Nov 27, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Rashid Shaheed (89) stands on the field after an incomplete pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Below-.500 Bucs shoot to get moving against Saints

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a losing record, but they still lead the NFC South.

The New Orleans Saints have an even worse record, but are still in contention for the division title.

Two teams will try and strengthen their playoff chances when they meet Monday night in Tampa, Fla.

The Buccaneers (5-6) are the defending division champion and had won two consecutive games to get to .500 before losing at Cleveland 23-17 in overtime last Sunday.

“We’ve got to come ready for a dogfight,” Tampa Bay running back Rachaad White said. “That’s what this game is about, what this division is about regardless of records.”

The Bucs are two games ahead of the Saints (4-8), who have their bye next week, in the loss column. They also have a leg up in the head-to-head tie-breaker because they beat New Orleans 20-10 in Week 2, but the Saints can negate that with a win Monday night.

“At this point we understand every week is a big game,” Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles said. “Every game we play from here on out is going to be a big game for us.”

The Saints have lost two games in a row and have yet to win consecutive games this season.

“I think the important thing is that you’re still in the hunt,” Saints tackle James Hurst said. “We could be 10-1 or whatever and if the rest of your division is 9-2 you’re still in the same circumstance.”

A loss to the Bucs would leave the Saints with no margin for error with four games remaining. But a victory would keep them in the thick of the division race and they still have head-to-head opportunities against second-place Atlanta (5-7) and Carolina (4-8).

“We’re going to go out and compete our (butts) off and see what happens,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said. “I don’t think we can pay attention to the standings too much. We just need to focus on ourselves and improving our football team.”

New Orleans is coming off a 13-0 loss at San Francisco last Sunday, which ended a streak of 332 consecutive games in which the Saints had not been shut out.

Tampa Bay had a similar experience the last time it hosted the Saints. New Orleans won 9-0 last December, marking the first time Bucs quarterback Tom Brady had been shut out as a starter in 256 games.

Both teams have lengthy injury lists. The Saints had 15 players on their list Thursday, but they’re hopeful that two key starters — cornerback Marshon Lattimore and linebacker Pete Werner — might be able to play.

Lattimore (abdomen) has missed the last seven games and Werner (ankle) has missed the last three games, but both practiced on a limited basis.

Tampa Bay, which listed 10 players, knows that star tackle Tristan Wirfs is going to miss multiple weeks because of an ankle injury suffered last week.

Four other starters didn’t practice — safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) and Mike Edwards (hamstring), nose tackle Vita Vea (foot) and tight end Cameron Brate (illness).

Running back Leonard Fournette (hip) participated fully after missing last week’s game. Two other starters that did not play last week — wide receiver Russell Gage (hamstring) and guard Luke Goedeke (foot) — were limited.

–Field Level Media

Aug 17, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Logan Ryan (26) warms up during a joint training camp practice against the Tennessee Titans at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park.  Mandatory Credit: George Walker IV-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs S Logan Ryan designated to return from IR

Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Logan Ryan was designated to return from injured reserve on Wednesday.

Ryan was placed on IR on Oct. 18, 16 days after he sustained a fractured foot in Tampa Bay’s Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Wednesday’s move opens a three-week window in which the Buccaneers can activate Ryan or shut him down for the season.

Ryan, 31, has recorded nine tackles, one interception and a forced fumble in four games (two starts) this season, his first with Tampa Bay. He was released in final roster cuts but re-signed to take the roster spot of Ryan Jensen, who was placed on IR with a knee injury.

A two-time Super Bowl winner, Ryan registered a career-best 117 tackles to go with two forced fumbles and one sack in 15 starts with the New York Giants in 2021.

Ryan has 714 tackles, 19 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles and 13 sacks in 144 career games (117 starts) with the New England Patriots (2013-16), Tennessee Titans (2017-19), Giants (2020-21) and Bucs.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs (78) rides off the field after being injured during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs dodges major injury, could return by Christmas

Buccaneers Pro Bowl offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs avoided major injury and could be back on the field by Christmas, NFL Network and FOX reported on Monday.

Wirfs left the stadium in a walking boot to protect his injured left ankle, and tests cleared the massive right tackle of any concern of a knee injury, NFL Network reported.

Early projections for his return are 3-4 weeks, per reports.

