It didn't figure to be a pretty game when the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers engaged Sunday in the Caesars Superdome, and it wasn't. The Saints and Bucs get to base level with each other, with all pretense removed, and slugfests ensue like Tampa Bay’s 20-10 victory on Sunday.
But there are standout performances that can be mined from the rubble.
OFFENSE: Unfortunately for the Saints, none of those such performances happened on offense. Quarterback Jameis Winston passed for 236 yards and a touchdown, but threw three interceptions, including a pick-6. Running back Mark Ingram II ran for 60 yards on 10 carries and eclipsed 10,000 career yards from scrimmage, but lost a fumble in the red zone with the score tied 3-3 in the third quarter. Receiver Chris Olave caught five passes for 80 yards, but lost a fumble when he fell to the turf untouched. The offensive line had a hand in Winston being sacked six times. There will be better days ahead for the unit as it seeks to quickly find its chemistry and footing, but Sunday wasn't a day to fondly remember.
New Orleans Saints players in action during their 2022 Week 2 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
DEFENSE: When Demario Davis said that fellow linebacker Pete Werner was playing the Will position as well as anyone in the league, it wasn't smoke. Werner's eight tackles and one pass defensed against Tampa Bay don't speak as loudly as it does to watch him play and combine with Davis to give him the effective teammate that he needs. Werner can play in space, he can fill against the run and his instincts are becoming more of a weapon as his film study continues to reap benefits. The second-year player appears to have taken a significant jump from his rookie year, and that's saying something.
SPECIALL TEAMS: There just wasn't much that happened with the unit that jumped out. Deonte Harty returned a couple of kickoffs for 65 yards but otherwise, it was somewhat quiet on the special team front. We shouldn't be spoiled by what happened in the season opener, when Wil Lutz kicked a game-winning field goal (51 yards) and Payton Turner blocked a possible lead-taking field goal by Atlanta. And there will be games where the unit again will have several standout, game-winning or game-changing performances. But Sunday mostly was quiet for the Saints' special teams.