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Week 17 Game Recap: New Orleans Saints 24, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31


What you need to know

New Orleans Saints

There was a lot to still be playing for this weekend for the Saints, but they just did not seem to have the same fire as in weeks past. The rushing attack struggled to get anything going on the ground. Drew Brees protected the football but was unable to score the touchdowns needed. The Saints did get help with a Carolina loss and still managed to win the division. They will have to take on those same Carolina Panthers in the first round of the playoffs next week. Alvin Kamara electrified the crowd with a 106-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and the defense added 3 interceptions of Jameis Winston. There was also a failed field goal attempt where Will Lutz came a yard short of getting the first down in the red zone. Despite the big plays, the Saints could not pull out the victory and will limp into their playoff matchup next week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay played Week 17's contest without Desean Jackson or OJ Howard. Isaiah Johnson recovered a fumbled punt for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. Tampa Bay appears to be ready to bring Dirk Koetter back as head coach next year.

New Orleans Saints

QB Drew Brees, 58 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 30 - 245 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0
Brees has been efficient all season, but has not had that spectacular game where he just takes over. He managed to finish the season over 4,000 yards passing and more than 20 touchdowns but just did not look like the old Brees. He found his favorite target in Michael Thomas 6 times this week and continued the trend of checking it down to his running backs. Brees lone touchdown pass came to Zach Line on a 3-yard quick out to give the Saints a 24-20 lead at the time. Brees will take on a familiar opponent next week for the third time this season and will look to move to 3-0 against the Panthers. Either Brees or the running game is going to have to step up if they want to make a deep playoff run.

RB Mark Ingram, 33 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 35 - 0, Rec: 4 - 19 - 0 (4 targets)
It was a tough day for Ingram who seemed to be stuffed at the line time and time again. There was not a lot of room to run as no running back rushed for over 45 yards. Ingram had 4 more carries than Kamara this week but still had fewer yards. The other glaring stat was the 2.7 yards per carry and the lack of explosive plays. Ingram longest run was a 10-yard burst up the middle and he added almost nothing in the passing game. Ingram has lived off the big play in recent weeks. He has turned in mediocre performances outside of a few big plays and that is going to be difficult to absorb in the playoffs. Ingram out touched Kamara 17-15 this week but things continue to get closer and closer every week.

RB Alvin Kamara, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 44 - 1, Rec: 6 - 84 - 0 (7 targets)
This could be the week that Kamara finally takes over and forces the Saints to give him more touches. He had the big 106-yard kick return to electrify the crowd and breathe life back into the Saints offense. He also added 84 yards through the air, almost half of which came on a single catch and run down the sideline for 40 yards. Kamara had 4 fewer carries than Ingram and still had 9 more yards on the ground as well. The touch distribution was closer to 50/50 than it has been at any other point during the season. Kamara was the most productive Saint on the offensive side of the ball this week and should have cemented his offensive rookie of the year candidacy. Kamaraís second touchdown came on a 7-yard rumble up the middle after a big gain from Michael Thomas in the passing game. This is where Ingram usually gets the ball, but Kamara was used on 4 straight plays in the red zone for the touchdown.

RB Zach Line, 11 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0, Rec: 1 - 3 - 1 (1 targets)
It is rare to see a fullback have such an impact for the Saints with all of the other offensive weapons they have. However, Line managed to go unnoticed on a 3-yard touchdown reception to give the Saints a lead. Line leaked out into the flat on a quick out and Brees found him for the easy touchdown. He was only given 1 other carry in the game and managed to take it 5 yards up the middle. With the lack of production from New Orleans tight ends, Line has seen more work than recent seasons.

WR Michael Thomas, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 94 - 0 (8 targets)
Thomas continued his string of good games where he did not get in the end zone. It has been a reoccurring theme all season where Thomas is right around 100 yards receiving, led the team in targets, and still did not get in the end zone. He did have the longest offensive play of the day with a 43-yard reception deep down the right sideline. Brees led Thomas just a little too far, otherwise, it would have been an easy touchdown. Thomas had to lay out and adjust to the ball on his way to the ground to make the catch. Thomas continues to be the only option through the air for Brees as no other true receiver had more than 30 yards.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Jameis Winston, 83 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 51 - 363 - 1 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 5 - 32 - 1
Winston continues to turn the ball over at an alarming rate with three week 17 interceptions, but he scored twice and led the game-winning drive at the end of the 4tho. Winston threw his first interception in the 1st quarter, looking for Mike Evans across the middle. A deep safety saw the play coming and undercut Evans' route. Winston's second interception was even more cringe-worthy, as he had all day in the pocket and simply underthrew an open Peyton Barber, killing a drive at the end of the 1st half. Winston threw a third interception into triple coverage while looking for Mike Evans in the back corner of the end zone in the 3rd quarter.

Winston recorded his longest scramble of the season(17 yards) in the 1st quarter. He scored on a short touchdown run at the end of the first half.

