Listless Saints blown out by Buccaneers

Published 7:19 pm Sunday, October 1, 2023

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Baker Mayfield might have landed with the right team at the right time.

At least that’s how it looks four games into the 2018 top overall draft pick’s first season with his fourth team.

Mayfield threw three touchdown passes for Tampa Bay, Derek Carr’s surprise return from a shoulder injury did little to help New Orleans’ anemic offense, and the Buccaneers beat the Saints 26-9 on Sunday.

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Mayfield is “a fighter with a ton of resilience. He’s been a great fit for us,” said receiver Chris Godwin, who caught eight passes for 114 yards, including a 42-yarder that set up Tampa Bay’s final touchdown.

“You see him making plays, scrambling, taking some big shots, popping back up — that’s infectious for the team,” Godwin said. “It makes the offensive line want to block more, makes us want to run our routes a little bit harder and give him a chance because we know he’s going to play as much as he can to give us a chance.”

Mayfield’s mobility helped him evade pass rushers and even scramble for a couple of third-down conversions. His arm, meanwhile, produced points.

Mayfield completed 25 of 32 passes for 246 yards, including TDs to Cade Otten, Trey Palmer and Deven Thompkins as the Bucs (3-1) took over first place in the NFC South.

“It shows the accountability in our building and not letting the outside noise affect us,” Mayfield said. “Right now, the narrative is going to flip — and we have to keep that mindset even more so. You can’t change whether people are patting you on the back or talking trash.”

For the Saints (2-2), the optimism that accompanied their 2-0 start has been replaced by soul-searching.

“I’ve got to make sure we put a better product on the field the next time we show up,” coach Dennis Allen said. “When you get beat like that, you’ve got to look at it all. If you just said it was all in the execution then that would look like a freakin’ cop out, right? So, I think we’ve got to be better in a lot of areas.”

Starting one week after spraining his throwing shoulder at Green Bay, and after only limited work in practice the past week, Carr struggled to move New Orleans’ offense, which had accounted for just four touchdowns in the first three weeks and did not add that total in Week 4.

Carr said his shoulder was “no excuse for us playing the way that we did today.”

He finished 23-of-37 for 127 yards and the Saints could not keep up with the Bucs on a day when they were hoping for a boost from star running back Alvin Kamara’s return from a three-game suspension.

Kamara touched the ball 24 times with 11 carries and 13 receptions, but finished with just 84 yards from scrimmage.

New Orleans took a 3-0 lead on its opening drive but didn’t score for the rest of half.

Early in the third quarter, Carr had top receiver Chris Olave open deep downfield twice on one drive. Carr underthrew him the first time. On the second, safety Antoine Winfield recovered in time to catch Olave from behind and make a diving break-up in the end zone.

“There’s a couple of throws where I felt like it might have come up a little bit short, and I don’t know (if) that was relative to the shoulder,” Allen said.