Photos from the New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. Photos by Michael. C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)
It's one thing to run the football when you want to, completely another to run it effectively when you need to.
That makes the New Orleans Saints' four-minute offense that closed out last Sunday's 24-17 victory over Tampa Bay all the more impressive, as New Orleans played keep-away for the final 4:13 against the Buccaneers.
And it gives the Saints (5-8) the belief that if necessary, they have the ability to grind out a victory.
"It's big and it just shows that you know how to win games, and there are lots of ways that you might be required to win games," quarterback Drew Brees said. "At times offensively you feel the way the game's going, and maybe it's a real defensive struggle on both sides and obviously you are doing your best to score points, but you realize that at times it's OK to punt and pin them down and play the field position game, and just focus on not making the critical error that would give them a short field and give them points.
"It might change the momentum of the game, and in other cases, 'Man, we need to answer and respond to a drive they just put together.' Now, it's our turn to go ahead and get points and regain the momentum and go down in a two minute drive and put ourselves in a position to win the game and score a touchdown.
"In Sunday's case, we have to get two first downs and they have all three of their timeouts and the two-minute warning, and we have to do find a way to do it in a methodical manner. They know what we are going to be doing and we still have to find a way to get yardage to get first downs and convert a couple critical third downs, which we did. That was big time."
It was, in total, seven of Tim Hightower's career-high 28 carries for 28 of his 85 yards, including a critical 4-yard run on third-and-3; a Brees completion to Benjamin Watson for two yards on third-and-1; a defensive holding penalty on the Bucs on third-and-2; and a Brees kneel down to finish off the final 39 seconds.
The drive began on New Orleans' 14-yard line and finished on its 48 – nine plays, 34 yards, one defensive penalty, three third-down conversions, no play longer than a 7-yard Hightower run and in the end, one satisfied team.
"Especially for the (offensive) line," Coach Sean Payton said. "If you look at the video of the sideline – because players obviously are in touch to, 'One first down and we're on a knee,' they understand the clock and the timeouts – and to be able to do that without having to punt, I think is obviously big for the team in general.
"You get in that four-minute offense and the challenge is, you're running the ball into some tough run looks. At that point defensively, your safeties are down (in the box), you're really crowding the line of scrimmage because you need one stop. And it makes it that much harder staying inbounds. Tim (Hightower) did a good job."