Photo By: Shane Wynn via Twitter
I must say that today was a great day for the Who Dat Nation. The Saints were able to get a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-14 to clinch their second straight division title. The game did not start off like we had hoped early on but they turned things around in the second half. We knew this game was going to be a tough one given that the Bucs still had a mathematical chance of making the playoffs. Here is a recap of today’s game”
The Bucs started off the game similar to the way Dallas had done last week. On just the second play of the day, Jameis Winston hit Mike Evans for a 36 yard gain. After two 10-plus yard runs, the Saints defense forced a third down but Winston was able to connect with Cameron Brate to give Tampa an early 7-0 lead. The Saints’ first drive was a repeat of last week. Brees was able to hit Michael Thomas on 3rd and long to move the chains and then again on a 20 yard grab. Mark Ingram got loose for a 15 yard run but it was ultimately called back due to holding. After that, drive stalled and Thomas Morstead made a rare appearance to punt it away. The next Bucs possession was aided by the Saints defense on 3rd downs. They were called for defensive holding and then gave up a 15 yard gain but were able to force a punt afterwards. Unfortunately, the Saints offense could not get anything going and went three and out.
The Bucs ended the first quarter with back to back 10-plus yard plays. They were able to wiggle down the field with a big 17 yard scramble by Winston to get them close to the red zone. The Saints defense were about to stop them, sacking Winston on 3rd down to force a field goal attempt by Cairo Santos that he clanked off the upright. Brees and Company were able to finally get things going with a couple of big plays to Thomas and Ben Watson. They strung together a few plays to get into the rezone but had to settle for a 30 yard Wil Lutz field goal. Tampa could not do much after hurting themselves with two big penalties. However, their defense stepped up big as they picked off Brees around midfield to the Saints’ 39. After a questionable penalty on Demario Davis, Winston and his crew played small ball and found Brate again to put them up 14-3 at halftime.
Just two plays into the second half, the Saints’ offensive struggles continued as Brees was stripped sacked and Tampa recovered inside the Saints’ 30. The ever improving defense back them up by forcing a three and out and another field goal attempt that would be missed against by Santos. The Bucs played copycat and also forced another three and out of their own. At this point, it is almost like a tennis match with neither defense wanting to give an inch. This is where everything changed into the Saints favor. Taysom Hill, aka Mormon Hercules, blocked a punt and gave the Saints new life. The offense wasted little time and drove down the field and finished the drive with a 1 yard touchdown pass to Zach Line AND a 2-point conversation by Alvin Kamara to make it a 3 point deficit. From that point on, the defense stood their ground the rest of the way and forced Tampa to punt on their next three drives.
The Who Dat Train would ride their way to victory the rest of the game. Sneak Master Brees would show off his signature leap on a 4th & Goal to give them the lead. After a Tampa punt, they would drive once again capped off with a 17 yard Mark Ingram touchdown run. They would another field goal and Marshon Lattimore would seal the victory with an interception in the end zone with second remaining.
Overall, the Saints found a way to win and it took one play to give them the spark they needed. The defense held their ground once again with another shutout in the second half and continue to improve. The offense redeemed themselves a bit from their worst game in the Payton era. Not to mention, the Panthers and Falcons continued their losing ways. Damn, today was a great day. Who Dat!