Saints handle Bucs to solidify NFC South lead

  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
  • icon


NEW ORLEANS – The stage was set.

Tampa Bay was flying high, off of a huge win at Los Angeles against a Rams squad that many have favored to win the NFC. The Bucs had won at New Orleans to start the 2018 season, scoring 48 points in the process.

It figured to be a tough, close game.

It was not, thanks to a nearly complete performance by the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints ran for over 100 yards and passed for over 300 yards. They allowed just 179 total yards to the Buc squad that was unstoppable at Los Angeles and in New Orleans a year ago.

The Saints are getting better. Teddy Bridgewater is getting better. Drew Brees is healing. That is scary news to the rest of the NFC.

Here are my Quick Takes from the 31-24 victory over Tampa Bay:

At halftime, Will Smith was honored with his induction into the Ring of Honor, joining Tom Benson, Archie Manning, Rickey Jackson, William Roaf and Morten Andersen in that elite company.

**Trey Hendrickson was inactive with his neck injury.

**Tampa Bay won the toss and elected to receive.

**Dennis Allen dialed up a corner blitz on third down and Jameis Winston made an ill-advised throw which Marcus Williams picked off but the play was negated as the officials ruled that Tampa Bay was guilty of a delay of game penalty prior to the snap, the latest in a rash of bad breaks or bad calls against New Orleans. In this case, it was legitimate, simply a bad break.

**New Orleans took the lead by driving 53 yards in nine plays, taking 4:25 off the clock with Wil Lutz connecting on a 29-yard field goal to give New Orleans a 3-0 lead with 3:58 to play in the first quarter. Teddy Bridgewater made a great throw to Michael Thomas for 34 yards on the drive but he missed Jared Cook in the end zone on the play prior to the field goal.

**It marked the first time the Saints scored in the first quarter this season.

**The officials then gave the Saints a huge break when Deonte Harris fumbled for the second time in as many punt returns and the Bucs recovered but the officials ruled Saints ball on the field and upheld the ruling, saying there was no clear recovery when there really was.

**It did not matter. Three plays later, Bridgewater hit Alvin Kamara in the chest with a pass but Kamara missed it, with the ball popping into the air. Sean Murphy-Bunting picked it off at the New Orleans 20-yard line.

**Two plays later, Winston stepped up in the pocket and hit Chris Godwin on a 26-yard touchdown pass to give the Bucs a 7-3 lead with 10 seconds left in the opening quarter.

**New Orleans responded with a nine play, 75-yard drive with Bridgewater hitting Thomas on a 14-yard touchdown pass to make it 10-7 Saints with 10:13 to play in the half. On the drive, Bridgewater and Taysom Hill each connected with Thomas on 18-yard completions as Thomas had three catches for 50 yards and a score on the drive.

**Saints fans immediately starting chanting “Teddy, Teddy” following the touchdown.

**The Buccaneers came back to tie it, driving 51 yards in eight plays with Matt Gay converting a 42-yard field goal to make it 10-10 with 5:33 to play in the first half. The big play was an 18-yard run by Scotty Miller on a reverse play.

**Tampa Bay starting cornerback Carlton Davis III was ejected for targeting Jared Cook in the second quarter on a vicious hit to the chin. It was the proper call. The Bucs would sorely miss Davis I in coverage the rest of the way.

**The Saints proceeded to drive 75 yards in eight plays, taking 5:01 off the clock with Bridgewater hitting Cook on a 9-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-10 Saints with 32 seconds left in the half. Bridgewater was 5-of-5 for 58 yards and a touchdown on the drive.

**The Saints came out at halftime and on the first play from scrimmage, Bridgewater connected on his tenth straight completion, hitting Thomas for 42 yards to the Tampa Bay 33-yard line. The Bucs challenged the play, claiming offensive interference on Thomas. The challenge failed and Tampa Bay lost a timeout and the Bucs were out of challenges.

**Two plays later, Bridgewater climbed up in the pocket and found Ted Ginn Jr. wide open deep down the middle for an easy 33-yard touchdown to give New Orleans a 24-10 lead with 13:44 to play in the third quarter.

**Eli Apple then came up with an interception but once again, the pick was negated by a penalty, this time, a defensive holding call on Marshon Lattimore completely away from the play.

**Tampa Bay got a badly needed drive, a very long one, to pull back in the game. The Bucs drove 75 yards in 17 plays, taking 8:41 off the clock with Peyton Barber rushing two yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 24-17 with 5:03 to play in the third quarter. The Bucs converted every third down and converted a big fourth-and-one on the drive to keep it alive.

**After his unfortunate interception, Bridgewater completed his next 10 passes for 135 yards and three touchdowns before his next incomplete pass.

**The Saints then came up with a big drive, going 91 yards in 13 plays and burning 6:27 off the clock with Bridgewater hitting Thomas on a 12-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-17 with 10:37 to play. Thomas would not be denied as he bounced off of a tackle at the 3-yard line and scored.

**Sheldon Rankins got his first sack of the season midway through the fourth quarter. Carl Granderson then notched his first sack as a pro before Cam Jordan got in on the sack party to force a punt by the Bucs.

**New Orleans had a chance to put the game away but passed on a potential 39-yard field goal, electing to go for a first down on fourth-and-three from the Tampa Bay 22-yard line. The attempt failed.

**Tampa Bay got the ball back with 1:10 to play and promptly drove 78 yards in six plays, taking just 57 seconds with Winston hitting Godwin on a 26-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 31-24 with 13 seconds left.

**The ensuing onside kick went out-of-bounds, securing the Saints victory.

Bridgewater threw four touchdown passes and engineered touchdown scoring drives of 75, 75, 75 and 91 yards.

Thomas was tremendous, catching 11 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Cook paid his first dividends with four catches for 41 yards and a score.

Marcus Davenport continues to improve as he recorded two sacks after playing very well against Dallas.

New Orleans sacked Winston six times with a relentless pass rush. The defense got a pair of interceptions but both were erased by penalty.

Still, it was an outstanding defensive performance against a team that scored 54 points at Los Angeles the previous week. Tampa Bay had just 179 yards prior to the final touchdown drive where the Saints were playing very soft.

Meanwhile, the offense was excellent, led by a superb performance by Bridgewater, who overcame an early interception that should not have happened to play perhaps his best game as a pro. Bridgewater completed 25-of-32 passes for 314 yards with four touchdowns and one interception for a Quarterback Rating of 131.3.

New Orleans was 8-of-15 on third down conversions, a huge part of the victory. New Orleans outgained the Bucs 457-252.

Other than the fumbled punt that cost the Saints a touchdown, this was the best performance of the season by the Saints, who simply dominated Tampa Bay.

Now, it is on the road to face an improving Jacksonville squad before heading to Chicago to take on perhaps the best defense in the NFL.

The Saints are squarely back in the mix for the top seed in the NFC. They have earned it.

  • < PREV CCS Football Rankings: Top teams remain the same while Newman moves up to second
  • NEXT > St. Augustine releases statement regarding pre-game incident
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…

Read more >