Behind Drew Brees' two touchdown passes and a running game that became alive again, the Saints beat NFC South West opponents Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon before 73,019, the largest crowd to see a Saints game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The win improved the Saints to 6-3, one-half game ahead of the Falcons in the NFC South. The Bucs dropped to 4-4, 1 1/2 games behind the Saints. The Saints play the Falcons next Sunday on the road, where the Saints are 1-2.
The Saints lost cornerback Tracy Porter to a neck injury early in the game and was carted off to a hospital for X-Rays. He quickly recovered and was back in the team's locker room after the game.
"The information back on Tracy has been good news," said Saints coach Sean Payton before getting a positive report on the corner back. "I'll update you guys on Monday, but our prayers are with him.
"It was a big win for us (after losing to winless St.Louis last week). We did a lot of things well. It wasn't perfect, but I thought we were physical. We played with the energy we look for; the individual battles really began to establish third down, red zone, rushing yardage, time of possession; all of the things it takes to win a game in our division in November. I'm proud of our players. It was a good week of preparation. That was a good football team we played and we'll go from there."
Tampa Bay had defeated the Saints on Oct. 16 in their first meeting this season.
Brees completed 27-of-36 passes for 258 yards, two touchdowns and one interception with a passer rating of 101.4, the 40th time in his six years as a Saint that he has posted a triple-digit passer rating. The Saints are 33-7 in those games.
Brees' scoring passes went for 3 yards to Lance Moore and 21 yards to Darren Sproles. Pierre Thomas added a tackle-breaking, 9-yard touchdown for the Saints, who watched their running game bounce back after gaining only 56 yards last week.
A good running game allows Brees more time in the pocket, avoiding heavy pressure.
Sproles rushed for a season-high 66 yards on eight carries, including a nine-yard touchdown run between tackles. Chris Ivory, the Saints power runner with Mark Ingram still recovering from a heel bruise, had 67 yards on 15 carries in his second game of the season.
The Saints are 6-0 this season when they rush for more than 100 yards. As a team, the Saints are averaging seven yards per carry.
Marques Colston's five catches on Sunday increased his career total to 403. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas led the defense with 10 tackles.
Bits….From New OrleansSaints.com
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS COACH RAHEEM MORRIS
“We’re 4-4. (We’re) right in the hunt. (We made) the same mistakes today. (We made) foolish penalties. Those are the ones that absolutely kill you. (We) just can’t tolerate it, especially versus an elite team. We made the same problems in the red zone. You’ve got to score touchdowns when you play the Saints. There is no doubt about that. They’re going to score points. You’ve got to find a way to limit those guys from getting the big plays and making plays like they did today.
(on penalties today) “It was just bad ball again. We’ve got to go out and play better and play smarter. There is no excuse for being young…The 15 yard penalties are just (hurtful). Those things, we cannot allow to happen. It’s not good enough to come to the sideline and apologize to your teammates, coaches, or whoever. It’s just selfish, undisciplined football.
(surprised that Saints ran as much today?) “No. They want to run the football, if they can. They got some success (early)….They repeated that a couple of times, and we adjusted in the second half. We adjusted in the first half, but we’ve got to adjust a little bit faster.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS PLAYERS
QB #5 JOSH FREEMAN
“We had a lot of penalties. We had too many big plays, explosive plays. We have to find a way to get touchdowns instead of field goals.”
(on the TD) “That was the play. They were trying to play cover 2 and we knew they were going to play cover 2. All we had to do was get the Mike’s attention and it was a touchdown. He hesitated for a split second and we were able to get it out to Kellen (Winslow).”
(on facing Saints blitz) “I’m not really worried about it. We had a pretty good plan for it. We were able to handle it. The blitz wasn’t that big of an issue all day.”
(on re-grouping at 4-4) “That’s the plan.”
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS COACH SEAN PAYTON
“Let me hit on something first, most importantly, it’s my understanding that the information back on Tracy has been good news. I’ll update you more tomorrow, but certainly our prayers are with him. It’s good to get in here after the game and find out that he is doing pretty well.”
