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John DeShazier's Turning Point in Saints loss to Buccaneers

Posted Jan 1, 2018

Bucs turned fumble on special teams into game-turning touchdown

If Tommylee Lewis had it to do over again, he’d fair catch. Or he’d let the ball go.

Anything, probably, other than attempt to return Bryan Anger’s 54-yard punt on the second play of the fourth quarter against Tampa Bay on Sunday, with the New Orleans Saints leading 17-13 and appearing ready to assert control. Because that decision by the second-year receiver, who had proven to be a reliable punt returner since taking over the duty from Ted Ginn Jr., to attempt to make something from relatively nothing, was a monumental mistake for the Saints in their 31-24 loss to the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

Lewis fielded the 54-yard boomer at his 14-yard line and surrendered ground – a total of seven yards, to be exact – as he attempted to outrun Tampa Bay’s punt coverage. But as speedy as he is, he wasn’t quite speedy enough to escape the pursuit.

Worse, he didn’t secure the ball.

Bucs safety Josh Robinson stripped it away while securing the tackle, and the football neatly bounced for fellow safety Isaiah Johnson, who scooped it and ran seven yards untouched into the end zone to give Tampa Bay a 20-17 lead. Just like that, the advantage that the Saints had gained on special teams, via Alvin Kamara’s franchise-record, 106-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter, had been evened.

New Orleans rebounded with a touchdown drive to take a 24-20 lead, but the Bucs, energized by the fumble-return score, posted 11 unanswered points after that.