Saints show mettle, poise, toughness to overcome Bucs

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The stage was set.

If there was ever going to be an opportunity for Jameis Winston to erase his demons from five years of falling short with Tampa Bay and to prove that he is, indeed, the man to lead the New Orleans Saints into the future, that opportunity was Sunday in Caesars Superdome against his former team, the current Super Bowl champions.

Things started very, very well for Winston, who went 6-of-10 for 56 yards and a touchdown and ran four times for 40 yards.

Unfortunately, the fourth run resulted in a “significant” left knee injury, causing Winston to have to leave the game and likely ending his season.

If would have told you that the New Orleans Saints would beat the Super Bowl champion and favored Buccaneers with a third-string quarterback, would you have believed it?

Believe it!

It may be as simple as these New Orleans Saints are just a bad matchup for the Buccaneers, whom they have beaten six of seven times now, dating back to 2018.

Had Jared Cook not fumbled in the playoff game at home a year ago, we may be having a different conversation about the current Super Bowl champions.

While the Saints could not overcome that mistake in the third quarter with a lead in last year’s playoffs, they overcame so much Sunday to post a huge win over their NFC South rival.

The NFC south has been the domain of the Saints for the last four years. If the Buccaneers are going to end that streak, they will have to overcome a team they simply have a hard, make that very hard time with.

This was a signature win.

If I would have told you that Tom Brady would get the ball back with 1:41 to play and with a timeout, needing just a field goal to win, would you bet against him?

P.J. Williams picked off Brady on the final possession and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown with 1:24 to play in the game to seal the verdict. Williams said afterwards that he was a free player, a robber on the play. He robbed the Bucs.

On the play, Brady was looking for Chris Godwin, who was closely covered by CJ Gardner-Johnson. Williams was on the right-side numbers. He saw it all the way, the ball went right to him and then he had his mind set on scoring, defeating one tackle, staying in bounds and racing into the end zone. Brian Johnson made the important extra point to put the game away.

We hear about Antonio Brown being out. We hear about Rob Gronkowski leaving the game in the first half.

How about not having Taysom Hill or Michael Thomas? How about not having Andrus Peat? How about not having Wil Lutz or even Payton Turner? How about playing with a third-string quarterback?

The Saints have had to navigate very turbulent waters, simply not catching any breaks but no one feels sorry for you. It is simply an unforgiving league and you go with the next man up.

New Orleans did that it in outstanding fashion Sunday and the result was a huge victory.

Here are my Quick Takes on the 36-27 win over Tampa Bay:

**The Saints won the toss and deferred, giving the Bucs the ball first.

**David Onyemata started at defensive tackle in his first game of the season after a 6-game suspension.

**New Orleans got a 3-and-out on the first possession for Tampa Bay to open the game.

**On fourth-and-one at its own 44-yard line on its opening possession, Sean Payton elected to gamble, going for it. Alvin Kamara got the call straight up the gut and was stuffed for no gain as the gamble failed.

**Tampa Bay took full advantage, driving 44 yards in six plays, taking 2:26 to do so with Brady hitting an open Godwin with a 12-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0 with 8:28 to play in the opening quarter. Brady hit Godwin with a 25-yard completion to help set up the score as he beat C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

**The Saints answered with a superb drive, all about Winston and Mark Ingram. Winston ran twice for first downs and Ingram caught a pair of passes for 25 yards and rushed once for three yards.

**Then, on third-and-seven from the Tampa Bay 16, Winston hit Tre’Quan Smith on a 16-yard touchdown pass to tie the game 7-7 with 2:39 to play in the opening quarter. The drive covered 75 yards in 11 plays, taking 5:49 off the clock,

**On the touchdown, the Bucs blitzed with six men and the Saints gave Winston just enough time, Smith went to the corner on Ross Cockrell and Winston placed the ball perfectly.

**The Saints got a stop, got the ball back, and Winston managed to avoid a sack, took off running again and was tackled from behind by Devin White, who grabbed Winston’s jersey from the back. White was charged with a personal foul for a horse collar tackle but Winston injured his left knee and was carted off the field.

**With Taysom Hill out and Ian Book inactive, veteran Trevor Siemian, who started for two years in Denver, took over at quarterback.

**Tampa Bay mounted a drive but Brady, against a 3-man rush, felt pressure from Cam Jordan, who reached out and and the ball came out with David Onyemata recovering for New Orleans at the Bucs 37-yard line.

**The Saints then drove 58 yards in 10 plays, taking 5:16 off the clock with Brian Johnson hitting a 23-yard field goal to give New Orleans a 10-7 lead with 2:20 to play in the half.

