The second half was more sluggish for the Bucs offense, but the defense rose up to hang on against the Saints, giving Tampa a share of the lead in the NFC South with New Orleans.
Down six and with their last possession, the Saints drove deep into Bucs territory but Tampa’s defense held strong, forcing a Drew Brees interception on fourth and two from the four yard line. The Bucs would take over at the 20 yard line up six and looking to ice the clock. The Bucs started the drive throwing the ball – a questionable decision that stopped the clock on an incomplete pass. But Josh Freeman would connect with Desmond Briscoe for 17 yards on 3rd and 9 to get the Bucs a first down and get to the two minute warning.
From there, Earnest Graham would take over, running the ball straight up the middle and down the Saints’ throats to ice the clock and finish the game.
Freeman would finish the game with 23 completions for 301 yards. Earnest Graham, filling in for the injured LeGarrette Blount, broke the century mark, rushing for 109 yards on 17 carries.
After a twenty point first half, the Buccaneers offense slowed the pace down significantly in the second half, adding only two field goals as they desperately tried to hold off the Saints. New Orleans could not breakthrough, however, with Sean Payton forced to watch the 2nd half on TV from the locker room – Jay Glazer reported that the coach suffered a broken knee and a torn MCL.
After a franchise-worst beating in San Francisco last week, it was a huge home win over a Saints team that had won four in a row before Sunday. The Buccaneers are now 4-2, tied with New Orleans for first in the division. They travel to London next week for a “home” game against the Chicago Bears.
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