NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees started moving his right arm as if to loosen his throwing shoulder after a heavy hit from Tampa Bay defensive end Jacquies Smith.
Asked if he even considered sitting out even a snap or two to take stock of what was apparently bothering him, Brees responded, "Absolutely not."
Yet he didn't play up to his usual, prolific standard, and the Saints fell to 0-2 with a 26-19 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday.
After missing the playoffs with a 7-9 record last season, the Saints overhauled their roster, which is now loaded with young players. But they still hoped to return quickly to contention with key veterans like Brees leading the way. For the time being, however, they sit alone in last place in the NFC South, already two games behind Atlanta and Carolina.
"This is a marathon. You've got to reiterate that to the young guys and make sure that nobody is overreacting," said Brees, who completed 24 of 38 passes for 255 yards and one TD, along with one interception. "Certainly there is a sense of urgency. The only way you can right the ship is by winning one game."
The Saints turned the ball over twice on fumbles — one each by running back Mark Ingram and receiver Willie Snead — and once on Chris Conte's interception of Brees. Still, New Orleans had two plays to tie it from the Bucs 27 in the final 8 seconds, but both passes fell incomplete.
Saints coach Sean Payton said he was pleased to see his defense come up with some clutch turnovers and third-down stops in the fourth quarter, but was left frustrated by an array of mistakes by all units. In addition to turnovers, the Saints were hampered by a shanked punt, a missed field goal, a blocked point-after kick, a muffed punt that resulted in poor field position, four sacks of Brees and 10 penalties for 115 yards.
"Obviously, we have a lot to do," Payton said.
Indeed, the Saints were unable to move the ball consistently against a Bucs defense that one week earlier struggled to slow down rookie Marcus Mariota in the Tennessee QB's NFL debut. Meanwhile, Jameis Winston, the NFL's top overall pick, rebounded from his difficult debut against the Titans with his maiden victory in New Orleans.
He remained largely composed in the hostile Superdome, completing 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards and was not intercepted as the Bucs (1-1) ended a seven-game skid in the series.
"I just want to go out there and do my job and be a game manager right now," Winston said. "Who knows what my future holds, but I just want to put our team in the best possible situation I can for us to win. I feel like we as a whole team did that today."
Winston's touchdown pass was a 15-yard finesse throw floated down the middle to Vincent Jackson in the back of the end zone.
New Orleans fell behind 23-7 in the third quarter, but rallied with a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Fullback Austin Johnson's 1-yard TD made it 23-13 with about 7 minutes left, but the Saints' 2-point try failed. Doug Martin's fumble, forced by defensive tackle Kevin Williams, led to Snead's first-career touchdown on a 16-yard pass from Brees. But first-year kicker Zach Hocher's point-after kick was blocked, leaving the Saints down 23-19.
Brees criticized himself for missing some open throws. He said his underthrows on longer attempts resulted more from the ball not leaving his hand well than shoulder pain.
Brees has had major surgery on his throwing shoulder before, but that was about a decade ago, in the 2006 offseason.
When pressed about how his shoulder feels now, Brees said, "That's the season. Everybody's dealing with something."
NOTES: Brees moved past former Miami Dolphins Hall-of-Fame QB Dan Marino for third in all-time completions with his 4,968th career connection early in the game. That left Brees, now with 4,991 completions, behind only Brett Favre (6,300) and Peyton Manning (5,977). ... The Saints took their only lead when Mark Ingram's 11-yard TD run made it 7-3. ... Rookie linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha forced his second fumble in as many games when he stripped Winston, but New Orleans could not cash in, missing a 42-yard field goal.
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Posted on Mon, September 21, 2015
by BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer