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New Orleans Saints defense produces one for the ages in victory over Tampa Bay | Week 15 analysis

Defense forces two turnovers, generates four sacks, allows 302 yards

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Tampa, Fla. – The New Orleans Saints almost defied description Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium while posting a 9-0 victory over division-leading Tampa Bay.

The Saints (7-7) were dominant.

They were physical.

They were resourceful.

And, mostly, they were winners in an NFC South Division battle that allowed them to even their record, to knock the Buccaneers down to 10-4, and to strengthen their hopes for the playoffs.

OFFENSE: It wasn't pretty, by any stretch of the imagination, but it didn't have to be. What it was, was timely on just enough possessions to ensure that a phenomenal defensive performance resulted in New Orleans' second straight victory. The Saints totaled just 212 yards, failed to convert on 13 of 16 third-down attempts, completed less than half their passes (13 of 27) and came up empty on two trips into the red zone. But they put together field goal drives of 60, 40 and 42 yards and in a game where drives and scores were difficult for both teams, that bit of production was enough for New Orleans. The offensive efficiency will improve; quarterback Taysom Hill and receiver Marquez Callaway connected on a couple of chunk plays. But it was just as important Sunday night that the Saints didn't commit a turnover against the Buccaneers, who were as stingy as advertised.

DEFENSE: This defensive showing should have some franchise historical significance. It was just that good. New Orleans sacked Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady four times (two by Cameron Jordan and one each by Marcus Davenport and David Onyemata), forced him into two turnovers (an interception by C.J. Gardner-Johnson and a forced fumble by Jordan that was recovered by Marshon Lattimore), held him to 214 passing yards on 26 completions (in 48 attempts) and shut him out at home for the first time in his Hall of Fame career. The Bucs opened the game as the highest-scoring offense in the NFL, and couldn't scratch while totaling just 302 yards and being turned away 13 times on 19 third-down attempts, and on their only fourth-down try. The Saints simply dominated Tampa Bay in a way that the Bucs haven't often been dominated – a way that, in franchise history, very few defenses have dominated a high-caliber offense.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Brett Maher provided all the scoring the Saints would need on field goals of 39, 35 and 42 yards. Thus far, Maher has steadied an unstable kicking situation and that has to be a relief for the Saints, who might have at least one more victory if the kicking had been solid. Punt coverage was outstanding again (Tampa Bay averaged 5.9 yards on seven returns) and receiver Easop Winston showed some pop for the Saints in Deonte Harris' absence (his 34-yard punt return was New Orleans' longest of the season, and helped set up Maher's 35-yard field goal). The Saints will be pleased with much of what they saw from special teams Sunday night.

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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