The NFL is finally back!
After months of wait and some delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, professional football made its triumphant return this weekend in front of several empty venues.
And if you are a Saints fan, the return was extra sweet as they are off to a 1-0 start. Not only did they get a win, but they did so against A. a divisional opponent in Tampa Bay; and B. a team led by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady.
Coming into the game, all of the hype was about the matchup between the 40-plus year-old quarterback greats in the Saints’ Drew Brees and the Bucs’ Brady.
And the Saints did not want the feeling of déjà vu again like in 2018 when they lost to the Bucs 48-40 in the season opener at home.
Early on the game had the making of a clash between titans in a weird setting, an empty Superdome. The Bucs got off to a great start with a statement-making opening drive that wrapped with Brady scoring on a short run.
For the Saints, their first score didn’t come until early in the second quarter. When it came, it provided a much-needed spark, one normally provided by the tens of thousands of fans in the stands, who were absent from the game for obvious reasons.
On the ensuing drive after Brees connected with Alvin Kamara on a 12-yard touchdown pass, the defense kept the momentum on the home sideline when Marcus Williams snagged a Brady pass for an interception, setting the Saints up with tremendous field position.
Another Brees to Kamara touchdown pass then gave New Orleans its first lead of the game.
Then a key play on special teams came from defensive lineman Margus Hunt. All six-foot, eight-inches of him, broke through the line and blocked a field goal, putting yet another thorn in the sides of the visitors.
It got even better for the Saints early in the third quarter. Another interception thrown by Brady resulted in points this time as Janoris Jenkins jumped a route and returned the pick 36-yards for the score making it a 24-7 game.
Tampa inched closer after Brady threw a touchdown pass to O.J. Howard to pull within 10 before cutting the lead down to seven with a field goal later on in the third.
I admit, I began to get a little nervous. I mean there was still 2:20 left in the third quarter and this was Tom Brady who, even though he was in a new system, still had several weapons in his arsenal.
It’s a good thing the Saints didn’t share the same feeling because that would be the closest that the Bucs would get for the remainder of the game as the defense put the clamps down on Tampa to preserve the win.
It was encouraging to see the Saints win minus raucous fans in the stands because they may be forced to do so again in two weeks when another tough opponent in Green Bay comes to town.