The Buccaneers (5-6) play the Saints (4-8), 49ers (7-4) and Bengals (7-4) before a Christmas night game at Arizona (4-8).

Tampa Bay has survived a rash of injuries to the offensive line that began in training camp with center Ryan Jensen (knee).

Teammates feared a significant injury when Wirfs was helped to his locker by trainers following a loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Wirfs logged 68 snaps — 99 percent of the team total — against Cleveland.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) runs with the ball as Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards (32) defends during the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Chubb’s TD run lifts Browns over Bucs in OT

Nick Chubb ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left in overtime to give the Cleveland Browns a 23-17 victory Sunday against the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The winning run was set up by a 46-yard pass from Jacoby Brissett to Amari Cooper that moved the ball to Tampa Bay’s 3-yard line. Defender Carlton Davis III fell down on the play before Cooper made the reception.

Brissett passed for 210 yards, one TD and one interception in what was likely his final start before Deshaun Watson returns from his suspension.

Cleveland tied it at 17-17 with 32 seconds left in regulation on Brissett’s 12-yard touchdown pass to David Njoku on fourth-and-10 and Cade York’s extra point.

After the teams exchanged punts on the first three possessions of OT, the Browns (4-7) began their winning drive on their own 29 with 2:45 left.

Chubb rushed for 116 yards on 26 carries as the Browns snapped a two-game losing streak. Cooper caught seven passes for 94 yards.

Tom Brady passed for 246 yards and two scores for the Bucs (5-6). Chris Godwin had 12 catches for 110 yards and a TD.

The Buccaneers had taken a 17-10 lead with 7:41 left in the third quarter on Brady’s 5-yard TD pass to Ko Kieft.

Tampa Bay used up only 25 seconds on a possession that resulted in a punt from its own 10-yard line with 2:10 left in regulation. The Browns began their game-tying drive at Tampa Bay’s 46.

The Buccaneers had a two-game winning streak snapped.

Anthony Schwartz took a pitch from Kareem Hunt and ran 31 yards on the reverse to give Cleveland a 7-0 lead at 10:45 of the first quarter.

Brady connected with Godwin on a 10-yard TD pass to level the score with 5:11 left in the first quarter.

York’s 51-yard field goal gave Cleveland a 10-7 edge with 2:22 remaining in the first quarter.

Tampa Bay tied it up again on Ryan Succop’s 42-yard field with 39 seconds left in the first half.

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Giovani Bernard (25) holds off Philadelphia Eagles free safety Marcus Epps (22) in the third quarter in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs backs: Giovani Bernard in, Leonard Fournette out

The Buccaneers activated Giovani Bernard on Saturday and ruled fellow running back Leonard Fournette out for Sunday’s game at Cleveland.

Tampa Bay designated Bernard to return to practice on Monday. He had been on injured reserve since Sept. 21 after sustaining an ankle injury in Week 2.

Bernard, who turned 31 on Tuesday, had one kickoff return for 14 yards through the first two games this season. He played 11 snaps, all on special teams.

He has rushed for 3,755 yards and 22 touchdowns and caught 365 passes for 2,990 yards and 14 scores in 129 NFL games (30 starts) with the Cincinnati Bengals (2013-20) and Tampa Bay.

Rookie running back Rachaad White will make his second straight start when the Buccaneers (5-5) visit the Browns (3-7), with Fournette missing his first game of the season.

Fournette sustained a hip pointer in the second half of the Nov. 13 victory against the Seattle Seahawks in Munich, Germany, but did not make enough progress during Tampa Bay’s bye week to get on the field this weekend.

Fournette, 27, has rushed for 462 yards and three scores in 10 games this season, his third campaign with the Bucs and sixth in the NFL.

White, 23, carried 22 times for a season-high 105 yards against the Seahawks. He has 357 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown in 10 games.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2022; Munich, Germany; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks during an NFL International Series game at Allianz Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Now atop division, Buccaneers look for more success vs. Browns

Coming off their bye week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will return to action — and the United States — when they visit the struggling Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon.

The Buccaneers (5-5) sit atop the NFC South after defeating Seattle 21-16 in Munich on Nov. 13.

Quarterback Tom Brady said Tampa Bay faces “a big, big stretch ahead” as the prepares to face Cleveland.

