The New Orleans Saints take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Caesars Superdome in Week 8 of the 2021 NFL season.
There's no questioning the resolve of the New Orleans Saints in 2021 – especially, not after Sunday's 36-27 victory over Tampa Bay in the Caesars Superdome, during which the Saints lost starting quarterback Jameis Winston on their second offensive play of the second quarter, and still managed to beat back the defending Super Bowl champions.
New Orleans (5-2) has the upper hand in the NFC South Division standings ahead of the Buccaneers (6-2) because the Saints currently own the head-to-head advantage. The Saints have the upper hand because they've pushed through their varied adversities and managed to find ways to figure out what was needed to win on that game day.
OFFENSE: Understandably, the Saints weren't as efficient as they wanted to be offensively. They were 3 for 7 in the red zone – just 2 for 4 on goal-to-go situations – and they didn't convert on nine of the 14 opportunities they had on third down. But they were good on fourth down (2 of 3), they controlled the clock (33:16), and they didn't turn over the ball. The running game total (152, on 32 carries) was a little bloated due to Winston's four carries for 40 yards, and a 22-yard run by receiver Deonte Harty. But the 32 carries kept the league's best run defense honest, and helped keep the Saints on schedule. Winston's legs accounted for three of the Saints' 26 first downs, and the 361 total yards was enough to get the job done. Trevor Siemian came off the bench and was poised at quarterback, so much so that the Saints didn't abandon their aggressive gameplan with him in the huddle. And he responded with 159 yards and a touchdowns on 16 completions, with no interceptions.
DEFENSE: Tampa Bay rolled up 421 yards of offense and scored 27 points – and the Buccaneer offense thoroughly was outplayed by the Saints defense, which has feasted on Tampa Bay in each of the three regular-season games it has played against Tom Brady. The Saints forced three turnovers from Brady (two interceptions and a lost fumble) and sacked him three times. On back-to-back possessions in the second quarter, just three offensive plays apart, the Saints forced and recovered a fumble (Cam Jordan on the sack and force, David Onyemata on the recovery) and intercepted a pass (C.J. Gardner-Johnson), and the turnovers led to nine points. And to finish out the game, P.J. Williams returned an interception 40 yards for the final score. No team has defended Tampa Bay better the last two seasons than the Saints.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Doesn't matter that Brian Johnson's three made field goals were short conversions (23, 35 and 23 yards). All that matters is that he made them, he's 5 for 5 in his first two NFL games and – at least for now – he has calmed that storm for New Orleans. Harris had a couple of daring kickoff returns (from nine and eight yards deep in the end zone) for 69 yards, and the punt coverage was outstanding again (three returns, 14 yards for Tampa Bay). Very nice overall game for the units.