NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appeared to have all of the advantages when Saints quarterback Jameis Winston left with a knee injury in the second quarter.
Instead, they beat themselves — done in by a trio of Brady turnovers and a slew of defensive penalties that aided New Orleans backup Trevor Siemian. With a chance to take command of the NFC South, the Bucs watched their lead over the Saints dwindle to a half-game with a 36-27 loss Sunday entering their bye week.
“Every game is critical, especially a road game in your division when you have it in your hand and you give it away,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “It makes everything a little more difficult.”
There was plenty of blame to go around.
The Bucs (6-2) tied a season high with 11 penalties for 99 yards, including six defensive infractions that contributed to 13 points on three drives led by Siemian, who has been a starter in the NFL but not since 2017 with Denver.
“It’s definitely frustrating when we’re keeping their drives alive with penalties,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “We have to find a way to get off the field and at the end of the day we didn’t do that. It’s not by any means the offense’s fault.”
Linebacker Devin White and defensive end William Gholston were called for roughing the passer on back-to-back plays in the second quarter. Gholston’s penalty erased an interception by safety Antoine Winfield in the end zone, leading to a 23-yard field goal that put the Saints ahead 10-7.
Linebacker Anthony Nelson was offside on second-and-goal from the 10 on the opening possession of the third quarter. That helped the Saints extend their lead to 23-7 on Alvin Kamara’s fourth-down, 1-yard touchdown run.
Linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul jumped offside in the fourth quarter, handing New Orleans a first down on third-and-5. White drew an unsportsmanlike conduct call for taunting running back Mark Ingram on the next play, setting up a 35-yard field goal and a 26-21 lead for the Saints.
“Mark and I were jawing all day, just going back and forth,” White said. “I’m just going to keep being me. I’m a fiery guy who likes to talk, but obviously I’ve got to look to the ground when I’m talking to a player to save the penalty for my team.”
After Brady’s fourth TD pass put Tampa Bay back in front with about five minutes left, cornerback Russ Cockrell was flagged for holding on a third-down pass that Siemian threw away. That helped New Orleans force Tampa Bay to burn two timeouts before setting up a 23-yard, go-ahead field goal with 1:41 left.
With one timeout left, the Bucs still had plenty of time until Brady’s second interception on an errant throw intended for Mike Evans. He was open, Brady said. Instead, defensive back P.J. Williams caught it and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
That was Brady’s seventh interception — and eighth turnover — in three regular season games against the Saints since joining Tampa Bay last year. The Bucs have lost all three games, although Brady did not commit a turnover when they beat the Saints in a playoff game at the Superdome on their way to the Super Bowl.
“He forced the one at the end,” Arians said. “That was not characteristic of him.”
Brady also had miscues on consecutive series in the first half. He fumbled on a sack by Cameron Jordan after Tampa Bay reached the New Orleans 31 with the score tied at 7. He later threw right to safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, whose interception return set up a TD that gave the Saints a 16-7 lead.
“It’s tough to win when you turn the ball over like we did,” Brady said. “I have to not throw interceptions. That’s the key.”
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL