NEW ORLEANS, La. (BRPROUD) – The New Orleans Saints offense struggled in a 26-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at the Caesars Superdome.  

Quarterback Derek Carr started the game under center despite dealing with a sprained right AC Joint and barely practicing all week. 

The New Orleans offense continued to struggle to find its rhythm to begin the game. The Saints’ opening drive stalled out, resulting in a 37-yard Blake Grupe field goal to up 3-0.

Tampa Bay found the endzone first when quarterback Baker Mayfield found tight end Cade Otton for a 4-yard touchdown with 5:19 left in the second quarter to go up 7-3. The Buccaneers converted 3 third-down attempts, one of which was a result of a defensive pass interference penalty on cornerback Marshon Lattimore, before finding the endzone on third-and-goal. 

The Saints offense continued to find their grove in the first half. Their final drive of the half stalled when Carr was sacked on third down. The Saints offense had just 98 total yards in the first half. 

New Orleans finally showed a sign of life late in the second quarter when cornerback Isaac Yiadom intercepted Mayfield at the goal line. However, on the following play fullback Adam Prentice fumbled the ball back to Tampa Bay. 

The Buccaneers took advantage, scoring a 1-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left in the first half to lead the Saints 14-3 at the half. 

The Saints offense showed signs of life late in the third quarter after several good runs from running back Alvin Kamara, who returned to the team Sunday after serving a three-game suspension. The 57-yard drive, however, stalled and resulted in a 32-yard field goal by Grupe to cut the deficit to 14-6 with 49 seconds left in the third quarter. 

The Buccaneers extended their lead with 13:31, kicking a 51-yard field goal to extend the Tampa Bay lead to 17-6. 

New Orleans’ offense continued to fall flat in the fourth quarter. Instead of finding the endzone, the Grupe kicked a 44-yard field goal for the Saints with 5:02 left in the game to cut the deficit to 17-9. 

Because the Atlanta Falcons lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay is in sole possession of first place in the NFC South.