TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints 17-16 to keep their hold of first place in the NFC South.
And while the result is what you wanted to see, it didn't come without drama.
Control is the name of the game these days for the Bucs as they look to seize a third-straight trip to the postseason.
And control is what Tampa Bay did to begin th egame.
Opening up the night with a 16 play drive that covered 72 yards of offense and more than 8:30 off the first quarter clock, the Buccaneers started physical and took an early lead with Ryan Succop's 21 yard field goal.
The Bucs defense came out looking to ascert some control over the Saints offense as well, forcing their opponent to go three and out on their first drive of the game.
What followed was a five play drive that ended in a New Orleans punt, but then the proverbial wheels fell off.
On the Saints' third possession of the game quarterback Andy Dalton drove his team downfield in eight plays for a go ahead touchdown pass to tight end Taysom Hill.
The touchdown pass was from 30 yards out, and was Dalton's second explosive pass that drive following a 20 yard connection with tight end Adam Trautman.
That drive and score gave the Saints a 7-3 lead over Tampa Bay at the midway point of the second quarter.
New Orleans expanded that lead to seven after Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady threw an interception to linebacker Demario Davis, allowing Dalton to setup his kicker Will Lutz for a 38 yard field goal with less than a minute remaining.
At halftime, the Saints led the Bucs, 10-3.
For Tampa Bay the second half didn't get started much better than the first one ended.
While the Buccaneers' defense forced a three and out for the third time to open the half, their own opening possession ended on a fumble by running back Rachaad White.
The Bucs' second turnover of the game turned into Lutz's second field goal for the Saints, and their lead swelled to 10 before the two teams entered the fourth quarter of play.
While Tampa Bay's offense continued to flounder on their home field, their opponent was able to add another field goal to make the lead 16-3 with less than seven minutes left in regulation.
Signs of life emerged late in the fourth quarter however, and Brady found rookie tight end for a one-yard touchdown with three minutes remaining in the game.
The score trimmed the deficit to six after Succop's extra point, and the Buccaneers fans in attendance suddenly came back to life trying to help will their team to victory.
Needing to get their offense the ball back, the Bucs defense came up with their fifth three and out of the game, and Brady got his chance to take a fourth quarter lead with 2:29 remaining in the game and a timeout in his back pocket.
And he needed almost all of it.
With three seconds left in the game, Brady found his rookie running back who had fumbled the ball earlier.
Together, they completed a six yard touchdown, and with Succops extra point the Buccaneers completed a roller coaster 17-16 win over the Saints.
Tampa Bay advances to 6-6 on the year and remain in first place in the NFC South.
New Orleans falls to 4-9 and have been swept by the Bucs for the first time since the 2007 NFL season.
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