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(Sunday, September 15th)
Final Score: New Orleans 16, Tampa Bay 14
Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - The revamped Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary welcomed Drew Brees into the "No Fly Zone" by stifling him for nearly 59 minutes.
Good thing Brees still had time on the clock.
Garrett Hartley's 27-yard field goal as time expired lifted the New Orleans Saints to a 16-14 weather-delayed win over the Buccaneers.
There was a 69-minute lightning delay in the first quarter.
Mason Foster's 85-yard interception return for a touchdown gave Tampa Bay a 14-13 lead early in the fourth and the Bucs later took 5:50 off the clock before Rian Lindell hooked a 47-yard field goal to the left to give Brees one more chance.
He got the ball back with 1:06 to play and immediately went to work.
Brees hit Jimmy Graham, who caught 10 passes for 179 yards and a score, with a 15-yard completion over the middle. He then connected with Darren Sproles for an eight-yard pickup before throwing a laser to Marques Colston on a seam route for a 31-yard gain down to the Tampa Bay 9-yard line. Brees quickly got up the line, spiked the ball and Hartley split the uprights to give New Orleans (2-0) another tight victory.
Brees registered 54 of his 322 passing yards on New Orleans' final drive. He finished 26-of-46 with a touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times. He sliced and diced the Tampa Bay (0-2) secondary last season for 684 yards and eight scores in two games.
"I think wins like this are vital, because no matter what you've done in the past you've got to kind of prove it to yourself that this team can overcome those types of odds and circumstances to get a win on the road, in the division," Brees said.
The much-maligned Saints defense, who surrendered an NFL-record 7,042 total yards last season, held the Tampa Bay attack to 273 yards. The Rob Ryan-led defense held the Atlanta Falcons' potent offense scoreless over their final four drives in Week 1, the last of which ended when veteran safety Roman Harper intercepted Matt Ryan in the end zone on 4th-and-goal with 43 seconds left.
Doug Martin carried the ball 29 times for 144 yards for Tampa Bay, which lost on a field goal in the final seconds for the second straight week. Josh Freeman was just 9-of-22 for 125 yards with a touchdown and interception in defeat.
Tampa Bay had the worst passing defense in the NFL last year, which led to a complete overhaul in the secondary during the offseason. The Bucs traded for Darrelle Revis, who was coming off an ACL injury, signed touted-safety Dashon Goldson and drafted cornerback Johnthan Banks in the second round of the NFL Draft.
The drastic changes in the secondary led to the Bucs posting a warning sign entitled the "No Fly Zone" that hovers over the southwest corner of Raymond James Stadium. The three-time All-Pro cornerback Revis, who coined the term, is the featured image. He is shown waving his hands to signal an imcomplete pass. Mark Barron and the All-Pro Goldson are also on the mural.
The Buccaneers allowed 214 yards passing to New York last week.
"I thought there were a lot of good things on defense," Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said. "Unfortunately, it'll be overshadowed by the loss, but that's team sport. We need to keep getting better. We had, really, two bad plays, maybe three, but that's life. It cost us dearly. One was for a touchdown, and one put them in position [to win]."
The Saints began the scoring on their opening drive as Brees led them 54 yards in 11 plays before Hartley knocked through a 44-yard field goal.
Due to the threat of lightning in the area, play was stopped on the ensuing kickoff. Both teams headed into their locker rooms, while fans scurried to find shelter as heavy winds, rain and lightning invaded the stadium.
Following the stoppage, Tampa Bay punted five plays later, but Dekoda Watson intercepted Brees on the first play of New Orleans' next series. Freeman flipped a seven-yard score to Kevin Ogletree seven plays later for a 7-3 Tampa Bay spread.
Brees found Graham for completions of seven and six yards, respectively, before concluding a six-play, 80-yard march with a 56-yard TD pass to a streaking Graham along the left seam to make it 10-7 in favor of New Orleans.
Following the first half two-minute warning, Brees hooked up with Graham again, this time for an apparent 30-yard touchdown. Following a review, though, it was ruled that Graham did not get into the end zone.
Tampa Bay was called for an offsides on a 4th-and-2 as Hartley knocked through a 20-yard field goal. Saints head coach elected to go for it on 4th-and-1 instead of taking the points and Mark Ingram was stuffed along the left side for no gain, which kept the score at 10-7 heading into the break.
Cameron Jordan's strip sack of Freeman on a 3rd-and-10 at the New Orleans 36- yard line was recovered by Junior Galette. The Saints capitalized on the turnover as Hartley nailed a 41-yarder to make it 13-7.
New Orleans outgained Tampa Bay, 371-273 ... New Orleans was 5-of-14 on third down, while Tampa Bay finished 5-of-13 on third down ... The Bucs were penalized 10 times for 118 yards.
09/16 01:38:10 ET
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