Saints Bounce Back Against Bucs, Win 34-17
Drew Brees and company began their first drive of the game tabbed as the worst in the league in putting points on the board on their opening drive, with only 3 points through 9 games. After a first down run by Latavius Murray, Alvin Kamara had Saints fans holding their breath. Kamara put the ball on the ground after his first reception of the day. Bucs linebacker Lavonte David recovered the ball, but his right foot was out of bounds and the ball stayed with New Orleans. Jared Cook’s catch and run of 30 yards set the Saints up inside Bucs territory, but the drive stalled out and Lutz gave the road team a 3-0 lead after hitting on a 44-yard field goal attempt.
Following a 3 and out by Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense, the Saints second drive of the day was all about the 2017 Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara. Kamara accounted for the first 4 plays of positive yards on the drive, including the first play of the drive that went for 17 yards. On 3rd and 6 inside of Bucs territory, Saints wideout Ted Ginn Jr. collected his 400th career reception to keep the drive alive. Two plays later Michael Thomas’ first grab of the day set the Saints up with first and goal at the 7-yard line. A jet sweep to Kamara looked to have put 6 points on the board but a holding penalty negated the touchdown and eventually led to Wil Lutz’s second field goal of the day giving the Saints a 6-0 lead.
Winston’s second drive of the day only lasted two plays as their tight end O. J. Howard could not coral the ball on a drag route, and Demario Davis’ instincts pay dividends with an interception that gave the Saints possession inside the red zone. The Saints wasted no time finding the end zone with Brees connecting with the NFL’s leader in receptions Michael Thomas on a 13-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 13 and ending the 1st quarter.
After possessing the ball for less than a minute in the first quarter, Tampa Bay earns its first 1st down of the day on the first play from scrimmage in the 2nd quarter. Cameron Brate’s 10-yard gain could not get an offensive flow going, however, and a Cameron Jordan sack two plays later forced Tampa Bay to punt. With return specialist Deonte Harris out, Alvin Kamara returned to his rookie year duties as a return man and picked up from where he left off setting the Saints up near midfield.
Sean Payton’s offense began to click on all cylinders on the Saints 4th drive of the day, covering 51 yards in 6 minutes and 42 seconds. The 13-play drive included 3 receptions by Michael Thomas, and an incredible touchdown grab by Jared Cook in the zone to give the Saints a convincing 20-0 lead in the second quarter at Raymond-James Stadium.
Tampa Bay responded to the New Orleans touchdown drive with one of their own. Scotty Miller showed off his 4.30 40-yard dash time vs fellow rookie C.J Gardner-Johnson with a 48-yard gain and a near touchdown, being marked down at the one-yard line. After an incomplete pass, and a bad snap Peyton Barber’s circle route gets the best of A. J. Klein and the Bucs cut the Saints lead down to 13.
After 3-and-out, Winston and the Bucs began a two-minute drill to cut the Saints lead down even further before the half. The Bucs' drive stayed alive because of a P. J. Williams holding penalty on third down, but the Saints defense stayed strong and moments later Vonn Bell intercepted Winston as time expired to bring a 20-7 lead into the half.
After deferring in the first half Tampa Bay began the 2nd half down two scores and the football. The drive began with Cameron Brate continuing his best effort of the season with another reception for 9 yards. Ronald Jones then lowered his head and picked up enough for a first down to get the Bucs drive in motion. Eli Apple’s pass interference brought the Bucs into Saints territory but a big drop by Mike Evans on 3rd down forced a 55-yard field goal attempt that split the uprights and closed the score to 20-10 in favor of the Saints.
Michael Thomas showed off his speed on the ensuing drive with a 41-yard catch and run to place the ball in the red zone. Following a big first down reception by Alvin Kamara, Drew Brees connects with speedster Ted Ginn Jr. for 7 yards and Brees’ 3rd touchdown of the game.
The Bucs responded with their best offensive drive of the day. On the drive Jameis Winston was 7 for 7 passing, capped off by a 30-yard touchdown pass on a drag route to Chris Godwin. It was Godwin’s second reception on the drive that went for a first down, the first following Cameron Jordan’s third sack of the day.
After a Michael Thomas 15-yard reception the Saints offense stalled out and punted the ball back to the Bucs. Winston jump started the drive with a second down scramble for 23 yards and a first down. A fourth down Mike Evans catch would have resulted in a first down but an offensive pass interference penalty would negate the play. Tampa Bay Coach Bruce Arians challenged the call, but the call stood, forcing the Bucs to punt.
Michael Thomas surpassed 100 yards in the game on the next drive, with an 11-yard reception on a slant route. Later in the drive, on fourth down, Brees jumped over the top of the pile to pick up the first down and keep the drive alive. The drive stalled inside of Bucs territory and Thomas Morstead pinned the Bucs inside their own 10.
Down 10, the Bucs needed to score points on this drive to stay in the game late in the fourth quarter. Marcus Williams was in the right place at the right time on the miscommunication between Winston and former Pro-Bowl wideout Mike Evans and came away with a pick-six to extend the Saints lead to 17. It was the 8th career pick-six thrown by Winston in his career.
After coming up hobbled Winston led the Bucs out for one last drive, leading them to the Saints 1-yard line. Back-to-back runs by Ogunbowale were sniffed out by the Saints defense setting up third and goal. On third and goal Winston looked right on a fade to Mike Evans, but P. J. Williams intercepted the pass. It was the 4th interception of the day for the Saints defense, and it secured the win advancing the Saints to 8-2 on the season.
The Saints are now 8-2 on the season and have a 3-game lead over the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South heading into their matchup next week inside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.