Saints deliver knockout blow to Buccaneers for sixth straight win

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints' sixth straight victory was so thorough and dominating that the only time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers really put up a fight was during a sideline skirmish in the third quarter.

Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans was flagged 15 yards for drilling Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore in the back after Tampa QB Jameis Winston and Lattimore exchanged shoves; Winston wasn’t even in the game at the time.

Other than that, it was All Saints Day in this first week of November, with Lattimore and the Saints' defense continuing their stellar season, holding Tampa Bay to 200 yards in a 30-10 rout.

Young Saints cornerbacks like Lattimore and De'Vante Harris (who shoved Evans off of Lattimore) said they feel like there is no doubt they have been getting under opponents' skin with their play -- this being the most over-the-top example.

"Oh, yeah, definitely, they were frustrated. I could tell they were frustrated," said Lattimore, who continued his NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign by helping to shut down both Evans and DeSean Jackson.

"Man, the swag level of this secondary is unmatched right about now," Harris said. "You got guys getting in guys’ heads for the most part, and they ain’t liking it. With us being young, they’re not liking it. But we’re not here for them to like it."

Meanwhile, Saints running backs Alvin Kamara (two touchdowns) and Mark Ingram both thrived as they overcame recent fumbling issues. And New Orleans’ special teams got things going in the first quarter with a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by undrafted rookie CB Justin Hardee.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, New Orleans is now just the third team in the Super Bowl era to go from 0-2 to 6-2. The others (1993 Cowboys and 2007 Giants) went on to win the Super Bowl.

It’s a little early to predict the Saints will make it 3-for-3, but this was probably their most complete victory yet, and they remained in control of the NFC South by climbing to 2-0 in the division.

Up next is a trip to Buffalo that should tell us even more about what the Saints are made of in a matchup of two of the league’s surprise teams of 2017.

Dominant defense: One of the most unlikely stories of this NFL season continues to get better, as New Orleans’ defense had another stifling performance. In addition to Lattimore's lockdown play, defensive ends Cameron Jordan (1.5 sacks) and Alex Okafor (half a sack) were both excellent, among many others.

After the game, Jordan refused to acknowledge a win streak, saying the Saints are 0-0 now to start the second half of the season. But then he compared the defense to the X-Men and the Justice League -- so the confidence clearly isn't lacking.

What I liked: A little bit of everything, but especially Kamara, who continued his stellar rookie season with 10 rushes for 68 yards, six catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. His 33-yard TD catch on a screen pass in the second quarter was his highlight moment of the season to date. He appeared to be down around the 12-yard line, but braced himself with his hand, escaped the tackle and made another defender miss on his way into the end zone. He had four catches for 67 yards on that TD drive, which immediately followed his first career lost fumble on the previous drive.

Ingram also bounced back nicely from his two fourth-quarter fumbles last week. He had 16 carries for 77 yards. Kamara got the start, but the Saints proved that both backs will continue to play key roles.

What I didn’t like: The Saints had some ugly special-teams gaffes after that early TD. Receiver Willie Snead fumbled away a punt during a fair-catch attempt in the fourth quarter that set up Tampa Bay’s only touchdown. Ted Ginn Jr. muffed one earlier that he recovered. And kicker Wil Lutz missed one field goal attempt and had an extra point try blocked.

Fantasy fallout: Ginn continues to be a big part of New Orleans’ offense, especially as a home run threat. He and Drew Brees failed to connect on what would have been an easy 87-yard TD pass early in the game when Ginn broke wide open. It’s unclear whether Brees made a bad throw or expected Ginn to run a different route. Either way, it was a miss that Brees clearly regretted. Later in the game, they made up for it with a 36-yard TD connection. Ginn finished with four catches for 59 yards.

Brees finished 22-of-27 for 263 yards.

Injury update: The Saints didn't escape cleanly. LT Terron Armstead (chest) and S Kenny Vaccaro (groin) both left the game early. But Fox reported that Vaccaro’s absence was precautionary. Armstead said after the game that he plans to get an MRI.