“This time of year, some teams get worse and stop believing, lose hope,” Brady said Wednesday. “And other teams do the opposite.”

The Browns (3-7), who lost to Buffalo last week in a game moved to Detroit due to severe snow in upstate New York, are trying to avoid losing hope after dropping two straight and six of seven. They trail first-place Baltimore by four games in the AFC North.

Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is expected to make his final start for Cleveland before Deshaun Watson becomes eligible for the Dec. 4 game at Houston.

Watson returned to practice last week for the first time during his 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He faced sexual misconduct allegations stemming from massage therapy sessions but has since reach confidential settlements with a number of the women who filed civil lawsuits against him.

Brissett said he remained focused on this week’s game against Tampa Bay and former New England Patriots teammate Brady.

“I haven’t really thought about the future yet, and honestly don’t want to right now because of how much this week means to me,” Brissett said.

With rain in the forecast for Sunday’s game, Cleveland’s ability to run could be key. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have helped the Browns average 150.9 rushing yards, fifth best in the league.

Tampa Bay’s run defense — which has yielded 116.6 rushing yards per game — includes nose tackle Vita Vea, who did not practice Wednesday due to a foot injury.

“He’s a great player,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “He’s so physically just big from a measurement standpoint, not just the way he moves his feet. It’s very, very rare to have a guy that size that moves laterally and then is so powerful.”

Brady, understandably, also concerns Stefanski since Tampa Bay’s offense features the fifth-best passing attack (269.8 yards per game).

“He doesn’t take sacks, he doesn’t throw interceptions, throws it at a high level,” Stefanski said of Brady. “He’s on time, accurate.”

Unlike Cleveland, Tampa Bay has struggled to run the ball. The Bucs are last in the league with an average of 70.7 rushing yards, though they ran for 161 in beating the Seahawks.

“We got the win (against Seattle), but we’ve got to do it every week,” Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles said. “We have seven games left. We just got to produce and execute every week.”

Tampa bay running back Leonard Fournette (hip) and guard Luke Goedeke (foot) had limited participation in Wednesday’s practice for Tampa Bay. Receiver Russell Gage Jr. (hamstring) did not practice.

An extensive Browns injury report listed nine players who did not practice, including safety D’Anthony Bell (concussion), guard Joel Bitonio (illness/rest), defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney (rest) and Myles Garrett (rest) and tight end David Njoku (ankle/knee). Receiver Amari Cooper was also held out due to rest.

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Giovani Bernard (25) holds off Philadelphia Eagles free safety Marcus Epps (22) in the third quarter in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs designate RB Giovani Bernard to return from IR

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers designated running back Giovani Bernard to return from injured reserve Monday.

The move opens a 21-day practice window for Bernard to be promoted to the active roster.

He was placed on IR on Sept. 21 after sustaining an ankle injury in the Week 2 win against the New Orleans Saints.

Bernard, who turns 31 on Tuesday, had one kickoff return for 14 yards through the first two games this season. He played 11 snaps, all on special teams.

Bernard has rushed for 3,755 yards and 22 touchdowns and caught 365 passes for 2,990 yards and 14 scores in 129 NFL games (30 starts) with the Cincinnati Bengals (2013-20) and Bucs.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette (hip) facing further tests

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette exited Sunday’s win in Germany with a hip pointer and will undergo further testing, head coach Todd Bowles confirmed.

Fournette was removed in the fourth quarter of the 21-16 win against the Seattle Seahawks in Munich.

He rushed 14 times for 57 yards before departing, including a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that put the Buccaneers (5-5) ahead 14-0 at halftime. He caught one pass for 1 yard.

Fournette also threw an interception when he attempted a pass to quarterback Tom Brady on a gadget play in the third quarter.

Fournette, 27, has run for 462 yards and three touchdowns in 10 starts this season, his third campaign with the Bucs and sixth in the NFL.

–Field Level Media

Leonard Fournette strides into the end zone for a touchdown in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' win over the Seattle Seahawks in Munich, Germany.

Bucs defense stifles Seahawks in NFL’s Germany debut

Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held off a late rally to defeat the Seattle Seahawks 21-16 Sunday in Munich, the NFL’s first game played in Germany.

