You can't beat Drew Brees with Connor Barth, but that's pretty much what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were left to try during their 27-16 loss to the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome on Sunday.
Though they drove the ball into New Orleans territory on eight of nine possessions, the Bucs settled for three Barth field goals, including one drive that reached the red zone, and scored just one touchdown.
"We moved the ball as well as we've been able to move the ball,'' coach Raheem Morris said Monday.
Running back LeGarrette Blount averaged 5.5 yards per carry and quarterback Josh Freeman had a 103 passer rating.
"But (Freeman) also missed two huge throws," Morris said. "And whether you want to call (them) drops or whether you call (them) misses, those were the difference in the game. When you get in red zone on the Saints, you have to score touchdowns.''
One of the throws Morris mentioned was a short throw from the New Orleans 22-yard line that was thrown over the head of wide-open RB Kregg Lumpkin early in the third quarter. The other was a pass from the Saints 13-yard line early in the fourth quarter that sailed over the head of TE Kellen Winslow.
In both cases the Bucs settled for field goals, which is nothing new for them.
Tampa Bay entered the game ranked last in the league in red-zone efficiency, having scored a touchdown on just seven of 20 red-zone possessions. It was 1-for-2 in the red zone against New Orleans.
"We (accomplished) a lot of the stuff (we) wanted to accomplish by controlling the clock," Morris said, referring to the 29 minutes 56 seconds the Bucs had possession. "But you've got to score touchdowns when you have the ball (for that long).''
Blount made a solid return to the lineup, running 13 times for 72 yards in his first game after missing the previous two with a left knee sprain.
The Bucs planned to work Blount even more, but altered their game plan, perhaps too soon, after falling behind 14-0 in the second quarter.
"We got behind and we lost our schedule when they got the 14 points,'' Morris said. "So, we had to throw a little bit more than you like and that kind of affected what we wanted to be, because you have (the running game) rolling and that's what you want versus the Saints.
"But it got a little out of whack. We had to go to the two-minute offense a little bit earlier than you normally would. I think we went with about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter and that's going to take away some carries from LeGarrette Blount.
Law of averages
The Saints remain undefeated (4-0) at home, but no longer average the eye-popping 44 points per home victory they did prior to beating the Bucs.
By "holding the Saints to 27 points,'' as Morris put it, the Bucs dropped the Saints per-home-victory scoring average to 39.7 and gave themselves a chance to win the game, Morris said.
"We held up (well enough on defense) to win the football game,'' he said. "Holding the Saints to (27 points) is not terrible if you hit those plays that you can hit in the red zone.''
John McCargo, a former first-round pick of the Bills who spent some time with the Bucs during training camp, will be among the players Tampa Bay looks at today as they consider replacements for DT Gerald McCoy (biceps), McCargo's agent said. …In addition to placing McCoy on injured reserve on Monday, the Bucs released RB Chad Spann and G/C Zane Taylor from the practice squad.