**The drive was aided by two huge personal foul penalties against the Bucs, one on White and the other on William Gholston. The second penalty overturned an interception thrown by Siemian, an awful throw.

**Then, Gardner-Johnson picked off Brady and returned it to the Tampa Bay 35-yard line.

**The Saints drove 35 yards in five plays with Siemian hitting fullback Alex Armah on a 1-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds left in the half to make it 16-7. Unfortunately, Johnson hooked the extra point right. It was the first touchdown for Armah since 2019.

**It was Siemian’s first touchdown pass in the NFL since 2017.

**Gronkowski was ruled out at halftime with back spasms.

**New Orleans sustained its momentum to open the second half, driving 76 yards in 10 plays. On fourth-and-goal at the Tampa Bay 1-yard line, Payton went for it again and it paid off handsomely as Kamara walked into the end zone on a pitch left to make it 23-7 with 9:01 to play in the third quarter.

**On the play, Kamara did not handle the pitch well initially but the play was so well blocked, he still scored easily. The big block was by Adam Trautman, who sustained a terrific block on Lavonte David, moving his feet continuously to free Kamara.

**The big play was a 38-yard completion to Kevin White by Siemian, White’s first NFL catch since 2018.

**Tampa Bay answered, driving 75 yards in eight plays, taking 3:28 off the clock with Brady hitting Giovanni Bernard on a 7-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 23-14 with 5:33 to play in the third quarter. The big play of the drive was a 44-yard completion to Godwin, with Gardner-Johnson missing a tackle and allowing the big play.

**The Bucs forced a 3-and-out by the Saints and promptly cut into the deficit further, driving 69 yards in five plays, taking 3:11 off the clock with Brady hitting Mike Evans on a 41-yard touchdown pass on a perfectly thrown ball, beating Marshon Lattimore, to make it 23-21 with 1:15 to play in the third quarter.

**The Saints increased the lead to 26-21 with 8:31 to play in the game, driving 50 yards in eight plays with Johnson hitting a 35-yard field goal. Once again, a big penalty on White helped the drive as he got a 15-yard infraction for taunting.

**Then, former Archbishop Rummel and LSU track star Cyril Grayson got his first NFL touchdown in his hometown on a 50-yard pass from Brady to give Tampa Bay a 27-267 lead with 5:44 to play. On the play, both New Orleans defenders jumped the short route and Grayson was all alone as the Saints blitzed and failed to get near Brady.

**The Saints were able to come back and take the lead, driving 70 yards in 12 plays, taking 4:40 off the clock with Johnson hitting a 23-yard field goal to give the Saints a 29-27 lead with 1:41 to play in the game.

**The clock management at the end of the drive was curious at best, very, very hard to understand.

**Fortunately, the defense bowed up and Williams delivered the knockout blow on the third turnover by Brady to secure the win.

Brady committed three turnovers. The Saints had none. There is your game differential.

Brady now has eight turnovers in the last three regular season games against the Saints. He has 12 turnovers against all other opponents.

The Saints needed help with Siemian running the offense. They got it in the form of three turnovers resulting in 16 points and with 11 penalties for 99 yards, including three on former LSU star Devon White for 45 yards.

Siemian came through in outstanding fashion.

A bit shaky at times as you might expect, Siemian completed 16-of-29 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers.

New Orleans controlled the ball for 33:16, always important against the Tampa Bay offense.

Now, the attention turns to the severity of the injury to Winston, which was so unfortunate.

When will Hill be ready to return from concussion protocol?

If he is not ready next week, Ian Book will dress for the first time as a backup quarterback in the league.

The hated Atlanta Falcons come to town next Sunday in another NFC South showdown. Carolina shut down the Falcons in a 19-10 win today. Can the Saints muster up another emotional effort? Who will be the quarterback for New Orleans?

Former Saints stars Jahri Evans and Roman Harper will be inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame this coming Friday and they will be honored at the game next Sunday, conjuring up pleasant memories of a Super Bowl champion in New Orleans.

The current Saints brought a packed house of emotional fans to their feet, finally back in Caesars Superdome in front of their great supporters and it was a special afternoon.

The great victory were tempered by the injury to Winston.

A season of questions continues as the Saints continue to provide some answers. The biggest answer so far was delivered against the defending Super Bowl champions.

These Saints showed mettle, poise and toughness to earn and deserve a big win. Now they must move ahead without their intended starting quarterback.

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Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE 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 Sports Media Association, National Football…

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