The Saints had one brutal drive against the Buccaneers in the fourth quarter of Monday Night Football — and it may have cost them their season.
With New Orleans leading 16-3 late in the fourth quarter, Andy Dalton threw a pass to veteran Mark Ingram, who had just returned from an injury earlier in the game. Ingram, still reeling, decided to go out of bounds a yard down the first line despite having plenty of room to stretch for an extra yard.
With more than five minutes left in the game, the clock was still ticking and Ingram was out of bounds, but the Saints had to run one more play to get the first down — and the pass o they chose. The pass fell incomplete and stopped the clock, and New Orleans opted to punt at the opponent’s 44-yard line instead of going for it.
“I’m sick about it” Ingram tweeted after the game. “Regardless of the situation or how I feel, I have to take a new set of failures for the team. I apologize to my teammates, my coaches and my city for the decisive mistake. We work very hard and blood sweat and eyes we will sacrifice our youth. I will be better.”
If Ingram hadn’t gone off the field early, or if the Saints had played the run on third down or fourth down, they probably would have won the game and gone 5-8 on the season – which would have been only half. game from the NFC South leadership. However, they gave Tom Brady a window to get back into the game, and he caught two touchdown passes in the final three minutes to lead Tampa Bay to a 17-16 victory.
After the game, Saints coach Dennis Allen said, “Hindsight is 20/20, I think we would have done it (on third down).” “Mark hurt his knee the previous game, so he was a yard short. It’s frustrating.”
The Bucs failed to move the ball on nearly every drive until the final two plays, scoring first on a field goal and not allowing a field goal over the next eight. However, Brady recovered Cade Otton and Rachaad White to secure the win.
Tampa Bay now has a 1.5 game lead in the division and is in the driver’s seat for the division with games remaining against the 49ers, Bengals, Cardinals, Panthers and Falcons. Maybe the late scores will give Brady a boost and an offense that currently ranks 27th in points per game.