NEW ORLEANS — Baker Mayfield threw three touchdown passes for Tampa Bay, Derek Carr’s surprise return from a shoulder injury did little to help New Orleans’ anemic offense, and the Buccaneers beat the Saints, 26-9, on Sunday.
Mayfield completed 25 of 32 for 246 yards including TDs to Cade Otten, Trey Palmer, and Deven Thompkins as the Buccaneers (3-1) took over first place in the NFC South.
Starting one week after spraining his throwing shoulder at Green Bay, and after only limited work in practice the past week, Carr struggled to move New Orleans’ offense, which had accounted for just four touchdowns in the first three weeks and did not add to that total in Week 4. The offense’s next chance to produce points comes Sunday when the Saints visit the Patriots.
Carr finished 23 of 37 for 127 yards and was sacked three times in a second straight loss for the Saints (2-2), who were hoping for a boost from Alvin Kamara’s return from a three-game suspension. Kamara touched the ball 24 times with 11 carries and 13 receptions, but finished with just 84 yards from scrimmage.
Carr said his shoulder was “no excuse for us playing the way that we did today.”
New Orleans took a 3-0 lead on its opening drive but didn’t score for the rest of half.
Mayfield, meanwhile, passed for a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter. He bought time with his feet on third down before hitting Otten for a 4-yard score that made it 7-3.
Mayfield is “a fighter with a ton of resilience. He’s been a great fit for us,” said receiver Chris Godwin, who caught eight passes for 114 yards, including a 42-yarder that set up Tampa Bay’s final touchdown.
“You see him making plays, scrambling, taking some big shots, popping back up — that’s infectious for the team,” Godwin said. “It makes the offensive line want to block more, makes us want to run our routes a little bit harder and give him a chance because we know he’s going to play as much as he can to give us a chance.”
Mayfield was intercepted just short of the goal line late in the half by Isaac Yiadom, but fullback Adam Prentice fumbled the ball right back to the Buccaneers. Mayfield then hit Palmer on a fade route to the right side to make it 14-3 at halftime.
Tampa Bay put the game away with Mayfield’s 5-yard pass to a diving Thompkins with 3:44 left.
Early in the third quarter, Carr had top receiver Chris Olave open deep downfield twice on one drive. Carr underthrew him the first time. On the second, safety Antoine Winfield recovered in time to catch Olave from behind and make a diving break-up in the end zone.
Kamara helped carry the Saints inside the Tampa Bay 20 late in the third quarter — with four carries for 29 yards and two catches for 12 yards — but they settled for Grupe’s short field goal to make it 14-6.