TAMPA, Fla. – Just minutes after starting Sunday’s game under a sunny Florida sky, the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Bucs found themselves in a weather delay that lasted 1 hour and 9 minutes.
As the Saints neared the end of an opening drive that resulted in a 44-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley, the sky southeast of Raymond James Stadium turned dark blue and a bolt of lightning flashed over the east upper deck — sending fans scrambling for cover.
After the ensuing kickoff, referee Bill Leavy announced the game was being suspended and sent both teams to their respective locker rooms just as a heavy rainstorm began to move into the area.
According to Saints’ public relations officials, the last time a game involving the Saints was affected by weather was a Sept. 4, 1971 preseason game with the Philadelphia Eagles in old Tulane Stadium. Lightning forced officials to call the contest with 33 seconds to play in a 34-0 Eagles’ win.
FAST START: After a 16-14 win over the Bucs, the Saints are 2-0 for the first time in three seasons and only the ninth time in the franchise’s 47-year history.
It’s the fourth time in Sean Payton’s seven-year tenure that the Saints have started a season with back-to-back wins. They also did it in 2006, his first season with the team, and in 2009 and ’10.
The other five times it happened were in 1988, ’91 and ’93 under Jim Mora, 1998 under Mike Ditka and 2002 under Jim Haslett.
BAD PLAYS: The second quarter was a disaster for the Bucs’ defense, which picked up three personal foul penalties — two in a span of three snaps — for helmet-to-helmet hits.
The first was against defensive end Adrian Clayborn on a sack of Drew Brees, which wiped out a fumble recovery by the Bucs, and safeties Dashon Goldson and Ahmad Black were also flagged for banging into Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham, respectively.
Goldson was fined $30,000 in last week’s season opener for a hit on a defenseless receiver.
TOON INACTIVE: Wide receiver Nick Toon, the fourth wideout on the field in the season opener with the Atlanta Falcons last week, was inactive for Sunday’s game.
Toon replaced wide receiver Robert Meachem, who had been signed by the Saints just five days before the game with the Falcons, on the inactive list.
Toon did not have a reception in the 23-17 season-opening win against the Falcons.
INACTIVES: The Saints’ other inactives were NT Brodrick Bunkley (calf), DE Tyrunn Walker (knee), DE Glenn Foster (ankle) S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle), T Terron Armstead and RB Khiry Robinson.
Among the Bucs’ inactives were G Carl Nicks (foot) and CB Michael Adams (knee).
Nicks, a former Pro Bowl pick for the Saints, returned to practice on a limited basis this week after being sidelined a month with a staph infection. Adams, a former UL-Lafayette standout, had surgery on his knee this week.
INJURIES: For the Saints, DE Tom Johnson left the game in the first quarter after grabbing his right hamstring on a 13-yard scramble by Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman. … CB Patrick Robinson was carted off early in the third quarter with an injury to his right leg. Before being taken off the field, Robinson’s leg was immobilized with an inflatable cast.
JENKINS, GALETTE START: The Saints had two new starters on defense for Sunday’s game as rookie John Jenkins replaced Bunkley at nose tackle and Junior Galette started for Parys Haralson at outside linebacker.
It was the first career start for Jenkins, who was the second of two third-round draft picks for the Saints this spring.
LAGNIAPPE: Saints free safety Malcom Jenkins had an interception off Freeman in the third quarter. Jenkins’ first NFL interception as a rookie in 2009 also came against Freeman in Raymond James Stadium. … The Saints are now 8-4 at RJS since the teams were placed in the NFC South in 2002. … Bunkley, a Tampa native, is a graduate of Chamberlain High School — which is located five miles from the site of Sunday’s game. … Ex-LSU and Bucs defensive tackle Booger McFarland, who hosts an afternoon radio show in the Tampa area and does some work for Sirius XM NFL Radio, was in the press box covering the game.