Saints bounce back with commanding win over Bucs

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Saints-Bucs 2019
(Photo: William E. Anthony)

Coming off of a dreadfully bad performance against a bad football team, one wondered whether that was a turning point, the shape of ominous things to come or simply an aberration for the New Orleans Saints going into their game at Tampa Bay, always a tough place to play and tough game for New Orleans.

The Saints provided a resounding answer. It was an exception to the rule as New Orleans ruled at Raymond James Stadium Sunday.

It was an excellent team win. Wil Lutz drilled a pair of field goals, Alvin Kamara had a really nice punt return and Thomas Morstead punted the Bucs to their own 11-yard line as the kicking game excelled. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas were nails on offense while the offensive line was brilliant. A week after allowing six sacks, the Bucs got none on Brees. The defense came up with four interceptions.

The result was a 34-17 victory over a division rival that always plays the Saints tough. It was the kind of rebound you really wanted to see.

The Saints were focused, were obviously challenged in the off week and were back to being one of the best teams in the league on this day.

Brees recorded his 88th career game with three touchdown passes or more, second only to Peyton Manning in NFL history. Michael Thomas went over 100 yards receiving for the fourth straight game, catching eight passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Kamara finished with 26 touches for 154 yards.

Defensively, the Saints harassed the beleaguered Jamies Winston all afternoon. Cam Jordan had 1.5 sacks and the Saints picked him off four times, as mentioned, as Marcus Williams, P.J. Williams, Demario Davis and Vonn Bell each had an interception. Bell added a half sack as well.

Here are my Quick Takes on the big win for the Saints in Tampa:

**Taysom Hill was deep to receive the opening kickoff and he dropped the kickoff and buried the Saints at their own 14-yard line.

**Nick Easton surprisingly got the start at left guard in place of the injured Andrus Peat. Easton had not been active all season but got the nod over Will Clapp. By all accounts, Easton did a nice job.

**Brees hit Jared Cook for 30 yards to the Tampa Bay 30-yard line.

**The drive hit a huge bump when Sean Payton decided to pull Brees and use Taysom Hill at quarterback. Hill did not read a zone blitz and was sacked, killing the drive.

**New Orleans drove 60 yards in 10 plays, taking 6:11 off the clock with Wil Lutz converting a 44-yard field goal to give the Saints a 3-0 lead with 8:45 to play in the opening quarter.

**Kamara had four touches on the opening series and he replaced the injured Deonte Harris as the punt return specialist.

**Kamara then scored on a 4-yard run but it was wiped out by a holding penalty against Cook.

**That forced Lutz to kick a 26-yard field goal to make it 6-0 New Orleans with 50 seconds left in the opening quarter. The drive covered 68 yards in 12 plays, taking 6:57 off the clock.

**Demario Davis then came up huge for the Saints. Jameis Winston threw short for O.J. Howard, who was hit by Marcus Williams, bobbled the ball into the air and Davis intercepted it at the Tampa Bay 16-yard line.

**On the next play, Brees connected with Michael Thomas on a 16-yard touchdown pass to make it 13-0 at the end of the first quarter. Tampa Bay blitzed on the play and Kamara picked up the blitz nicely as Thomas popped wide open.

**Kamara had 10 touches for 64 yards in the first quarter. Brees was 11-of-13 for 109 yards and a touchdown in the quarter.

**It was just the second touchdown of the season in the first quarter for New Orleans.

**The Saints had 21 snaps to just five for the Bucs in the first quarter. The Saints had the ball for 13:19 in the opening quarter to just 1:41 for Tampa Bay.

**Jordan and Bell combined on a sack of Winston to stall the next Tampa Bay drive.

**Kamara then returned a punt 27 yards to the New Orleans 49-yard line.

**That set in motion a 13 play, 51-yard drive, culminating with a beautiful 3-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Cook to make it 20-0 with 5:13 to play in the first half. It was a perfect throw by Brees, who put air under it to get it over the defensive back. Cook went up and high-pointed the ball, making an excellent catch.

**Brees recorded his 160th career game with two touchdown passes or more, third best in NFL history behind Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

**Tampa Bay finally got it going on offense, driving 75 yards in just four plays with Winston connecting on a bomb to Scotty Miller for 48 yards to the 1-yard line. Miller ran past C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

**After taking a loss on a botched snap, Winston hit Peyton Barber on a 7-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 20-7 with 2:42 to play in the first half. Winston was 5-of-6 for 82 yards on the drive. On the touchdown, Davis and A.J. Klein did not communicate properly, resulting in Barber popping open.

**Tampa Bay had one more shot before halftime to pull closer but Bell picked off a Winston pass on a ball tipped by Kiko Alonso.

**Brees finished the first half 17-of-23 for 133 yards and two touchdowns while Kamara had 16 touches for 114 yards, including punt returns.

**The Bucs took the second half kickoff and drove 38 yards in 10 plays, taking 3:52 off the clock. Matt Gay boomed a 55-yard field goal with room to spare to cut the deficit to 20-10 with 11:18 to play in the third quarter. The Saints caught a break when Mike Evans dropped a third down pass wide open which would have been a first down.

**New Orleans responded with a 10 play, 75-yard drive, taking 5:41 off the clock with Brees hitting Ted Ginn Jr. on a 6-yard touchdown pass to make it 27-10 with 5:17 to play in the third quarter. The big play of the drive was a 41-yard completion from Brees to Thomas. Brees was 5-of-5 for 59 yards and a touchdown on the drive.

**Tampa Bay continued to move the ball well, driving 75 yards in eight plays, taking 4:05 off the clock with Winston hitting a wide open Chris Godwin on a 30-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 27-17 with 1:22 to play in the quarter. Winston was 7-of-7 for 84 yards on the drive.

**The Saints delivered the kill shot, thanks to Winston. On fourth-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 34-yard line, Winston threw one right to Marcus Williams, who caught it and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown to put the game away at 34-17 with 5:07 to play in the game.

**It was the fourth pick-six of the season of Winston and the eighth of his wildly inconsistent career. It was the third game with three interceptions this season for Winston.

**Make that four interceptions of Winston. Tampa Bay drove to the New Orleans 1-yard line but Winston threw his fourth interception as P.J. Williams picked him off in the end zone with 2:45 to play in the game.

When you win the turnover battle, you win games. When you win it 4-0, you will never lose.

Tampa Bay came in with the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFC. New Orleans ran effectively, rushing 28 times for 109 yards.

Brees played error-free, smart football. At a venue he has struggled at historically, Brees went 28-of-35 for 228 yards and three touchdowns for a Quarterback Rating of 122.4.

It was good to see Cook catch a touchdown pass but he had two holding calls against him. Gardner-Johnson gave up a long ball and had a penalty but he will grow from it.

Now, the Saints return home at 8-2 to host division rival Carolina. The Panthers are reeling, having lost two straight to fall to 5-5 after being drubbed at home, 29-3 by suddenly resurgent Atlanta.

The secondary did an excellent job without Marshon Lattimore. Will he return next week or will he sit again?

The Saints are back on track and that is a relief to many who were concerned after last week. Maybe the Falcons are not so bad, after all. Maybe the Saints are very good, after all.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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