NFL Week 6: Saints Steamroll Bucs 31-6

It's week 6 in the NFL and the Buccaneers sit at a remarkable 3-1, half a game out of first place in the NFC South. The Bucs face off against the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium

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Saints Roll Over Buccaneers

Drew Brees threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns, as the New Orleans Saints dominated in a 31-6 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brees completed 21 of 32 passes and was intercepted once for the Saints (4-2), who rebounded nicely from last week’s loss to Arizona. Rookie running back Chris Ivory broke out for a career-high 158 yards on 15 carries, while Robert Meachem and Lance Moore each had a touchdown reception.

Josh Freeman was 25 of 43 for 219 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown, but the Buccaneers (3-2) had virtually no running attack. Cadillac Williams, with 10 carries for 18 yards, was the leading rusher for Tampa Bay, which was coming off last week’s victory in Cincinnati and had a chance to surpass its 2009 win total.

The Saints went ahead on their first possession, despite starting as their own six-yard line. But Ivory opened the drive with an 18-yard run, and New Orleans didn’t even face a third down, scoring when Brees fired a 41-yard strike to Moore down the right sideline.

After the Buccaneers punted, the Saints went on a scoring drive that bridged into the second quarter. They reached the end zone on another long pass from Brees, who threaded the ball to Meachem on the right side of the field. Meachem made the catch near the five and got across the goal line to complete the 42-yard play, despite the presence of two defenders.

The Bucs got close to midfield before punting, forcing the Saints to start at their own 13. New Orleans traveled 94 and 80 yards on its first two drives and once more got deep into Tampa territory. But on Third and 5 from the 10, Brees’ pass was incomplete and Garrett Hartley kicked a 27-yard field goal with 4:33 remaining.

Connor Barth missed a 40-yard field goal on Tampa Bay’s ensuing possession, and the Saints threatened in the remaining time. But Cody Grimm picked off Brees with under half a minute to play, and the Saints took the 17-0 lead into the break.

New Orleans was right back at it to start the third quarter, getting to the Tampa 15 before the drive stalled. However, Hartley missed a 33-yarder, continuing his and the Saints’ kicking woes.

Hartley has made just 5 of 9 field goals this season, and missed a potential game-winning field goal in overtime against Atlanta in Week 3. That prompted the Saints to sign John Carney, who missed a key field goal try last week and was released Tuesday.

But New Orleans’ offense got another chance after Williams fumbled near midfield. Working with the short field, the Saints needed eight plays to get into the end zone, scoring on Brees’ four-yard pass to Heath Evans with under two minutes on the clock.

The Bucs cracked the scoreboard when Freeman’s two-yard pass to Micheal Spurlock with 5:35 left capped a 14-play, 88-yard scoring drive. But the Saints responded with a one-yard touchdown from Ladell Betts to cement the victory.

Game Notes

Ivory entered the game with 119 rushing yards through three games…Williams caught seven passes for 63 yards to lead Tampa…The Saints had committed nine turnovers in their past three games entering Sunday, but turned the ball over just once…Meachem finished with four catches for 71 yards, while Marques Colston had a team-high five receptions for 53 yards.

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Buccaneers Vs. Saints: Preview

New Orleans (3-2) at Tampa Bay (3-1)

(Sports Network) – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can complete the dual objectives of winning over skeptics and boosting their standing in the NFC South on Sunday, when they welcome the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints to Raymond James Stadium.

The Bucs stand at a surprising 3-1 as Week 6 commences, with last week’s 24-21 win at the Cincinnati Bengals representing another major step forward for a team that is one year removed from a 3-13 disaster.

Emerging quarterback Josh Freeman threw for a season-best 280 yards against the Bengals, with a young receiving corps led by rookie Mike Williams and the also-green Sammie Stroughter and Micheal Spurlock helping to fuel the victory.

Williams and Spurlock had the day’s two biggest catches against Cincinnati, with Williams hauling in the TD pass that helped tie the score at 21-21 late in the fourth quarter and, following a Carson Palmer interception, Spurlock making the sideline grab that set kicker Connor Barth up for a game-winning 31-yard field goal.

The victory kept the Bucs right on the trail of the first-place Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South, and Tampa Bay would be alone in second-place by the end of the day thanks to the failure of this week’s opponent, the Saints, who were 30-20 losers at the Arizona Cardinals.

It looked like the mismatch of the century when Max Hall, the rookie from BYU, was scheduled by the Cardinals to make his first career NFL start against the reigning Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees and the defending champion Saints. But while most expected Gregg Williams’ New Orleans defense to take it to Hall (17-of-27, 168 yards, 1 INT), it was actually Brees who made the major mistakes in the Saints’ defeat. Brees (23-of-39, 279 yards, 2 TD) threw three interceptions, the final one going the other way for a Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie touchdown that snuffed out New Orleans’ final chance.

The Saints have committed nine turnovers in their past three games, and the once-electric offense has fallen to a disappointing 10th in the league in yards and 18th in points, with injuries to running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas effectively sapping the strength of a rushing attack that was Top-10 in the league a year ago.

Defensively, a team that made a living off of turnovers last year has forced multiple miscues just once in five games.

The special teams struggled on Sunday as well, giving up two long kickoff returns to LaRod Stephens-Howling that helped erase New Orleans’ momentum, and also suffering another bad kicking miss, this one from veteran John Carney.

Carney was released earlier this week, with the job handed back to Garrett Hartley. Hartley had been benched after his short field goal miss led to a New Orleans loss to Atlanta in Week 3.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Buccaneers might have been able to sneak up on the Saints before last week, but Tampa Bay's eye-opening win over a good Cincinnati team, coupled with New Orleans' frustrating loss in Arizona, should guarantee that Payton and Co. come ready to play this time around. The Saints have not played the quality of football in 2010 that we saw last season, but this is still a talented enough team to compete for a division title, and the players and staff know another loss in the division would dig New Orleans into a mighty deep hole. Look for the Saints to cut down on the mistakes this week, and to force some major ones from a Tampa Bay team that is still very wet behind the ears.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saints 28, Buccaneers 17

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