The NFC South-leading Bucs, who entered last in the league with 61 yards rushing per game, exceeded that by 100. Rachaad White rushed for a career-high 105 yards on 22 carries and Leonard Fournette added 57 yards and a TD on 14 attempts.

Brady was 22-of-29 passing for 258 yards, hitting Julio Jones with a 31-yard scoring strike in the second quarter and Chris Godwin from 4 yards early in the fourth.

The Bucs, who snapped a three-game losing streak last week with a 16-13 victory against the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, were dominant defensively, allowing 283 yards of total offense.

The NFC West-leading Seahawks (6-4) had a four-game winning streak come to an end. They failed to reach the end zone until Geno Smith’s 21-yard TD pass to Tyler Lockett with 8:20 left. A two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score 21-9.

Brady was picked off by linebacker Cody Barton midway through the fourth quarter, Brady’s first interception in 399 attempts since the season opener. That was three passes shy of the NFL record of 402 held by Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.

The interception led to Smith’s 19-yard TD pass to Marquise Goodwin with 3:58 left, pulling the Seahawks within 21-16.

But Brady and the Bucs were able to run out the clock.

After a scoreless first quarter, Brady found Jones and Fournette scored on a 1-yard run to give the Bucs a 14-0 halftime lead. The Seahawks punted on all five of their first-half possessions.

Seattle’s Jason Myers made a 55-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half.

Smith completed 23 of 33 passes for 275 yards and led the Seahawks with 22 yards rushing. Rookie Kenneth Walker III was limited to 17 yards on 10 carries.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll celebrates following a touchdown against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Pete Carroll amped for Seahawks-Buccaneers battle in Munich

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was asked about this week’s trip to Munich, Germany, to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday as part of the NFL’s International Series.

“To me, it’s like a (college) bowl game,” said Carroll, who guided USC to several, including a Bowl Championship Series title, before returning to the pros over a decade ago. “Everything around it, there is somewhat of a celebration everywhere you go as you travel and at the airport. It just seems like there is an added level of attention to it that makes it fun.”

It will be the first NFL game played at Allianz Arena, the home of the FC Bayern Munich soccer team, and will feature a pair of division leaders.

The surprising Seahawks (6-3) have won four consecutive games to move atop the NFC West, while Tom Brady and the Buccaneers (4-5) are tied for first with Atlanta in the NFC South.

Carroll said his players are excited about the trip.

“They are really pumped up about it,” Carroll said. “We are going to try and put on a show, make them see our football, and experience it in a way they never have before. It’s an honor to do that, and we will respect the heck out of every aspect of this.”

This will be the Seahawks’ second European trip in four years — they defeated the then-Oakland Raiders 27-3 in London in 2018 — so they have a feel for what’s ahead.

“Really, we are going to get on the bus, get on the plane, we will sleep a little bit longer, and we will be in a different country,” Carroll said. “It’s really not that big of a deal.”

The Seahawks won 31-21 at Arizona last week as Geno Smith shook off a pick-six to throw for 275 yards and two touchdowns while rookie Kenneth Walker III rushed for 109 and two more scores.

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, had to rally to defeat the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams 16-13 at home to end a three-game skid. Brady completed 5 of 6 passes for 60 yards on the winning drive, the record 55th of his career, and hit rookie tight end Cade Otton with a 1-yard touchdown pass with nine seconds remaining.

“We have not played the way we’re capable. Just some things have kind of not really fallen our way at all,” said Brady, who became the first NFL quarterback to throw for more than 100,000 career yards, including regular season and playoffs. “Hopefully we can get a win (Sunday), get to 5-5 and then the whole season is ahead of us.”

Added Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles: “It’s a lot easier to fly overseas after you win a game than when you lose a game. We’ve just got to start putting (victories) together.”

Brady’s options might be diminished Sunday as several of his receivers were listed on the injury report this week. Wideouts Julio Jones (knee) and Russell Gage (hamstring) have missed practice, while Mike Evans (ribs/ankle) has been a limited participant. Guards Shaq Mason (ankle) and Luke Goedeke (foot) have also sat out, as has linebacker J.J. Russell (hamstring).

The Seahawks are relatively healthy, with nose tackle Al Woods and defensive end Poona Ford both missing practice because of illnesses and linebacker Cullen Gillaspia sidelined with a knee injury.

–Field Level Media