TAMPA, Fla. -- On a night they were looking to clinch their first NFC South title since 2007, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost Pro Bowl receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in the first half Sunday against the Saints, Leonard Fournette in the second and were shut out for the first time in Tom Brady's tenure as their quarterback.
"I don't think we were much good at anything tonight," said Brady, who was sacked four times and turned the ball over twice on third down, losing a fumble on a scramble at the New Orleans' 13-yard line and tossing an interception on a pass intended for Scotty Miller that was picked off by Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
The 9-0 defeat to the Saints marked only the third shoutout of Brady's NFL career with him as the starter, and first since Week 14 of the 2006 season, when he was a member of the New England Patriots and opposing Joey Harrington and the Nick Saban-coached Miami Dolphins. Since then, Brady had avoided a shutout in 255 consecutive games, the NFL's second-longest streak behind only Drew Brees.
"I wish it was just one thing. It was a lot of things," Brady said. "We've gotta do better in every facet of offensive football to score points. We're not gonna win scoring no points."
Brady's frustration appeared to reach a boiling point after his interception; he threw his tablet into an equipment trunk on the sideline, causing it to break, and also appeared to shout obscenities in the direction of the Saints' coaching staff on the sideline.
Both of Brady's top targets were ruled out to begin the second half. Godwin suffered a knee injury in the second quarter while falling awkwardly after a collision with New Orleans safety P.J. Williams, and Evans injured a hamstring and went to the locker room after a leaping third-down catch over the middle working against cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
Godwin had 1,054 receiving yards heading into Sunday, fourth most in the league. And Evans' 11 receiving touchdowns ranked second most in the league entering Sunday.
Those losses forced Brady to lean heavily on tight end Rob Gronkowski, whom Brady connected with on just two of 11 targets and appeared out-of-sync with virtually all night. He also had to turn to wide receivers Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden and Miller, who had seen limited action this season, with Miller a healthy scratch last week.
"It was big," coach Bruce Arians said of the injuries. "The young guys, I was hoping they'd step up a little bit more -- the receivers. Overall, we just dropped too many balls."
The Bucs were already without receiver Breshad Perriman, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, and Antonio Brown, who was serving a three-game suspension but will rejoin the team on Monday, general manager Jason Licht announced before kickoff.
Making matters worse, the Bucs lost Fournette, who has been bothered by an ankle injury, to an injured hamstring in the third quarter. Fournette, who still managed to lead the Bucs with seven catches on the night, needed the help of two athletic trainers as he limped to the locker room.
The final nail in the coffin was when inside linebacker and longtime captain Lavonte David left the game with a foot injury in the fourth quarter.
"Those guys play a huge role on our team, so we have to uplift them and do a better job," said running back Ronald Jones II. "Just guys going down and fighting adversity. We didn't fight through today."
Heading into Sunday's game, the Bucs were averaging a league-high 31.54 points per game; their loss to the Saints snapped a seven-game streak of scoring at least 30 points at home.
Tampa Bay closed as an 11.5-point favorite, tied for the second-largest favorite to be shut out in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
"It was very disappointing. It's never happened to me. I can't remember the last time I was shut out or us," said Arians, who also expressed concern about his players' health status with three games remaining in the regular season.
Winning the NFC South is imminent. But the Bucs have been fighting for top playoff seeding and must now hold off the Dallas Cowboys, who overtook the Cardinals for third in the NFC playoff picture after Arizona lost to the Detroit Lions.
"It hurts more losing all the players we lost," Arians said. "We lost about seven starters in this game, so I'm more concerned about that right now."
When asked for any updates on the injured players, Arians said: "We'll wait and see."