Saints get tricked

Published 1:14 am Monday, December 3, 2007

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A botched trick play may have cost the New Orleans Saints their season.

Devery Henderson fumbled a late, awkward toss from Reggie Bush, allowing backup quarterback Luke McCown to drive Tampa Bay for a touchdown with 17 seconds left that lifted the Buccaneers to a 27-23 victory on Sunday.

The winning score was a quick 4-yard pass to Jerramy Stevens, who had to outleap Jason Craft to make the catch.

Email newsletter signup

The victory gave Tampa Bay (8-4) a comfortable three-game lead in the NFC South Division with only four games left, while the Saints (5-7) probably have to win out to even have a chance at a wild-card berth.

The Saints may have thought they got a break when Tampa Bay starter Jeff Garcia was kept out of the game with a bruised lower back.

Making his first start for Tampa Bay and fifth of his career, McCown had other ideas. He completed his first 15 passes and wound up 29-of-37 for 313 yards and two touchdowns.

The Saints appeared to seize control of the game when defensive end Will Smith sacked McCown for a safety that gave New Orleans a 23-20 lead with 3:44 to go. Tampa Bay was already down to one time out, so a couple of first downs might have put it away.

But on second down at midfield, Saints coach Sean Payton called for a reverse. Bush had trouble with the handoff, then his pitch was a little late and off target. Henderson reached for it but couldn’t bring it in, and the ball squirted away from him when he tried to dive on it.

Jovan Haye recovered for Tampa Bay at the Saints 37.

Tampa Bay was quickly faced with a fourth-and-1 at the Saints’ 28. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden first sent out his field goal team to go for he tie, then called them back and sent the offense out again. Earnest Graham gained a couple yards to extend the drive, then caught a pass over the middle for a 21-yard gain to the 5 with just over a minute to go, setting up the winning score. It was a bitter ending for the Saints.