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(Sunday, November 22nd)
Final Score: New Orleans 38, Tampa Bay 7
Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes and Mike Bell scored twice on the ground, as New Orleans kept its undefeated season intact with a convincing 38-7 road victory over division-rival Tampa Bay.
Brees failed to post his normally gaudy numbers, but didn't have to after throwing his third TD pass 4 1/2 minutes into the third for a 24-7 lead. He ended 19-of-29 for 187 yards.
The offense turned to the running game in the second half with Bell totaling 75 yards on 13 carries and Pierre Thomas racking up 92 yards on 11 touches for the Saints (10-0), who furthered their own team record to start a season and won for the sixth straight time on the road.
New Orleans still has company in the realm of unbeatens as Indianapolis survived a tough test from Baltimore to win 17-15 and run its record to 10-0.
Robert Meachem caught two passes, both for touchdowns, finding the end zone for a third straight week while tight end David Thomas was also on the receiving end of a score amid a four-catch, 66-yard performance.
Marques Colston topped the receiving corps with 74 yards on five grabs.
"We came in here and did we what we had to do and we're walking out of here with a great team win," Colston said.
Josh Freeman looked like a rookie quarterback Sunday, turning the ball over a total of four times with three picks. He completed 17-of-33 passes for 126 yards with an 18-yard scoring strike to Michael Clayton.
Kellen Winslow had a team-high five receptions for 29 yards for the Buccaneers (1-9), who gained just 219 yards of total offense. Cadillac Williams led an ineffective ground game, rushing 11 times for 32 yards.
The Bucs got off to a promising start with an impressive 95-yard, 12-play scoring drive, though it would prove to be their only of the game.
Freeman helped convert three third down plays to keep things moving, finding Winslow for eight yards early on and rushing for 15 on a 3rd-and-13 play. Finally on 3rd-and-7, Freeman connected with Clayton for an 18-yard touchdown 10 minutes in.
The Saints first foray into the end zone came quickly, answering with a 68- yard drive that Brees capped with a four-yard pass to Meachem less than four minutes later.
A series of punts and Freeman's first interception dominated much of the second quarter until John Carney kicked a 38-yard field goal -- a direct result of rookie Malcolm Jenkins' first career pick at the Tampa Bay 43.
"We had a chance for us to go down the field and put some points on the board and the reverse happened. They did it. They got the ball back and put points up. That really changed the outlook of the game, gave them momentum," said Bucs running back Earnest Graham.
An efficient 63-yard drive in just 1:10 just before halftime gave New Orleans a 17-7 lead on Brees' six-yard TD strike to Meachem.
"It was disappointing when we went out there with about three minutes left [and] ended up going three-and-out, but thankfully our defense was able to get it back for us and we executed well the second time around to get points just before the half. That was big," Brees said.
Momentum continued to swing the Saints way early in the second half as Freeman was sacked by Scott Fujita on the opening drive and fumbled it away at his own 15.
Brees needed just three plays to find the end zone, hitting Thomas cutting across the middle for an 11-yard score and a 24-7 advantage.
The Bucs' next series ended in another turnover as Freeman was intercepted by Jonathan Vilma, and the visitors took it 55 yards the other way with Bell scoring from three yards out for a 31-7 game with close to five minutes left in the third.
Nearly five minutes into the final period, Bell was in the end zone again on a one-yard plunge to finish off a 13-play, 82-yard trek to go up 38-7.
Tampa Bay then drove down to the Saints' 27 but a 4th-and-2 pass intended for Winslow fell incomplete, and Freeman was picked for a final time inside two minutes left to all but assure the outcome.
Tampa Bay had won three of the last four meetings between the two clubs, including the last two at Raymond James Stadium...Antonio Bryant had three receptions for 40 yards in the loss for Tampa Bay...Jenkins ended with a team- high seven tackles for New Orleans while Vilma ended with six stops. Chris Reis had the other interception for the victors...The Saints defense came up huge without their two starting corners Jabari Greer (groin) and Tracy Porter (knee), sidelined by injury. New Orleans was also minus running back Reggie Bush due to a lingering knee injury.
11/22 18:20:05 ET