The Saints were without coach Sean Payton for most of the game after he was toppled to the ground during a collision with Saints tight end Jimmy Graham in the first quarter. Payton got his left leg caught under Graham as he was tackled on the sideline, suffering a torn ligament and a broken bone.
He spent the second half in the training room watching the game via television and gave the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael. Payton will have surgery on the knee on Monday and will begin rehabilitation immediately afterward.
Drew Brees threw three interceptions, but the Saints had a chance to take the lead late in the game, but Brees was intercepted in the end zone on a fourth-down pass.
Brees completed 29 of 45 passes from 383 yards and a touchdown and ran three times for 21 yards. He became the first player with 350 passing yards in four consecutive games in NFL history. Brees also has completed at least 20 passes in an NFL-record 26 consecutive games.
The Bucs improved to 4-2 and gained a share of the NFC South lead with the Saints. The Bucs are 2-0 in the division.
Tampa Bay took a 26-20 lead with a field goal with 7:54 left, opening the door for the Saints. But with a fourth-and-2 on the 4, Brees' pass was intercepted in the end zone and the Bucs ran out the clock.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman passed for 303 yards and two touchdowns and Earnest Graham rushed for 109 yards in place of injured starter Le Garrette Blount.
Jimmy Graham notched his fourth-straight 100-yard receiving game and became the first Saint to accomplish the feat. He joins Tony Gonzalez as the only tight end to do it in a single season in NFL history.
Marques Colston had his best game of the season with seven catches for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Mark Ingram led the Saints in rushing with 22 yards on nine carries and a touchdown.
Malcolm Jenkins led the Saints tackles with seven.
A week after his team lost 48-3 at San Francisco, Freeman showed he can still win. The Bucs fly to London on Monday,
The Saints host the Colts on Sunday at 7:20 p.m. in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. The matchup will be broadcasted on NBC's Sunday Night Game.
UPDATE: Saints Vice President of Communications Greg Bensel gave an update on Coach Payton’s status after the game:
“X-Rays at halftime confirmed coach’s injuries. He was going to go up to the booth in the second half to call the game but doctors decided they didn’t want to move him around that much. They left him in the training room where he watched the game. He is in good spirits. He has to have surgery and he could have it as early as tonight or tomorrow morning. He is flying back with the team tonight.”
by Ed Staton
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