Alex Okafor on Ryan Fitzpatrick: 'He torched us'

NEW ORLEANS -- Starting in place of the suspended Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick produced magic Sunday afternoon against the Saints.

The Fitzmagic, that is, completed 21 of 28 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns for a 156.2 passer rating, adding 36 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in a 48-40 win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"He's got it in him," Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter told reporters after the game. "You saw it. His demeanor is always so laid back. You never know if he's up or down.

"It's just like practice during the game, even though he is aware of what is going on. I think that is one of the benefits of having a guy with his experience. Fitz is just a solid, solid guy. He is not going to let too much rattle him."

The Saints had no answer for Fitzpatrick, who carved up a relatively intact 15th-ranked pass defense from the 2017 season and hurt the defense with his legs.

With Fitzpatrick in control, wide receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson benefited greatly from well-timed throws. Evans caught seven passes for 147 yards and a touchdown on seven targets, while Jackson hauled in five passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns on five targets before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion.

Fitzpatrick's command of the offense and poise in the pocket to connect with six different receivers drew high compliments from his opponents.

"Man, he was lights out today," Saints defensive end Alex Okafor said. "You have to give it to him, first of all. He came in focused and he torched us."

Cornerback Ken Crawley agreed emphatically.

"When he's clicking, it's hard to stop him when he's got a rhythm and he's going," Crawley said of Fitzpatrick. "That was one thing we were trying to limit and make them one-dimensional. But once he started passing, they were just hot and they just kept going. We just couldn't stop them."

What made Fitzpatrick's complete game even more impressive was his willingness to go after second-year cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who won the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Lattimore spent most of the day locked up against Evans, but Fitzpatrick knew when to throw that way or to look to Jackson with Crawley in coverage when he recognized coverage.

"They had the opportunity when they saw us in single-high coverage, and a lot of times they were just able to throw it up," safety Kurt Coleman said. "And a lot of times when that ball is up in the air, it's a 50-50 ball and it's unfortunate we came up short. They won more than we won this game, and that's why they were able to be successful."

The Buccaneers flourished on offense with Fitzpatrick under center against a Saints team widely regarded as a potential postseason contender.

And for Fitzpatrick, who will start the next two games while Winston serves a three-game suspension, Sunday's performance certainly had a mystical feel as he led the Buccaneers offense to a near flawless performance.

"It was a lot of fun to score on virtually every possession," Fitzpatrick told reporters after the game. "It had nothing to do with who we were going against.

"You could see the confidence we had going into the game. The ball was getting spread around early. It wasn't just the Mike Evans Show out there or the DeSean Jackson Show. It was everybody. Chris (Godwin) made some nice catches, O.J. (Howard), everybody. That's fun when everybody's getting involved."

The Buccaneers have the opportunity to keep the momentum going with home games in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles and Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Winston is eligible to return to the active roster in time for Week 4's matchup against the Chicago Bears.