<span style=""> </span> <span style=""><span style=""><span style="">New Orleans</span> – Despite jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the first half, the New Orleans Saints (13-2) dropped their second game in a row when the visiting [Tampa Bay Buccaneers](http://www.buccaneers.com/) scored 14 unanswered points in the second half and survived a 37-yard missed field goal by Saints kicker Garrett Hartley in the waning seconds of overtime that could have won the game for the Saints. The Bucs then won the coin toss in overtime and drove 48 yards in 11 plays (featuring nine runs) and won the contest on a 47-yard field goal in overtime by Connor Barth midway through the overtime session.
Tampa Bay out gained the Saints, 439 to 373 yards in total yards, and held the ball for 36:15 in time of possession, compared to the Saints' 30:39, with the shift in difference occurring via the Bucs' ability to control the outcome of the game in overtime after winning the coin toss. Saints QB Drew Brees completed 32-of-37 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown, while Bucs rookie signal-caller Josh Freeman completed 21-of-31 attempts for 271 yards and two interceptions.
Despite an impressive rushing game that put together 124 yards on the ground on 23 carries for a 5.4 rushing average on offense, the Saints were unable to consistently stop Bucs' ground game---mainly the powerful rushing of Cadillac Williams--who had 129 yards on 24 carries, including a 23-yard rushing score. In addition the Saints allowed a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown by Micheal Spurlock in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 17 all.
"Obviously it's a difficult loss for us," Saints Head Coach Sean Payton said following the game. "They hung around and it was really a tale of two halves. They (the Bucs) had resolve and we struggled offensively in the second half. It's frustrating and disappointing."
"It's a loss and a tough one for us," Payton added. "Now we have to see how we handle this. When you add everything up--the miscues, the turnover, the missed kick, the punt return for a touchdown, well, it usually adds up to a loss and that's what we have to deal with right now."
"It's hard to explain it," said Brees. "We started off fast with 17 points and then there was this lull, and despite the fact we were moving the ball, we had to keep punting. We still gave ourselves a chance to win with the field goal, but we weren't able to convert it."
"It just didn't feel like we had a lot of possessions in the second half, but it's a tough loss, especially when you have a chance to win it. But you're always are going to face adversity in this league, and while we don't want it to be after we won our first 13 games, well, it's something we have to deal with and bring us even closer together. I think it will."
Despite the loss, the Saints are still in control of clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs, needing either a win or a tie next week in Carolina, or a loss or tie by the Minnesota Vikings in their final two games (Monday Night at Chicago). "We are still playing for something, as a result," Payton said. "It's either carnival or crisis and we'll find out a little bit about ourselves right now." The Saints have already clinched one of the two first round byes, but allowed a golden opportunity to slip by the wayside.
The Buccaneers won the opening coin toss and elected to receive the kickoff, with Michael Spurlock returning the ball 32 yards to the Tampa 34. RB Cadillac Williams picked up four yards on first down before being stopped by LB Scott Fujita. Williams then came back and picked up five more yards on second down before Fujita once again stopped him at the 43. Tampa Bay was forced to call a timeout before their first third down of the game after some confusion in getting lined up properly. But when play resumed Williams took a toss off the left side and picked up five yards before being pushed out of bounds. Freeman then completed his first pass of the game, a 10-yard completion to WR Antonio Bryant to the Saints' 42. LB Jonathan Casillas, making his first career start, stopped Williams for no gain on a first down carry, and Bryant dropped a bubble screen pass in the flat on second down. The Bucs were called for an illegal shift on third-and-ten, which pushed them back five yards and brought up a third-and-15 from the Saints' 47. The Saints' defense, though, slammed the door shut with tight coverage and forced Freeman to overthrow his intended target and forced the Bucs to bring on their punt team. P Sam Paulescu hit a 36 yard punt that was field by Reggie Bush at the New Orleans, with Bush returning the football 14 yards to the Saints' 25.
WR Robert Meachem took an end-around for seven yards on a first down carry, with two Bucs slow to get up after the play, DT Chris Hovan and DE Jimmy Wilkerson. RB Pierre Thomas took a second down handoff and slid through a crack for a gain of six yards on second down. QB Drew Brees then went to the air on first down with a 15-yard completion to WR Marques Colston, who stopped hard and cut to the outside to pick up additional yardage. RB Mike Bell then picked up eight yards to the Tampa 39, and Bell came right back and worked behind LT Jermon Bushrod for a gain of six yards and a first down. Brees then found Bush wide open across the middle of the field and the two teamed up for a 10-yard gain and another first down. Brees and Bush went right back to it on the next play, this time gaining six yards. Pierre Thomas then hammered his way straight ahead for nine yards and another first down (the fifth of drive) to the Tampa eight. On the next play Thomas went up the middle, untouched, for the Saints' first score of the afternoon and his eighth touchdown of the season, which made the score 7-0 in the Saints favor after Hartley's extra point.
