodgying multiple attempted tackles (and blatant blocks in the back) on his way to within 15 yards of the New Orleans goal-line. Close but no cigar.
“How many tackles did he break in that thing? It would’ve been easy for him to go down, he almost slipped the first part of the run,” Ronde Barber said. “The desire, the resolve, the urgency to make a play and do your part, it stood out today. He’s just one example of it.”
WR Karl Williams caught the first of Brad Johnson’s three touchdown passes to put points on the board from Stecker’s heroics and then it was all Tampa Bay as they tied their franchise records for points scored in a game set in the 1987 season opener against Atlanta. Mike Alstott had a 100-yard game, Ronde Barber had a pick six and after K Martin Gramatica was injured, S John Lynch found himself kicking off during the fourth quarter.
“Our death has been greatly exaggerated,” said Warren Sapp, who helped the defense allow one first down in the first half. “We’ve still got a lot of air in this ball club and a lot of good players, and we’re going to keep plugging. It was head to head. It was either them going or us going. You can’t have a better situation than that in this league. The team that you’re facing, for the last playoff spot, coming into your house and they’ve got to beat you? It’s not going down, daddy. It’s not going down.”
Sunday 8 September 2002 at Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 New Orleans Saints 26
Less than a year later, the two teams met again in Tampa but this time with a new Buccaneer coach on the sideline. Jon Gruden had taken over from Tony Dungy and was making his debut in front of expectant fans. The result did not go their way but in spite of losing the battle, the end of the season saw them win the war.
The Bucs found themselves down by 10 with under three minutes left but a Brad Johnson to Joe Jurevicius touchdown pass brought them to within a fieldgoal and Martin Gramatica delivered a 41-yarder to tie the scores as time expired. Overtime saw neither team able to move the ball put a potential punt block led punter Tom Tupa to attempt a left-handed pass out of his own endzone only to find James Allen catch the wobbly throw for the winning touchdown.
“All those flags, those penalties, those plays, they may not show up in the stat sheet,” Gruden said. “But they were costly. And I’m disappointed. But I’m not going to let this one fester for very long. We have a good football team and we’re going to come back from this.”
Sunday 21 October 2012 at Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28 New Orleans Saints 35
In 2009 the Buccaneers introduced an annual Throwback game in which they wore their original orange jerseys and Raymond James Stadium changed color scheme for one day. The NFL rule changes on helmets put an end to that after just four years but the final game (for now) in the Bucco Bruce throwbacks was against the Saints and turned into a true offensive shootout.
Josh Freeman had one of the greatest statistical passing games in Tampa Bay history throwing for 420 yards and three touchdowns with WR Vincent Jackson recording the third 200-yard game in team history. He though had the decisive play when he went 95 yards on a pass down the Buc sideline but was tackled at the one-yard line. The Bucs failed to score and those seven points proved to be the difference in the final scoreline. “You talk about a game-changing play,” Saints coach Aaron Kromer said. “An unbelievable individual effort,” QB Drew Brees.
The final play proved controversial as Mike Williams seemed to catch a Freeman pass in the endzone but was penalised for illegal touching despite having been clearly pushed out of the endzone by Saints’ DB Patrick Robinson. The rule was complicated but the call was unfortunately correct for Tampa Bay fans.
Final injury updates for Bucs and Jaguars Sunday games
As the Buccaneers get set to head to New York to play the Giants and the Jaguars are preparing to host the Steelers Sunday, it’s time to take a look at the injuries in those two games. (Reminder the Dolphins have their bye week for this weekend.)
Here’s a look at the latest:
For the Bucs, there Friday injury report has defensive names littered all over it and the news is not good for some of them.
After we were told by a source that Lavonte David was going to try to play Sunday, he apparently was overruled by the training staff and head coach Dirk Koetter, etc, and the Pro Bowl linebacker will be inactive with his sprained knee. Likewise, Vinny Curry will miss another game at defensive end, his fourth in the last five with a sprained ankle.
It’s the same situation with second year safety Justin Evans, who will miss the game with an injured toe suffered in the game with Washington last week. Defensive end Carl Nassib, who’s been a pleasant find off the waiver wire at the beginning of the season, is questionable with a left elbow injury suffered agains the Redskins, although he was able to practice on Friday.
The Bucs also list their receiver Chris Godwin as questionable with an ankle injury, and another important injury is starting center Ryan Jensen, who’s questionable with a hamstring injury. If Jensen is unable to play Sunday, then Ali Marpet, starting at left guard this year, but who played center a lot of 2017, would likely take his place.
The Buccaneers opponents, the Giants, had four players on their injury list this week, but all of them are now slated to play in the game on Sunday.
For the Jaguars match-up, they have two significant injuries to update, starting linebacker Telvin Smith was able to practice this week with his shoulder injury and is listed as questionable, but expected to play against Pittsburgh. There is concern for defensive tackle Marcell Dareus with a triceps injury and he is also listed as questionable. Dareus will likely be a game time decision.
