It was an emphatic victory and a classic “total-team effort” for the Saints, who needed both after their inexplicable flop at home last week against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Saints are now leading the NFC South by three games over the Carolina Panthers (5-5). And they have the chance to widen that lead even more when they host the Panthers next Sunday.
All four of New Orleans’ interceptions Sunday were huge. Safety Marcus Williams popped the ball loose from tight end O.J. Howard late in the first quarter, and linebacker Demario Davis snagged it out of the air to set up New Orleans’ first touchdown of the game.
Then, safety Vonn Bell shut down a Buccaneers drive just before halftime with his first career interception. Then, Williams returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown to give the Saints a huge cushion with 5:07 remaining in the game. Finally, cornerback P.J. Williams intercepted a pass in the end zone with 2:43 remaining to seal things.
The Buccaneers loomed as dangerous opponents -- especially with Lattimore sidelined by a hamstring injury -- since they led the NFL in passing yards per game since Week 3. But the Saints did a nice job keeping Tampa Bay’s dynamic receiving duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in check. They actually shadowed Evans on most plays with P.J. Williams (their typical nickelback), while free safety Marcus Williams also shifted to Evans’ side of the field on most plays.
Promising trend: The Saints needed to revive their offense after last week’s 26-9 loss to Atlanta. And they needed to get dynamic RB Alvin Kamara going after knee and ankle injuries had slowed his momentum in the middle of the season. They accomplished both on Sunday. Kamara’s 14 offensive touches in the first half were a career high. And he finished with 13 carries for 75 yards, 10 catches for 47 yards while also returning punts.
Pivotal players: Saints receiver Michael Thomas and defensive end Cameron Jordan both had monster days again. Thomas caught eight passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. It was his fourth straight 100-yard game, and his sixth of the season. He is now on pace to shatter Marvin Harrison’s NFL record with 150 receptions this year, and he is on pace for 1,826 receiving yards. Jordan had 1.5 sacks, bringing his total to 9.5 on the year, and four QB hits.
Cook on the rise: Tight end Jared Cook made a dazzling 3-yard TD catch in the second quarter when Drew Brees floated the ball up high to him and let him win a jump ball even though he was well-covered. That is now three TDs for Cook in his past four healthy games, as he continues to show signs of getting more involved down the stretch.
Troubling trend: The Saints continued to shoot themselves in the foot with too many offensive penalties -- which have plagued them all year long, including last week. Kamara had a touchdown run nullified by a holding penalty against Cook in the first quarter. And two other big gains by Kamara were nullified by offensive pass interference against receiver Tre'Quan Smith and another holding call against Cook.