BACK ON TRACK: Saints Bash Bucs and Take Command of NFC South

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints, YouTube

What a difference a week makes! Following one of their more disappointing overall team efforts in last week’s stunning upset loss at home to the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints got back on track yesterday afternoon, earning a 34-17 win over the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With the victory, the Black and Gold not only improved their overall win-loss record to (8-2) but also took a commanding three-game lead within the NFC South Division — following 2nd place Carolina’s loss to the Falcons.

New Orleans was able to do all the of things right that they failed to do last week, most notably on the defensive side of the ball. They consistently generated pressure on Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston; forcing the 5th year veteran to throw four interceptions, one which was returned for a “Pick 6” TD by Saints safety Marcus Williams midway through the 4th Quarter.

Offensively, the Saints bounced back equally as strong, with QB Drew Brees throwing for 3 TD passes, one of them to WR Michael Thomas; who caught 8 passes for 114 yards as he continues to build upon his record-setting 2019 season. Starting #1 RB Alvin Kamara also played a key role in the victory, as he carried the ball 13 times for 75 yards and added another 10 catches out of the backfield for 47 yards.

But the one thing that clearly stood out yesterday was the team’s overall effort, and how they were able to positively respond following last week’s disappointing performance; a fact noted by Saints head coach Sean Payton in his post-game press conference.

“We still think that we have better football ahead of us, but I was proud of how we responded following last week and we had a good week of practice, and I think it carried over to this game”, Payton said. In the locker room afterward, Saints All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan echoed Payton’s sentiment.

“It was awesome. You know, we put in the hard work and effort and the focus. This week I think we had a lot of things going for us and it really did not matter who we were playing, we corrected a lot of things internally. That’s what you have to do, you have to focus on what we have in our building.”

With the victory, the Black and Gold have now put themselves in a very favorable position with regard to making the NFL Playoffs, as they appear to be destined for what would be their 3rd straight NFC South Division Championship. They will host Carolina next week at the Superdome, and for all intents and purposes can essentially clinch the division crown outright with a win over the (5-5) Panthers.

It’s a position that the Saints never doubted they’d find themselves in, in spite of the trepidation that came with last week’s loss to Atlanta.

“No, we have had a good mindset all year. Last week obviously wasn’t good enough, but I think that the focus was there”, Payton told reporters.

“We have real good leadership and these guys understand how difficult it is to win week in and week out. We are playing tough teams and the focus really starts internally. It’s about our team really and making sure we are doing all the things ready to win a game.”

Yesterday afternoon, it was evident that the Saints have regained that focus — one that they hope will remain with them all the way into the first weekend of February…

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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