Plays by Jenkins, Robinson help Saints hold on to beat Tampa Bay
“You talk about a game-changing play, and a guy that’s not going to give up and is going to finish on a play.” Aaron Kromer, Saints interim coach on Saints cornerback Malcolm Jenkins’ effort to catch Vincent Jackson and prevent a touchdown
TAMPA, Fla. — Sometimes, the little things turn into big things.
Take, for instance, the plays New Orleans Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Patrick Robinson made in Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium.
Both produced plays that prevented touchdowns and allowed the Saints (2-4) to escape with a 35-28 victory over the Bucs (2-4) for their second win in a row.
A hustling Jenkins saved one score when he tackled Bucs wide receiver Vincent Jackson after a club-record 95-yard reception midway through the third quarter, preserving the Saints’ seven-point lead.
Then, Robinson alertly bumped wide receiver Mike Williams out of the back of the end zone on the game’s final play, which negated Williams’ TD catch from a scrambling Josh Freeman that would’ve sent the game to overtime.
Jenkins came from across the field to chase down Jackson, who tipped the ball to himself and headed toward the goal line as Robinson and strong safety Roman Harper fell to the ground.
“Impressive … impressive,” Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. “I mean (Jenkins), was 10 yards behind the play and came all the way back. Jackson is an explosive playmaker with true speed, but Jenks had the perseverance and that’s what we needed.”
“The first thing is just run,” Jenkins said when asked what went through his mind when he saw Jackson break free down the left sideline. “Patrick almost made a play on the ball, but he missed it, and nobody’s there.
“So the first thing is run. As I got down the field, I saw him start to slow down a little bit and saw I would be able to catch him. It was huge for us getting him down inside the 5 and giving our team a chance.”
Did it ever.
Suddenly, the Bucs, who trailed 28-21 after a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter evaporated on three touchdown passes by Drew Brees in the second quarter, had an opportunity to tie it from point-blank range.
But 247-pound running back LeGarrette Blount was stopped cold on three straight running plays, with Jenkins getting the tackle on third down before Jordan pushed Freeman out of bounds for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
That brought Brees and his offense, which had scored touchdowns on four straight possessions to end the first half, back on the field.
Brees, who hit on 20 of 25 passes for 313 yards with touchdowns to Marques Colston (17 yards), Darren Sproles (9 yards), Joe Morgan (48 yards) and David Thomas (20 yards) in the first half, drove his team 95 yards to the eventual game-winning score — a 5-yard run by Pierre Thomas.
“Look at the sequence,” Brees said. “All of a sudden, Tampa Bay is about to tie the game. But our defense has a goal-line stand, and their defense is expecting to stop us and get great field position.
“But we had a different plan in mind,” he said. “We got a big first down (on a 35-yard pass to Lance Moore on third-and-6 from the 9), and all of a sudden we’re going down and making it a two-possession game.”
“You talk about a game-changing play, and a guy that’s not going to give up and is going to finish on a play,” Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said of Jenkins’ effort.
Pierre Thomas’ touchdown allowed the Saints, who fell behind 21-7 early in the second quarter when Freeman sandwiched scoring passes of 13 yards to Tiquan Underwood and 17 yards to Jackson around a 36-yard touchdown run by Doug Martin, to hold off the Bucs.
Thanks to Jenkins, the defense kept the Bucs off the scoreboard for 39 minutes after they scored on their first three possessions.
The first came when Ronde Barber got an interception off a tipped pass on the fifth play of the game and his 30-yard return set up Freeman’s scoring pass to Underwood on the next play.
Freeman, who was 24 of 42 for 420 yards, tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Dallas Clark with 4:10 to play in the game to cut the 14-point deficit to just seven points before the Bucs defense made one final stop.
Freeman then marched his team from the Bucs’ 21 to the Saints’ 9, starting the drive with a 38-yard pass to Jackson, who set a franchise record with 216 yards on seven receptions.
But on fourth-and-goal with 5 seconds left, Freeman rolled left and tried to make something happen. When he did, Robinson shoved Williams out of the back of the end zone, which made Williams an ineligible receiver at that point.
Harper pointed out that when the quarterback leaves the pocket, defenders can push receivers out of bounds with no penalty for illegal contact down field.
“Those were two huge plays,” he said of the gems by Jenkins and Robinson.
“P-Rob’s was very subtle, because most people wouldn’t know that he did it. It was smart, because when you push him out, you don’t have to cover him any more.”
“We practice that all the time,” Jenkins said of Robinson. “When there’s a scramble drill in the red zone, you push the (receiver) out of bounds. P-Rob said he pushed him out, and he said the game was over.”
It was ironic perhaps that a game in which two teams that produced 971 total yards — 513 for the Bucs and 458 for the Saints — would come down to two defensive plays, both by the much-maligned Saints defense.
“It’s interesting, because if you’re the one out on the field, you’re in the moment, and it’s completely different,” said Brees, who was 27 of 37 for 377 yards with four TDs and one interception. “When you’re on the sideline, it’s nerve-racking. But you’ve also got confidence that the defense is going to make this play and win this game.”