TAMPA -- They all picked against the Saints. There was nothing but hype for the Buccaneers all week. This was their game to establish their dominance in the NFC South and conference, and they fell flat on their faces. New Orleans rolled to victory, crushing Tampa Bay with ease en route to controlling the division and their own destiny the rest of the way.
The Saints would win the coin toss and elect to defer, putting the ball in Tom Brady's hands with their highly touted offense. However, New Orleans forced a 3-and-out to start the game, and would capitalize on their first offensive possession of the game. Drew Brees and company marched 65 yards in 9 plays, and would connect with a wide open Tre'Quan Smith on 3rd and 10 from 14 yards out to take an early 7-0 lead with 9:34 in the first quarter. On the drive, Brees went 5-of-6 for 45 yards, finding five different receivers. Taysom Hill also connected on a big third down play to Jared Cook for a 19-yard gain.
New Orleans would force another 3-and-out for the Bucs offense, as a big holding penalty by Donovan Smith backed Tampa Bay up early. It looked like the Saints were poised to go into the end zone, especially after gambling on a 4th and 1 where Michael Burton picked up a first down. However, Jared Cook would fumble near the goal line and give the Bucs new life. Fortunately, it did not big damage, as the Saints forced their third consecutive 3-and-out.
The Saints would start with with excellent field position on their ensuing, and it didn't take them long to threaten, as Alvin Kamara came out with a big 17-yard run to start the drive. Several plays later, Brees would connect with rookie Adam Trautman for 7-yard New Orleans touchdown to end the first quarter and go up 14-0.
Another 3-and-out forced by the Saints defense gave the New Orleans another opportunity, and they did not disappoint. The Saints went 50 yards in 5 plays in just 2:23 to get their third touchdown of the night, this time with Brees connecting with Emmanuel Sanders on a 12-yard touchdown. Brees also found Taysom Hill for a big 21-yard hookup, and then Hill did his thing on the very next play to help setup the score.
Things continued to not go right for the Bucs, as they immediately give the ball back to New Orleans after picking up a first down. David Onyemata would get a Saints interception after Marcus Davenport made a tip on a Brady pass that would be batted up by Cam Jordan to Onyemata. Once again, the Saints made the Bucs pay, going 27 yards in 5 plays that was capped off by a 1-yard Alvin Kamara rushing touchdown to go up 28-0 with 8:45 left until the half.
Tampa Bay finally got some things going offensively, driving into New Orleans territory for the first time on the evening. They also converted their first 3rd down of the game after previously going 0-for-4. However, facing a 4th and 6 at the Saints' 38-yard line, Brady would overthrow Rob Gronkowski with Antonio Brown in the area with Demario Davis in coverage and give the Saints back the ball. New Orleans would put together another good drive, going 44 yards in 8 plays. This time around, they'd stall out and trot Wil Lutz in to convert a 36-yard field goal to extend their lead to 31-0 with 1:49 left in the half.
Even when the Bucs got something going, it just blew up in their face. As they were on the move in their two-minute offense, Brady would throw a pass intended for Antonio Brown that was easily intercepted by Marcus Williams at the Saints' 15-yard line. New Orleans was content to go into the locker room with the big lead, and just kneeled it to run out the clock.
The Saints got the ball to start the second half, and were in the midst of putting another drive together after several good plays. That's where New Orleans lost their second turnover of the night, as Brees was hit by Shaq Barrett with Jared Cook blocking for him. The fumble was advanced to the Saints' 21-yard line, and Brady got Tampa Bay in threatening distance at the 1-yard line after a Janoris Jenkins pass interference call in the end zone on Rob Gronkowski. The Bucs offense had four shots, and came away with nothing. Twice they targeted Mike Evans with Marshon Lattimore in coverage, including the 4th and Goal.
Facing the shadow of their own goal post, New Orleans was able to move the ball some, but would stall out to have Thomas Morstead come on for the first time of the evening. A screen play to Alvin Kamara that got blown up forced the Saints into a 3rd and 17 situation.
The ensuing Bucs possession ended in disaster again, as Trey Hendrickson delivered in a big way after Tampa Bay was on the move. On three straight plays, Hendrickson sacked Brady, but only two counted due to a penalty on C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Malcolm Jenkins would pick Brady off on a 4th and 7 to take over. All was not perfect on the Saints defensive drive, as Marshon Lattimore was lost due to injury. He went straight into the locker room, being assisted by a trainer in the process.
The next Saints offensive drive produced a touchdown, as New Orleans went 70 yards in 10 plays that was capped off by a Josh Hill receiving touchdown from Brees. Even when it seemed like it wasn't going to go right for the Saints, it did, as evidenced by a Taysom Hill fumbled exchange that saw a wide open Adam Trautman go for a big gain.
Tampa Bay would get their first points of the night, a field goal, with 5:52 left in the game after a 7-play, 45-yard drive. The Saints got more pressure to Brady, forcing him into an intentional grounding penalty. Malcom Brown would get the third Saints sack of the night, helping pin the Bucs into a 3rd and 34.
Jameis Winston would come in on the next Saints drive, as Brees' day was done. A lot of Saints starters would take a seat, and New Orleans would still move the ball down the field against the Bucs defense. They'd take it down to the two-minute warning, and then kneel out the clock to 34 seconds. Tampa would get the ball and send in Blaine Gabbert for the final snap.
The Saints, who clearly sent a statement to the rest of the league in prime time, come back home after two weeks on the road to take on the 49ers in Week 10.