“Obviously, it was a big game; it was a big win for us. We did a lot of things well. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought we were physical. I thought we played with the energy we look for; the individual battles really began to establish third down, red zone, rushing yardage, time of possession; all of things it takes to win a game in our division in November. I’m proud of our players. It was a good week of preparation. That was a good football team we played and we’ll go from there.”
“Anytime there is a player down for a long period of time it really changes the momentum, whether it is one of our players or someone else’s, or potentially a coach, but I thought we really responded well in this game. I thought, coming in, we were really ready to play this game. We talked about this game being a physical game and we made it a ‘bat game,’ which is something we’ve never done with a division opponent. There’s a process involved when you do something like that and I thought that aspect of being the physical team really helped us today. In an important game both teams are battling to rush the football, control the time of possession. Both teams are trying to do those things that statistically really have meant the difference in this rivalry. You’ve got a team that I think is very good at rushing the passer with some of their young players, and we wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a one-dimensional game, that it was balanced. I thought we had that today between the rushing yard and the passing yards. I thought defensively we stopped the run and forced someone to become one-dimensional instead of us.”
(On success of running game today )“I thought we did some different things, you saw Darren (Sproles) have a few big runs, you saw
(On last week’s loss) “We’re past that, we’re not scratching any heads and we are on to the next opponent. It’s disappointing, don’t get me wrong, but we understand and we are not going to allow that game to lead to another tough game. There are some tough lessons, there always seems to be in our season with the length of the schedule and I think that carries over to every team, but it’s how you respond to it, that’s what I think is critical today.”
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS PLAYERS
QB #9 DREW BREES
“I think coming off of last week, we zeroed in on these two divisional opponents before the bye. This is a pretty critical time for us. November is the time when a lot of teams separate themselves from the pack. We want to be one of those teams. We want to be on a roll. Hopefully this was the start of that.
(on bounce-back) “Call it what you want, obviously a disappointing loss last week, but we wanted to right the wrongs from last week.
(on running game) “When you look at our productivity when we’re running the ball effectively, it’s through the roof. Both (run and pass) are complementary to one another. I felt like we did a great job of finding our balance today.
(on Darren Sproles) “He did a great job today, as he always does. He’s such a versatile player who can do so many things. The best way to describe him is, he’s a ballplayer. Whatever you need him to do, he can do it. I’m just glad he’s on our team.
(more on Sproles) “I can’t say I’m surprised, because I know the person, I know the player. We had that one year together in ’05. Watching him over the last five years, I said, ‘We’ve got to get that guy somehow.’”
LB #56 JO-LONN DUNBAR
(on the defensive hard hitting) “We definitely wanted to establish that. They are a very physical team. We wanted to be physical, hit somebody and bring the wood. That was our mentality coming into this game. That’s what we wanted to do and that’s what we accomplished.
(on why the defense plays better at home) “We love our fans. We just feed off them. They are loud. Sometimes we can’t even get a call in. We just feed off of them and get after it. We just need to learn how to play more consistent on the road.”
WR #16 LANCE MOORE
(on grabbing the tempo early) “Early on we didn’t do a few things that we wanted to do. Once we got on a roll our tempo picked up a little bit. We were hitting them with different personnel groupings. That’s when we were successful and scoring touchdowns.
(on his touchdown reception) “It was just a routine catch to me. It really wasn’t anything major. We knew they like to play man-to-man even in that situation. (Marques) Colston went in motion and everyone knew that I was going to be getting the ball. Drew (Brees) made a nice throw.”
DT #98 SEDRICK ELLIS
(on defensive line getting push up the middle) “The whole defense was going after them. We had the mindset going in that we wanted to be physical. We did a great job of that today on both sides of the ball. Our offensive line was knocking them off the ball and getting the running game started. We did a pretty good job against their run. It all starts there.
(on fourth-down stop in the first quarter) “That was huge. I think getting them off the field in that spot with no points was big. It gave us some momentum and the offense was able to go down and score a touchdown.”
by Ed Staton