Tampa, starting at their own 26, picked up 14 yards on a first down pass from Freeman to FB Earnest Graham. Williams then picked up five yards on an off-tackle to the right side of the line, and then added 11 more on second down. On the next play Freeman was intercepted by FS Darren Sharper, his ninth interception of the season, who returned the ball 21 yards to the Saints' 49. Sharper, with 376 return yards on the nine interceptions, set an NFL-record previously held by New Orleans native Ed Reed (358 in 2004 with Baltimore) for most return yards in a single-season. It also was his 63rd career interception, which tied him for the sixth-most in NFL history with Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.
The Saints then hammered away with Pierre Thomas picking up seven yards, Bell adding two more and RB Lynell Hamilton picking up a first down with a physical two-yard run. Brees then hit TE David Thomas for a one-yard gain, then found FB Kyle Eckel for and eight-yard gain (his first as a Saint; 14th different Saints player to have a reception this season). On the next play Brees play-action faked and found WR Robert Meachem sprinting behind the Tampa defense for a 30-yard touchdown reception, which following K Garrett Hartley's extra point made the score 14-0 with 1:32 left in the first quarter. It was Meachem's ninth touchdown reception of the season, tying him with Colston for the team-lead in touchdowns this season.
Tampa took their third kickoff of the game and began at their own 22 and picked up four yards on a carry by RB Derrick Ward, who added two more yards on second down. Freeman converted the third down with a 29-yard completion to WR Maurice Stovall. After a first down incompletion, Ward found a hole off the left side of the line and picked up 16 yards to the Saints' 27. A false start penalty on T Donald Penn pushed the Bucs back five yards to the 32. The Bucs were then flagged for an ineligible man downfield call on T Jeremy Zuttah, which added five more yards to the Bucs distance needed. Ward picked up three yards on a carry into the line, but DE Charles Grant tracked down Freeman for a sack of three yards, and stripped him of the ball, but Freeman was able to recover the loose ball at the 37. It was Grant's fifth-and-a-half sack of the season and the 47th of his career. Freeman was forced to call a timeout---Tampa's second of the first half-- with 12:19 left and with the Bucs facing a third-and-20. DT Anthony Hargrove and LB Jonathan Casillas teamed up to sack Freeman for a two-yard loss and forced the Bucs to punt the ball away, with Tampa downing the ball at the Saints' seven yard-line.
Brees found WR Devery Henderson on a quick slant for a gain of six yards to the 13. Brees then rolled out to his left and hit Colston for a seven-yard gain and a first down. Bell was then stacked up and thrown for a two-yard loss by LB Barrett Ruud on first down, but Bush took a handoff and slithered his way for a 13-yard gain and a first down to the 31. Brees completed his ninth consecutive pass to start the game with a nine-yard completion to Henderson over the middle of the field. Pierre Thomas then ripped off a powerful 26-yard run in which he dragged three defenders for at least 10 yards, but was also pulled by his facemask by CB Ronde Barber, which added 15 yards to the carry and moved the football to the Tampa 19. Brees' first incompletion came on a first down pass intended for Bush in the flat on a first down. Thomas then picked up four yards on a second down carry and Brees found Colston for a gain of five yards on third down, stopped just short of the first down markers at the Tampa 10. The Saints allowed the play clock to tick down before calling a timeout to discuss the fourth-and-one situation. Head Coach Sean Payton called upon the field goal unit to try a 28-yard field goal, which the second-yard man thumped right through the uprights and gave the Saints a 17-0 lead. The field goal marked the 500th point of the season for the season for the Saints, making them just the 12th team in NFL history to accomplish the feat and the first since the New England Patriots scored 589 in 2007.
Tampa once again was forced to start near their own 20 after tough special teams coverage. Tampa picked up a first down on a completion from Freeman to Bryant, and then added a third down conversion to the Saints' 48 with a 16-yard completion to TE Kellen Winslow. S Roman Harper popped Ward after a two-yard gain, then a blitz forced Freeman to throw the ball away. DE Will Smith then sacked a scrambling Freeman on third down for a one-yard loss. It was Smith's 13th sack of the season, adding to his single-season career best totals. Paulescu's punt sailed into the end zone for a touchback and the Saints took over at their own 20. Two consecutive incompletions on passes by Brees intended for Henderson were the final two plays before the two-minute warning. Brees then hit Meachem for a gain of nine yards, with Meachem being pushed out of bounds just short of the first down marker. P Thomas Morstead hit his first punt of the afternoon 42 yards, which was covered by Courtney Roby who stopped the return man in his tracks.
