TAMPA BAY-- The New Orleans Saints (8-2) scored on each of their first four drives & jumped out to a 20 point second quarter lead to sink the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-17. The Saints, who controlled the football for 37 minutes, forced the Buccaneers into four turnovers, returning one for a touchdown.
Tampa Bay (3-7) won the opening coin toss but chose to receive the ball at the start of the second half, putting the New Orleans offense on the field first. And after a potential turnover on a fumble by running back Alvin Kamara, which was recovered by linebacker Lavonte David but ruled out of bounds, the Saints took the ball into Buccaneers territory. The Buccaneers did get a big defensive play by Mike Edwards. Two plays after being beaten on a 30 yard completion by quarterback Drew Brees to tight end Jared Cook, the rookie safety sacked backup quarterback Taysom Hill for a 9 yard loss. But that sack was nullified by back to back neutral zone infractions by the Buccaneers defensive line. Fortunately for the Buccaneers, Brees was only able to complete a one yard pass on a third & seven, forcing the Saints to settle for a 44 yard field goal by kicker Will Lutz.
Trailing 3-0 the Buccaneers went three & out on their first possession of the game, giving the Saints the ball back. And after getting the ball inside the redzone, mainly because of 49 total scrimmage yards by Kamara, it appeared the Saints scored a touchdown. But the touchdown was nullified by a holding penalty on Cook, which left the Saints again to kick a field goal, this one by Lutz was good from 26 yards.
With the score 6-0, Tampa Bay committed the game's first mistake when a pass by quarterback Jameis Winston that looked like a completion & a fumble by tight end O.J. Howard was ruled an interception. The ball ended up on Howard's back, eventually was batted in the air & secured by linebacker Demario Davis. And on the first play after the interception, Brees, who threw three touchdowns in the game, wasted little time in recording the game's first touchdown when he found his favorite target wide receiver Michael Thomas for a 16 yard touchdown pass.
Facing a 13 point deficit, the Buccaneers were able to register a first down on their next play from scrimmage when Winston completed a pass to tight end Cameron Brate for 10 yards. But after getting another first down courtesy of a pass interference call, the Buccaneers punted again. And although their next drive took longer than one play, the Saints scored seven again. This drive lasted 13 plays & included two completions from Brees to Thomas, who had eight catches. But when it came time for the touchdown, Brees threw it up high for Cook, who reached over cornerback Jamel Dean for a three yard touchdown catch.
After allowing the Saints to score on four straight possessions, the Buccaneers finally got on the scoreboard by putting together their own lengthy drive. The Buccaneers went 75 yards with 48 of the yards coming on a long completion from Winston to Scotty Miller down the right sideline. The play was originally ruled a touchdown but after review, the rookie wide receiver was ruled down at the one. And after being pushed back to the six because of a fumble by Winston, on third & goal the quarterback hit running back Peyton Barber with a six yard touchdown pass.
Leading now 20-7, the Saints were forced to punt after three plays. But although the Buccaneers moved the ball into Saints territory, the half ended on an interception when a pass thrown by Winston over the middle was picked off by safety Vonn Bell.
The Buccaneers, who ran the ball a franchise low eight times in the game, registered 110 total yards in the first 30 minutes of the game but received the football to start the second half. And on their first drive, the Buccaneers moved the ball into Saints territory, with 21 of the yards coming from two pass completions by Winston to Brate. But after committing a false start on a third & one, Winston had a pass intended for wide receiver Mike Evans fall incomplete. That incompletion forced the Buccaneers to try a 55 yard field goal, which kicker Matt Gay hit making the score 20-10.
On the next drive, the Saints increased their 10 point lead with a 10 play drive in just under six minutes. The big play on the drive was a third down completion with Brees hitting Thomas across the middle for 41 yards & the wide receiver sprinting up the left sideline after the reception inside the redzone. And once inside the 10 yard line, Brees found another target, this time it was wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. for the six yard touchdown pass.
The Buccaneers followed that touchdown drive with one of their own, this one took eight plays & featured seven straight completions from Winston with the last one a 30 yard touchdown pass to Godwin making the score 27-17.
The Saints were able to get a first down on the first play on their next drive but had to punt just three plays later, giving the Buccaneers a chance to trim the 10 point deficit. But after getting the ball back, the Buccaneers were only able to get one first down, that coming on a 23 yard scramble by Winston. It appeared the Buccaneers had another first down on the drive, but that was taken away when Evans was called for pass interference on a play that would have resulted in another first down.
On the next drive the Saints were able to move the ball into Buccaneers territory but were unable to get close enough to attempt a field goal, pinning the Buccaneers deep inside their own territory with a punt.
With just under six minutes left in the game, Winston completed a 22 yard pass to Evans, but followed that completion with three straight incompletions. And with the Buccaneers needing to keep the football, Winston threw a fourth down pass intended for Evans that was picked off by safety Marcus Williams, who returned the ball 55 yards for the touchdown, increasing the lead to 17 points.
The Buccaneers did get the ball back & drove it inside the five. But with the ball on the one yard line, the Buccaneers tried two running plays & on third down Winston threw a ball to Evans, who ran a corner route but the ball was intercepted by cornerback P.J. Williams. The interception thrown by Winston was his fourth of the game & the second time this season he's thrown at least four interceptions in one game.
Tampa Bay will hit the road next week when they travel to Atlanta to take on another division foe on Sunday at 1PM.