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Defensive end Cam Jordan returns and leads dominant defense in New Orleans Saints win over Tampa Bay | Helmet Stickers for Week 15

Marquez Callaway has first 100-yard receiving game of his career

New Orleans Saints take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season on December 19, 2021.
New Orleans Saints take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season on December 19, 2021.

Tampa, Fla. – While explaining the New Orleans Saints' success against Tampa Bay in the last two regular seasons, safety Malcolm Jenkins reasoned that the Saints match up well in terms of personnel.

Did they ever Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium.

The Saints (7-7) did as only they have seemed capable of doing the last two years – work over the Buccaneers (10-4) in a 9-0 victory that was the first home shutout of quarterback Tom Brady's career, and gave the Saints a season sweep over Tampa Bay for the third straight year.

Many performances stood out. These, perhaps, stood out the most.

OFFENSE: It took until the 14th game of the regular season, but the Saints finally produced their first 100-yard receiver – Marquez Callaway caught six passes for 112 yards. His early work, though, set the tone for New Orleans; he caught four passes for 88 yards in the first quarter, including a 40-yarder to help set up the Saints' first score, a 39-yard field goal by Brett Maher. And on the Saints' final scoring drive he had his last two catches, for 24 yards, to help set up Maher's 42-yard field goal. It was a tough go of it offensively, but Callaway's play made things a bit easier, especially on a couple of scoring drives.

DEFENSE: When you pitch a shutout against the highest-scoring team in the league, sack the quarterback four times, force him to commit two turnovers and stop his team on 13 of 19 third-down attempts, then every participant on defense deserves to take a bow. But defensive end Cameron Jordan and defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson get to take one step in front of the group. Jordan, who's 172-game playing streak ended a week earlier due to him being on the Reserve/Covid-19 list, returned and had his best game of the season with two sacks, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, a forced fumble (recovered by cornerback Marshon Lattimore) and five tackles. And he topped the 100-sack mark for his career; he now stands at 100.5, second-most in franchise history. Gardner-Johnson had an interception, a pass defensed and a team-high seven tackles but as much as anything, he had – and always has – the attitude and hubris that the Saints need on defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Brett Maher gave the Saints all the points they needed Sunday. But, too, he has given the team a confidence in its kicker that it hadn't had until he joined the roster. Maher's field goals of 39, 35 and 42 yards weren't record-setters, but they were incremental units of progress in a game where offensive progress was minimal for each team. It's no stretch to say that New Orleans feels as good about its kicking situation as it has all season.

COACHING: This one's a made-up category this week, but we'd be remiss if we overlooked the job done by acting head coach/defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. Allen stepped in when Coach Sean Payton was ruled out due to testing positive for Covid-19 on Friday, and with help from the rest of the assistants, guided the Saints to a victory in his first game as head coach since 2014. He orchestrated the defense. The players had to make the plays, obviously, but he created the scheme and helped put them in position to excel against a quarterback whose teams previously only had been shut out twice in his career.

New Orleans Saints take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season on December 19, 2021.

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