The New Orleans Saints entered Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay knowing their shot at the playoffs was all but extinguished thanks to a three game losing streak. Pride they said leading up to the game, was just as important to play for and they did just that in embarrassing Tampa Bay 41-0. It was the first time the Saints went over the 40-point mark this season, and the first sweep of the Bucs since the 2006 season.
1995 was the last time a Saints defense recorded a shutout. 17 years if you’re doing the math and for a defense that at times has given up over 500 yards of offense and 420 yards passing to Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman in the first meeting between the two teams this season, that’s a pretty high accomplishment.
“I was telling guys before this game it’s been almost a month since we had a win and we needed to do whatever it took today to get that done,” Saints receiver Lance Moore said. “We started out fast, continued to work out there, Drew was hot. We showed some balance on offense and to take it from the practice field and put it on the game field and get a win again it feels great.” Moore finished the day with four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Freeman was picked off four times Sunday as he was held to just 26 completions out of his 47 attempts for 279 yards. Saints cornerback Jabari Greer picked Freeman off twice. Safety Rafael Bush had a pick, and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus also had one as he started in place of Malcolm Jenkins. It was the second straight game Quddus has picked off the opposing quarterback.
Defensive end Cam Jordan had a sack and fumble recovery on the same play as Freeman was sacked twice, fellow defensive end Will Smith picked up the other sack.
Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin was limited to just 16 yards on 9 carries as the Saints as a team held the Bucs rushing game to 67 yards on 16 carries. “It’s special, because we’re playing professional football. These are professional, prideful football players that fight for everything,” said Saints cornerback Jabari Greer on the defense able to get the shutout victory. “They didn’t let up one bit. It was something that started from the beginning of the game to the last play. To be able to get this, it’s special, given that we had a tough loss this week and rebounded the way we got together and made a commitment to each other on the defensive side of the ball and as a team, to be able to have results like this. Those guys in the locker room deserve it. We’ll celebrate it today for 24 hours and then move on to Dallas.”
Brees finished 26 of 39 and was only sacked once despite playing at times without his starting right and left tackles. Williams Robinson started at right tackle and starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod suffered cramps and was replaced by Robinson as Eric Olsen played right tackle.
“Earlier in the week, I know offensively, we just kind of decided that you know what we haven’t really put one together that we really want to hang our hat on. Now is the time,” Brees said of the offense’s motivation Sunday.
Brees connected with nine different targets with three of those getting 60 yards or more. Tight end Jimmy Graham had five receptions for 69 yards. Receiver Joe Morgan had two catches for 61 yards and a 34-yard touchdown. Fellow wide out Marques Colston had three catches for 60 yards. Running back Darren Sproles had five catches for 21 yards including a 2-yard touchdown pass.
“I think as an entire offense, our running game and game plan is a lot better," Ingram said afterwards. "Linemen are doing a great job of getting a head on a head, moving guys off the ball. The tight ends and fullback’s doing a great job. We’re all on the same page. I’m confident in what they’re getting in the flow of the game. I’m figuring out how the defense is playing different runs and coach (Aaron) Kromer’s doing a great job of putting together certain runs by different looks and formations. I think that’s what’s helping us get the run game going.”
It was a good day for Who Dats as their team won and did it in spectacular fashion and while the dome didn’t have a sellout crowd rooting on a playoff bound team, the energy was felt on the sidelines. “We have the best fans in the National Football League, the way they’ve supported us with everything that we’ve been through,” Vitt said. “It’s certainly an emotional week. We understand our strong obligation we have to our fans and (are determined to) not let them down. Today was a good day for our football team and certainly we’re proud of the way we played in front of our fans.”