TAMPA, Fla. -- Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints’ 35-28 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium:
What it means: The Saints are 2-4, but there still is a glimmer of hope for their season. They now have won two straight games. They also will get assistant head coach Joe Vitt back from his six-game suspension. Interim head coach Aaron Kromer did a decent job in a tough situation, but Vitt’s experience might provide a boost for the Saints. The Bucs fell to 2-4, despite jumping out to an early 14-0 lead. The Bucs could have improved to 3-3 and perhaps turned a corner in their development with a win, but this was proof that the Bucs haven’t arrived yet and that their pass defense, particularly their pass rush, has a long way to go.
Brees’ big day: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw for 377 yards and four touchdowns. At halftime, Brees had 313 passing yards and was on pace to break Norm Van Brocklin’s 1951 regular-season record of 554 yards in a game.
Worst move of the day: With 14:54 left in the fourth quarter and New Orleans leading 28-21, the Saints lined up to attempt a 51-yard field goal. But the drive was given new life when Tampa Bay was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for trying to simulate the snap count. The Saints went on to score a touchdown. Simulating the snap count? Maybe that kind of thing works in college, but it doesn't fly in the NFL.
Opportunity lost: The Bucs caught a break with about six minutes left in the third quarter when New Orleans cornerback Patrick Robinson tipped a Josh Freeman pass, but Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson was able to catch it. Robinson fell down and there were no defenders near Jackson. He gained 95 yards, but safety Malcolm Jenkins brought him down at the 1-yard line. The Bucs weren’t able to punch it in on four plays.
Second-worst move of the day: Speaking of what Tampa Bay did in the immediate aftermath of Jackson’s big catch, the Bucs handed the ball to LeGarrette Blount on three straight plays, and he couldn’t get into the end zone against the league’s worst defense. I realize Blount’s a big, power back and you should give him at least one crack at the end zone. But you know what the unofficial coaching handbook says about doing the same thing three times in a row? It’s against it. At some point in those three plays, you need to at least look like you might throw a pass and spread the defense out. The Bucs finally did that on fourth down, but Freeman ended up scrambling out of bounds for a 4-yard loss.
What’s next: The Bucs face a quick turnaround. They’ll play Thursday night at Minnesota. The Saints also will play their next game in prime time. They’ll be at Denver next Sunday night.