Defensive back A.J. Bouye has been bothered by a calf injury, but he is also expected to play after being able to practice Thursday and Friday and listed as questionable. Coach Doug Marrone also announced that tackle Erik Flowers, who left last week’s game with tendonitis in his knee will start on the makeshift Jaguars line.
As we wrote earlier in the week, Jacksonville placed Center Brandon Linder on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in last week’s lost Indianapolis.
The Steelers have no significant injuries, despite Ben Roethlisberger and James Conner both being on the injured list,. They will both be playing on Sunday. Connor was a much bigger concern having been in concussion protocol earlier after suffering one in the win last Thursday night over Carolina.
However, he cleared the protocol and was able to fully practice this week.
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul ready to go get Eli Manning Sunday
It’s one of those juicy subplots that we see all the time now in professional sports. A player gets to go against his old team and show them that maybe they made a mistake and letting him go. In this case on Sunday, Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will battle against his old team, the New York Giants. And that means, against a lot of former teammates.
One in specific, quarterback Eli Manning, maybe less than thrilled.
JPP has been one of the most dominant edge rushers in the NFL over the last decade, nevertheless, the Giants elected to trade into the Buccaneers back in March.
So when the organization that you won the Superbowl with in 2011 has decided to move on without you, there’s naturally going to be some questions from the media about you playing against them for the first time. And, you going against their borderline Hall of Fame signal-caller, Manning.
Such was the case Wednesday in the Buccaneers locker room prior to practice:
"It's been checked off since I left there, and I'm pretty sure they know I'm bringing the house down. At the end of the day, it is what it is. I just know once I get there I'm going to be going 100 percent."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 14, 2018
Pierre-Paul has already energized the Bucs pass rush and has eight sacks in the first nine games. This includes a streak of five consecutive games with a sack earlier this season. That is the first time since Simeon rice in 2002 that a Buccaneer had five straight games with a sack in a single season.
And coming into Sunday at The Meadowlands he has 66 1/2 of them in his career and would love nothing better than to take down the leader of the G-Men.
And while the Giants did look better on offense in their Monday night comeback win over the 49ers, it has clearly been a struggle for them to pass protect, specifically, throughout the early part of this season.
Pierre-Paul has to have been salivating watching their offensive line whiff and get run over in game after game.
Further, Buccaneer defenders like pro bowlers Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David, plus players like Will gholston Brent Grimes and young safety Justin Evans went against Manning in a Tampa Bay’s win last September against the Giants.
A game that the Buccaneers squeaked out 25-23. A game where is Eli Manning threw it 49 times and wasn’t sacked once by the Buccaneers front seven. That’s a pass rush that was last in the NFL in sacks a year ago.
However, that was 2017. And, circling back to Pierre-Paul, he hopes to change that starting Sunday.
And, while it will be weird for him to dress in the visiting dressing room at MetLife Stadium and stand on the visiting near sidelines, he’s ready to put all of that aside, try to help the Bucs climb off the canvas and get a win in the Big Apple.
What is status of Bucs LB LaVonte David’s injured knee?
It’s been a rough enough last seven games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, now comes word that another prominent defender may miss this week’s match-up with the Giants. A report Tuesday afternoon said that linebacker Lavonte David has been diagnosed with a knee sprain and his status is in doubt. That may not be the case, though. More on that in a moment.
Source tells me that Bucs' linebacker Lavonte David has a sprained MCL, jeopardizing his status for Sunday's game against Saquon Barkley and the Giants https://t.co/o1z9kUSbMj
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) November 13, 2018
David was injured in the third quarter of Sunday’s lost to the Redskins, while making a tackle. He was examined underneath the “mysterious blue tent” and was initially diagnosed as being questionable to return to the game. He did return and played in the fourth quarter of the 16-3 loss to Washington.
And, a source with knowledge of David situation told F.F.I. on Monday that David had been examined, and it was not believed to be a serious injury. Further, the source told us that David would wear a knee brace this week in practice and be able to play in the game on Sunday.
The seven year veteran and two-time Pro Bowler is one of the key players on the Buccaneers defense and currently has 71 tackles with nine of them for losses. And he’s being counted on more heavily after Pro Bowl middle linebacker Kwon Alexander tore his ACL in an October game with Cleveland and will miss the rest of the season.
The Bucs have also seen starters in the defensive backfield Vernon Hargreaves and Chris Conte already placed on injured reserve back in September. Also Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy missed two games with a calf strain and has not looked a hundred percent in the last two games with Carolina and Washington since coming back from the injury.
If David is unable to play or is limited on Sunday, the Bucs will count more heavily on reserve linebacker Devante Bond. Bond has seen more playing time after Alexander’s injury and will be asked to increase his responsibilities in the middle of the Buccaneers defense, as well.
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