Man, oh man, what a difference a week made for the Saints! Sure, it wasn’t a complete turnaround after what the team displayed last week when they laid an egg against the Atlanta Falcons, but it was very encouraging to see how they played Sunday in their 34-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I believe the main difference in Sunday’s game, at least for the first half, was the defense. You have to give props to defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and his staff for getting their guys ready. And props to the players for answering the call.
After forcing a three-and-out on the Bucs’ first drive, they kept up with that momentum on the second as linebacker, team captain and Brandon native Demario Davis took advantage of a poor attempt of a catch by Tampa Bay tight end O.J. Howard, snagging an interception after the ball was knocked loose.
Quarterback Drew Brees and the offense immediately took advantage. On the ensuing play, Brees hooked up with NFL leading receiver Michael Thomas giving the Saints a comfortable 13-0 lead.
And again, the defense stepped up holding the Bucs to just five plays on the next drive. The Saints regained possession and put together its third lengthy drive, resulting in another score. The long drives were not only important for running time off the clock with the big lead, but they also gave the defense plenty of time to rest on the sidelines. I believe this is why the Saints were able to blitz efficiently and often.
In the second half, the Bucs started to find their rhythm a bit, pulling within 10 at 27-17 with 4:05 left in the third quarter. But that would be the closest they would get for the remainder of the contest. The Saints defense, once again, rose to the occasion and did so without starter and arguably their best defender in the secondary in cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who left last week’s game with a hamstring injury.
Overall, the secondary played well minus Lattimore. They received a big boost for most of the game from the guys up front who put heavy pressure on Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. Star receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were limited to a combined seven catches for 116 yards and one touchdown. Sounds like a good day at the office.
The day got better when they took advantage of another Tampa Bay mistake when Winston and Evans weren’t on the same page on a pass that was easily picked off by Marcus Williams, who returned the ball 55 yards for a score.
On the next drive, P.J. Williams got into the act with an interception of his own, sealing the victory for the Saints.
The way the Saints were able to rebound while facing a bit of adversity has to be encouraging for fans who are hoping that the stellar play keeps up with another division opponent on tap next week in the Carolina Panthers.