Freeman hit Williams for a gain of five yards, and then came back to him for a gain of seven yards to the 44. Freeman picked up a blitz and fired a pass to Winslow for a gain of 12 yards and the big tight end out of the Miami was able to stop the clock by stepping out of bounds. Freeman then hit Clayton for a gain of 10 yards and Bryant over the middle for an 11-yard gain to the Saints' 23. Freeman tried to find Stovall in the end zone but tight coverage by CB Courtney Roby/Mike McKenzie.aspx">Mike McKenzie forced an incompletion. Tampa added a few more yards on a dump down pass to Williams but had bring their field goal unit on with :04 left in the first half. K Connor Barth scored Tampa's first points of the afternoon with a 34-yard field goal as time expired, thus making the score 17-3 in the Saints' favor.
New Orleans began the second half of the game with the ball at their own 25 and started their drive with a three-yard run by Bell. After a second down incompletion, Brees hung in the pocket and found Colston over the middle of the field for a gain of 13 yards. Brees then found Bush on a checkdown route for a gain of seven yards. A second down carry by Hamilton was blown up when LB Quincy Black dropped the running back for a loss of one-yard. Brees was sacked by a blitzing LB (Geno Hayes) for a loss of nine-yard on third down and Morstead was called in for his second punt of the afternoon, a 33-yard effort to the Tampa Bay 30.
Williams cutback on a run designed to the right and picked up 15 yards to the 45 and then Freeman fired a 22-yard completion to Bryant down the sideline to the 33. Williams then tried the left side for a gain of six yards on first down and one second down found Bryant on a screen pass for a gain of three yards. Williams converted the third-and-short with a five-yard run off the left side of the Bucs' line. A first down completion from Freeman to Williams into the left flat added seven yards. Freeman tried to hit Bryant on a fade in the corner of the end zone, but a leaping interception was turned in by CB Tracy Porter, which marked his fourth interception of the season and his first pickoff since game number seven at Atlanta.
The touchback gave the Saints the ball on their own 20 and Bell started the drive off with one-yard run. Black was flagged for a pass interference call on second down after he interfered with TE David Thomas and the Saints were awarded a first down. Brees then connected with Hamilton for a gain of 12 yards, the first reception of Hamilton's career and the 15th different player on the Saints to record a reception this season. Brees and David Thomas connected for a gain of nine yards, but Hamilton was stopped for no gain on second down. Hamilton then picked up the third down by following a David Thomas block and scampering 19-yards for a first down before being tripped up from behind. Hamilton was stopped for a loss of two-yards on a first down run by Black. Brees completed a short pass to Meachem that picked up two yards. A third down pass from Brees to Bush resulted in a loss of 10 yards and Morstead was called on to pin the Bucs deep in their own territory, which he did with a 47-yard punt that was downed by Roby at the two.
Sharper and DT Remi Ayodele stopped Williams for a one-yard loss on first down, but Freeman hit Williams for a gain of 10 yards on second down. Freeman converted the third down and short with a pass over the middle to WR Brian Clark for a gain of 15 yards. Tight coverage then forced a first down incompletion, and the third quarter ended on a three-yard gain by Williams. Freeman converted another third down with a 35-yard completion to Winslow that took the football to the Saints' 36. Zuttah was flagged for a false start penalty that cost Tampa Bay five yards, but Freeman hit Stovall for a gain of 18 yards and a first down. The Bucs cut into the Saints' lead further when Williams scampered 23 yards off the left side of the line for a touchdown. Following Barth's extra point, the Bucs were within a touchdown of the Saints' 17-10.
Roby returned the kickoff to the Saints' 21 and Bush started the drive with a three-yard gain off the right side of the Saints' line. Brees and Colston then hooked up for a completion of 11 yards and a first down. On second down Brees and TE David Thomas picked up five yards and Brees found Colston on a roll-out for a gain of four yards. Hamilton converted the third-and-short with a three-yard run behind C Jonathan Goodwin. LB Geno Hayes sniffed out a quick screen pass to Hamilton and ended up stopping it for a two-yard loss. Brees used the Saints' first timeout of the second half before a second-and-twelve from the 45 with 9:11 left in the game. Brees was able to hit Colston over the middle for a gain of 16 yards, but the Saints' receiver fumble was caused by Geno Hayes and recovered by Ronde Barber at the Tampa Bay 39.
