It was one of the most unlikely debuts in recent NFL history for many reasons. And when the clock struck triple zeros in the Superdome quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs had put together an amazing statistical show.
In the end, the most important numbers were: Buccaneers-48 Saints-40, and it added up to a 1 – o start to a season that began with uncertainty. Uncertainty, because Jameis Winston is suspended for the first three games of it, and even the biggest Buccaneer fans had their doubts about whether the 35 year-old Fitzpatrick had a game anywhere like Sunday in him. Or even, close.
Well, Wonder no more.
From the outset, Fitzpatrick was composed, accurate and at times downright deadly, throwing the football to the assortment of Tampa Bay weapons.
It started with his rainbow 58 yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson in the first quarter, and he kept hitting the Saints with more big plays, as the first half wore on in “the Big Easy.”
And when that first half was over, Fitzpatrick had completed 11 – 14 passes for 210 yards and 2 TDs. Plus, he had run in a third score. And the Buccaneers had set a franchise road game first-half record with 31 points.
And the bearded veteran did not let up in the second half, finding Mike Evans with a 50-yard bomb in a third quarter. Then, he all but iced the game early on in 4th quarter with a 36-yard perfect pass down the middle against a blitz for a touchdown to Jackson again. The Bucs led 48-24 at that point.
Those 48 points the Bucs scored Sunday? Their most in any game, since their 2002 Super Bowl season, ironically also against the Saints that year, too.
The 48 points are also the most Tampa Bay has ever scored in the opening game of any season. And the Bucs and the Saints combining for 88 points, with each team having at least 40, was the most on an opening day ever in the NFL.
And if you’re wondering, Drew Brees was equally amazing and impressive with 439 yards passing and 3 touchdowns strikes of his own. He kept the Saints alive.
But, when it was all said and done, Fitzpatrick finished with a career-high 417 yards and a perfect 156.2 quarterback rating.
And the Harvard grad even scrambled for the crucial third down conversion with just over two minutes remaining and the Saints out of timeouts. That enabled the Bucs to kneel on the ball three times and ice the remarkable win.
Yes, the numbers were dizzying, but interestingly, the most important one is: 1.
As in, one game played, and one win for the Buccaneers.
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