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Saints Defeat Tampa Bay 24-17 With Strong Closing Stretch

The Saints have struggled mightily in the second half all year, but they did just enough in the 4th quarter to hang on and defeat the playoff hopeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints looked like a hard nosed football team this week, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 7.  Tampa Bay made key errors throughout the game that piled up on them, and it took one two many, a hold by Alterraun Verner at the end of the game, to really clinch their fate.

The Saints didn't play a clean game themselves, as their defense still struggles disciplinarily.  Brandon Browner was pegged for a drive extending hold that would lead to a TD on the same drive that Kyle Wilson picked up two personal fouls.

The Saints offense, however, looked balanced despite Drew Brees throwing the ball 41 times.  Sean Payton showed a strange patience with Tim Hightower, who only had 85 yards on 28 carries. Hightower has been in and out of the league, and he looked fairly fresh after his carries, despite not breaking huge plays.

Tempers boiled over in the second half, when Mike Evans and Browner were fighting after nearly every play.  The Saints, meanwhile, were forcing Jameis Winston's hand with good outside pressure, and with the exception of a few broken runs, they limited his ability to move around in the pocket as likes to do.

The Saints started fast, forcing three and outs on two of Tampa's first 3 possessions, and scoring on two of the subsequent drives with long TD drives.  The offense continued to move the ball, but fizzled a little bit in terms of scoring, going into the half 17-10 after the defense gave up a field goal just before the half.

In the second half, each team only scored once, despite an ugly game on the defensive side.  The Saints' offense had only 2 3 & outs the entire game, including their second possession.  Tampa Bay had 4, with 2 of them coming on their first two possessions of the game.  Tampa's early deficit would prove to be too much for them, as the Saints' defense looked the most bend but don't break that they have all year.

Drew Brees made history with his 420th & 421st TD passes, both going to Marques Colston, as Brees passed Dan Marino on the all time TDs list.  He looked poised today, as the offensive line (notably Tim Lelito) gave him time to go through his progressions in the pocket.  Brees looked like the Brees of old, proliferating the ball to 8 different receivers over the course of the game.

Defensively, Dannell Ellerbe made a strong point in his return, garnering 8 tackles.  Lavonte David didn't appear to be bothered by the absence of Kwon Alexander, getting 13 tackles (including 10 solo) and defending 2 passes (reinforcing his case to potentially be the best 4-3 OLB in the NFL).  Damian Swann played well before sustaining an injury in the second half, making 4 solo tackles, and Jairus Byrd continued his quietly impressive campaign at FS for the Saints, making 5 tackles, including a potential TD saving one on Charles Sims off of a screen.  He also made a key pass breakup in the second half on a third down for Tampa Bay.

See the stats for the game below.

New Orleans

Passing:

Drew Brees: 31/41, 312 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing

Tim Hightower: 28 carries, 85 yards, 1 TD

Receiving:

Willie Snead: 7 catches, 122 yards

Benjamin Watson: 7 catches, 70 yards

Marques Coslton: 6 catches, 36 yards, 2 TDs

Defense:

Dannell Ellerbe (Welcome Back): 6 tackles

Jairus Byrd: 5 tackles

Damian Swann: 4 tackles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Passing:

Jameis Winston: 18-32, 182 yards, 1 TD

Rushing:

Doug Martin: 11 carries, 81 yards, 1 TD

Jameis Winston: 3 carries, 24 yards

Receiving:

Charles Sims: 6 catches, 64 yards

Mike Evans: 3 catches, 39 yards

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins: 3 catches, 31 yards

Adam Humphries: 1 catch, 6 yards, 1 TD

Defense:

Lavonte David: 13 tackles, 2 passes defended

Bruce Carter: 8 tackles

Major Wright: 8 tackles, 2 passes defended