Graham picked up eight yards on a carry on first down to the Tampa 47 and Williams converted it in a first down with a five-yard gain up the middle. Williams continued the Bucs' trend of running the ball with a three-yard gain to the Saints' 45. Freeman then completed his first pass of the drive with a 17-yard pass to Winslow, and came right back with a nine-yard strike to backup TE Jerramy Stevens to the Saints' 19. Vilma tightly covered a second down pass intended for Graham in the end zone and on a third-and-one Ayodele and Vilma stacked up Williams short of the first down sticks. The Saints appeared to have the Bucs stopped on fourth-and-inches when Vilma dropped Williams for a loss of a yard, but the Bucs' personnel on the sideline called a timeout before the play and the Bucs were given new life. Freeman tried a fake hand-off and roll out to his right, but an alert play by Charles Grant spotted it and followed Freeman step-for-step and leaped up and batted the pass down from the 6'5" quarterback and gave the football to the Saints at their own 19 with 4:57 left in the game.
Bell tried to advance the ball through a scrum and managed to pick up two yards before being brought down. Brees then found Henderson on a timing route that picked up 10 yards and a first down. Chris Hovan then stopped Hamilton for no gain and Brees came right back with a three-yard completion to David Thomas for his fourth reception of the afternoon and the Bucs called their second timeout. Brees' third down pass to Meachem was completed, but for only six yards before being stopped a yard shy of the first down marker. The Saints were flagged for a false penalty. Morstead then hit a 41-yard punt that was fielded by WR Michael Spurlock, who made a few Saints defenders miss and then raced 77 yards for a touchdown. Following the extra point the game was tied with 2:25 left in the game.
With the game tied at 17, the Saints started a drive with a three-yard pass from Brees to Henderson. The Saints were guilty of a holding call that cost them ten yards, but Brees and Bush came right back with a completion that picked up 15 yards on second down. Brees and Colston converted the third down and two with a six-yard completion. Brees then hit Thomas for a six yard gain on first down and then Bush underneath for a nine yard gain and Bush leaped out of bounds to stop the clock with: 29 left. Brees tried to hit Thomas down the seam, but LB Barrett Ruud broke the pass up at the last instant. Brees then hit Henderson for a gain of seven yards and the Saints used their second timeout with: 18 left. On a third-and-three Brees hit Meachem over the middle for a gain of 19 yards after Meachem broke two tackles and scampered down to Bucs' 19. The clock ran down to :09 and Hartley came on to try a 37-yard field goal, but narrowly missed the game-winning field goal when it missed to the left.
The Bucs won the coin toss in overtime and elected to receive. Pierson Prioleau tackled Spurlock at the 23 after a 19-yard return. Williams managed a seven-yard gain on first down, then came right back with a powerful inside run that picked up 12 yards. Williams was leveled at the line of scrimmage by Harper and Casillas on first down at the Bucs' 43, and they called the same runner's number on second down but was stopped after a gain of three yards. Freeman was able to drop back and step up into the pocket and scramble for a gain of eight yards and a first down to the Saints' 45, picking up a first down along the way. Williams continued to hammer the call with a seven-yard gain to the Saints' 38 and came back with a three-yard gain to the 35 that was good for a first down. After a Tampa timeout Williams managed to add two yards to his total, then added another two yards to the Saints' 31. Williams once again picked up a yard and Barth came on to hit a 47-yard field goal with 8:06 left in overtime that gave the Bucs their third win of the season, and the Saints their second loss in a row.
Shanle's Streak Snapped: LB Scott Shanle's streak of 39 consecutive starts was halted today when he was sidelined after suffering a concussion last week against the Dallas Cowboys. The seven-year veteran out of Nebraska as started 70-of-97 career games as a professional, including 59-of-60 regular season games as a member of the Saints. The last game Shanle missed was midway through the 2007 season, when he was sidelined with a hamstring injury. In Shanle's place, rookie Jonathan Casillas made his first career start.
Crescent City Call Up: CB Pierson Prioleau/Greg Fassitt.aspx">Greg Fassitt, a member of the Saints' practice squad, was signed to the active roster on Saturday afternoon. He took the place of TE Tory Humphrey, who had been signed earlier in the week by the Saints. Fassitt, a native of New Orleans (Kennedy High School in Mid-City), is a Grambling State product that has spent time during his career with the Chicago Bears, Saints and Buccaneers. Fassitt made his regular season career debut this afternoon.
Saints Inactives: WR Lance Moore, CB Randall Gay, S Usama Young, CB Jabari Greer, LB Scott Shanle, G Jamar Nesbit, TE Jeremy Shockey and DT DeMario Pressley.
Buccaneers Inactives: QB Rudy Carpenter, WR Mario Urrutia, WR Mark Bradley, RB Kareem Huggins, DL Michael Bennett, G Shawn Murphy, T James Lee and WR Terrence Nunn.