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.
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.