TAMPA-- Trailing by 11 points at the half, New Orleans Saints scored 25 points in the final 30 minutes to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8) on Sunday 28-14. Quarterback Drew Brees threw for one touchdown & ran for another, while the Saints defense did not allow a point in the second half, limiting the Buccaneers to just 81 yards in the final two quarters.
New Orleans (11-2) won the opening toss but chose to get the ball at the opening of the second half. And after an incompletion on first down, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw for 213 yards in the game, hit Mike Evans for 36 yards with the Buccaneers wide receiver beating Saints cornerback Marshon Latimore up the right sideline. The Buccaneers rushed the ball three straight plays after the completion to Evans, including a 14 yard run by Winston. And the Buccaneers quarterback, who led the team in rushing with 47 yards, ended their first possession of the game by throwing an 11 yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate. The scoring drive which was 75 yards, took less than three minutes.
Trailing 7-0 the Saints started their first drive at their own 28 yard line & converted on their first third down attempt. But after completing a 20 yard pass to wide receiver Michael Thomas, quarterback Drew Brees had his next third down pass batted down at the line of scrimmage by Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, forcing the Saints to punt.
After two third down conversions, one on a defensive pass interference penalty & the other on a 15 yard pass from Winston to wide receiver Adam Humphries, the Buccaneers took their second possession into Saints territory. But after a long pass by Winston to Humphries again fell incomplete, the Buccaneers punted.
New Orleans on their second possession took the ball from inside their own 20 yard line. But because of a play by defensive end Carl Nassib on a hand-off to Alvin Kamara that caused the Saints running back to lose seven yards & a delay of game penalty, New Orleans went three & out.
On their next drive, the Buccaneers were able to take the ball from their own 25 into Saints territory & they did with 23 yards of passing from Winston. But when the Buccaneers attempted to increase the lead to 10 points, kicker Cairo Santos missed from 45 yards away, his first missed kick since joining the team in week 11. Because of the missed kick, the Saints began their next drive with good field position. And on first down, Brees threw a 17 yard strike to Thomas. Then on second down, he hit tight end Ben Watson for 11 yards. Those two passes put the Saints well inside Buccaneers territory. But after another catch by Thomas, the drive stalled & the Saints settled for a 30 yard field goal by kicker Will Lutz, making the score 7-3.
The Buccaneers were only able to get one first down on their next possession. And the Saints went back to work hoping to get their second score of the game. But Buccaneers linebacker Adarius Taylor stepped in front of a second down pass by Brees intended for running back Mark Ingram II, giving Tampa Bay their seven interception in their last three games.
After the return by Taylor set the Buccaneers up in Saints territory, Winston completed two passes to Humphries, one for seven yards another for 9 yards. And after the second completion, Winston ended the 39 yard drive with a one yard touchdown pass to Brate, the tight end's second catch of the game, both for touchdowns.
In the first half, Tampa Bay gained 14 first downs & were able to convert five of their eight third down attempts. Meanwhile for the second straight game, New Orleans struggled to generate any offense & have scored just three points in the last two halves. And trailing 14-3, the Saints had the ball for just 38 seconds to begin the second half. That's because on a second & six play, Bress was stripped by Nassib & the ball was recovered by Pierre-Paul.
Starting at the Saints 27 yard line, the Buccaneers were only able to gain five yards but after missing a forty five yard kick in the first half, Santos missed again, this time from 40 yards away. The Saints got the ball back, but were unable to convert on a third & one play, when Ingram II was stopped on a run by defensive end Vinny Curry for no gain.
On their next possession, the Buccaneers gained one first down but after a third down pass by Winston fell incomplete, the Saints were looking to get the ball back. But the Saints special teams created a break for the visiting team when Buccaneers punter Brian Anger had his punt blocked & recovered by backup running back Dwayne Washington. The blocked punt gave the Saints the ball on the Buccaneers 41 yard line & after consecutive runs by Ingram II picked up 15 yards, his running back partner Alvin Kamara snatched a seven yard pass then ran for seven more. And on a second & goal from the one yard line, Brees found fullback Zach Line to his left for the Saints first touchdown of the game. After the touchdown, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton decided to go for the two point attempt & he used Kamara on a run to the left to get the conversion.
After a touchback, the Buccaneers were looking to add to their three point lead but were forced into a three & out. And two plays after a 39 yard punt by Anger, the Saints were at the Buccaneers 23 yard line. Following a four yard run by Kamara that got the Saints inside the redzone, Brees handed the ball off to Ingram, who picked up 12 yards. And faced with a fourth and goal from the one after three attempts to get into the endzone, Brees called his own number, stretching the ball over the goal line on a quarterback sneak, making the score 18-14.
Facing a deficit for the first time in the game, the Buccaneers recorded another three & out. And now armed with a four point lead, the Saints went 53 yards on seven plays in just over three minutes & took an 11 point lead when Ingram II scored on a 17 yard run straight up the middle.
The Buccaneers didn't go three & out on their next possession but were only able to manage one first down. And the Saints ended the scoring stringing together an 11 play 41 yard drive, that ended with 38 yard field goal by Lutz.
Tampa Bay hits the road for the next two games with the first one in Baltimore on Sunday when they face the Ravens. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm with pregame starting at 10:30am on 98Rock.