Winston led a game winning drive with 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter, finding Mike Evans for three consecutive receptions before hitting Chris Godwin for the game-winner with 9 seconds left in the game. Godwin split out wide right and beat his receiver down the right sideline for the score, with Winston dropping a dime right over his defender.

RB Peyton Barber, 45 offensive snaps, Rush: 17 - 71 - 1, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (4 targets)
Barber looked dominant on the Bucs' opening drive, peeling off several strong runs before capping the series with a short touchdown plunge. Winston vultured a touchdown with a short run at the end of the first half. Barber finished the day with a solid 4.2 ypc average on his 17 carries.

Barber caught an out route from the backfield early in the 2nd quarter for a short gain. Winston targeted him again over the middle for another connection at the end of the 2nd quarter.

RB Doug Martin, 4 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - -3 - 0
Martin continued to take a backseat to Peyton Barber, logging just 3 carries for a loss of 3 yards. He did not start and saw his few snaps in the first half. Martin was not targeted in the passing game.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers, 2 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 20 - 0 (2 targets)
Rodgers entered the game on offense in the 2nd quarter, catching a halfback screen for a 15 yard gain on his first target of the day. He collected one more short reception and did not carry the ball in week 17.

RB Charles Sims, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 6 - 0 (1 targets)
Sims entered the game on the Bucs' first offensive drive, splitting out wide to run a slant route that Winston couldn't connect on. After that Sims was quiet other than a brief appearance during the two minute drill at the end of the 1st half. He carried the ball just once during that drive, and was not targeted again.

WR Chris Godwin, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 111 - 1 (12 targets)
Godwin had some opportunities open up opposite Mike Evans, as Evans drew Marcus Lattimore in coverage on the majority of his routes. Godwin got started with a quick out route early in the 1st quarter. He lined up wide right and caught a deep out route for a big gain early in the 2nd quarter. He nearly scored at the end of the same drive, but was deemed down at the half yard line after stretching the ball across the goal line on a short out route. Godwin secured a corner route for an 18 yard gain in the 3rd quarter. He broke two tackles after catching a 4th quarter curl route, setting the Bucs up in the New Orleans red zone. Godwin caught the game-winning touchdown with just 9 seconds left in the game. He lined up wide right and beat his man down the sideline, hauling in a bomb from Wilson to end his rookie season on a high note.

WR Adam Humphries, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 102 - 0 (11 targets)
Humphries had his best game of the year, converting 7 of 11 targets and surpassing 100 yards for the first time this season. Winston found him on an out route during Tampa Bay's first offensive drive, converting 3rd and 6. Humphries lined up wide right with Godwin in the slot and hauled in a comeback route on the next drive, shaking his first tackler for a nice run down the sideline. Humphries worked underneath with bubble screens and short out routes most of the game. He was left uncovered on a corner route in the 3rd quarter, racking up 43 yards on the catch and run up the left sideline. Humphries slipped several tackles for a nice gain after the catch on a 4th quarter bubble screen.

WR Mike Evans, 70 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 55 - 0 (13 targets)
Evans faced off against Marshon Lattimore, who frustrated the receiver to no end in week 9, leading to Evans' ejection for a dirty hit on the rookie defender. Lattimore played Evans tough again, but opened up some opportunities elsewhere in the pass game. Evans got started in the 1st quarter with a reception over the middle that set the Bucs up in the New Orleans red zone. He dropped a pass on a deep post in the 2nd quarter that would have picked up a big gain. Evans was targeted again deep down the left sideline in the 2nd, but couldn't complete the catch as he fell to the ground. Evans made a diving catch on a quick slant in the 4th quarter against tight coverage from Marcus Lattimore. Evans was clutch when the Bucs needed it most. He secured three consecutive targets on Tampa Bay's final drive of the game, moving the offense into Saints territory and setting up Chris Godwin's long touchdown catch that won the game. Evans capped the game with a two-point conversion, beating Lattimore for a jump ball in the back left corner of the end zone. His 55 yards were good enough to put him over the 1,000 yard mark for the fourth year in a row.

WR Freddie Martino, 18 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (1 targets)
Martino was only targeted once, securing an out route for a 9 yard gain in the 3rd quarter.

WR Bobo Wilson
Wilson carried the ball on an end around early in the 1st for a short gain. He slipped and fell down in the backfield on his second carry in the 3rd quarter.

TE Cameron Brate, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 37 - 0 (5 targets)
Brate made a nice leaping effort to haul in an overthrown ball early in the 1st. He caught another short out route and turned it up the right sideline later in the 1st, somersaulting over a defender for a 3rd down conversion. Brate was quiet until late in the 4th when he flexed out into the slot and caught a curl route to convert 4th and 10 at the end of the 4th.

TE Alan Cross, 20 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 11 - 0 (1 targets)
Cross lined up at fullback and caught a short play-action pass to convert 3rd and 1 in the 2nd quarter.