The New Orleans Saints bounced back from a surprising loss last week in a big way, defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road 34-17. New Orleans scored on their opening drive for only the second time this season, going ahead 3-0 on a Wil Lutz field goal. Lutz doubled their advantage to 6-0 with a 26-Yd. kick after the defense forced a quick three and out and a Saints drive stalled in the red zone. The first of four interceptions on the day on Tampa's next drive set the Saints up deep in scoring territory. New Orleans would immediately capitalize with a Drew Brees touchdown pass to Michael Thomas on the next play and a 13-0 lead to end the first quarter. They would widen their advantage to 20-0 midway through the second quarter with another Brees scoring strike. Tight end Jared Cook made a spectacular catch, high-pointing his quarterback's throw for a 3-Yd. touchdown and a commanding lead.
Brees was efficient, going 28-35 for 228 yards with three touchdowns and completing 11 of his 12 throws in the second half. The offensive line bounced back from a disappointing performance to stifle the Buccaneers' pass rush and open up lanes for the run game. Defensively, the Saints front seven held the Tampa Bay running attack to just 36 yards and applied constant pressure on quarterback Jameis Winston. New Orleans benefited from fine performances from several players in this win, but here were some of the best.
Jordan set up camp in the Tampa Bay backfield all afternoon, dominating both of the Buccaneers' offensive tackles throughout the contest. Jordan pressured Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston several times and had 1.5 sacks in the game. A total that easily could have tripled if not for several uncalled holds and downright muggings of the star defensive end. Jordan now has 9.5 sacks on the year and keyed another relentless assault on opposing passers on Sunday.
Davis played another dominant game in what has been a season of spectacular performances. He tied for the team lead with six tackles and was a major factor as a blitzer, in pass coverage, as well as against the run. His first quarter interception of a deflected pass would set up the first Saints touchdown and he provided blanket coverage on Tampa Bay running backs all afternoon. He had several pass breakups on short and intermediate passes, along with pressuring Winston on a handful of pass attempts and playing his usual high level of run defense.
Kamara showed on Sunday that he was nearly fully recovered from an ankle injury that has limited him. He was the game's leading rusher with 75 yards on just 13 attempts and added 47 more yards on a game-high 10 receptions. Kamara also took on punt return duties because of an injury to Deonte Harris and flashed his gamebreaking ability with a 27-Yd punt return set up a second quarter touchdown. He was responsible for 68 of his team's 128 yards on their first two drives and attracted the focus of the Buccaneers defense through the rest of the game, opening up opportunities for his teammates.
Thomas takes his seemingly weekly place in this segment by catching 8 passes out of 11 targets for 114 yards and a touchdown. Despite being once again the sole focus of the Saints downfield passing game, Tampa Bay had little answer for the All-Pro receiver. Thomas became the first player in NFL history to record 90+ receptions in the first ten games of a season and continues his torrid record-setting pace. He has 94 catches for 1,141 yards and 5 touchdowns so far this season, re-writing both team and league record books every time he steps onto the field.
The entire New Orleans secondary played well, despite 313 passing yards from Winston and the injury absence of top cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Cornerbacks Eli Apple and P.J. Williams held Tampa Bay wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to just 1 combined reception in the first half. Held in check by the Saints coverage packages, Godwin and Evans caught 7 passes out of 14 targets in the game for 116 yards and a touchdown. Safety Vonn Bell added a half sack and his first career interception. Safety Marcus Williams may have provided the most impressive performance of the players in the secondary on the day, however. Williams jarring hit on Tampa Bay tight end O.J. Howard caused the deflection that led to Demario Davis' first quarter interception. Williams' own 4th quarter interception and subsequent 55-Yd return for a touchdown would put the finishing touches on the Saints' victory. In between, the fourth year defensive back provided outstanding support for his cornerbacks in coverage to contain Godwin, Evans, and the other Tampa Bay receivers. The ability of Williams and the entire secondary allowed coordinator Dennis Allen to be more aggressive in his pass rush packages and resulted in big plays for the defense.
The win improved the Saints record to 8-2 and opened a three game lead in the NFC South. Victories in their next two games, starting next week against the Carolina Panthers, would clinch their third straight division crown.
Which player had the most impressive performance in the Saints win over Tampa Bay?
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