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New Orleans Saints keep hope alive with thorough performance against Tampa Bay

Defense forced four turnovers and had two sacks

Tampa, Fla. – For the better part of three-and-a-half quarters, the New Orleans Saints played some of their best, most complementary football of the season.

The result, a 23-13 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, kept alive New Orleans' playoff hopes as the Saints evened their record at 8-8 heading into the regular-season finale against Atlanta in the Caesars Superdome next weekend.

OFFENSE: New Orleans operated the perfect gameplan: Protect the ball (no turnovers), convert on third down (8 of 18), eat some clock with the run game (35 carries for 108 yards, and 36:38 in time of possession) and distribute the wealth (10 players caught passes). The Bucs never were able to get comfortable defensively, and the Saints were confident in what they were doing and what the result would be. It was proof that 500 yards of offense – the Saints totaled 310 – isn't necessary when all other facets fall into place. One of the best offensive showings of the season.

DEFENSE: And speaking of executing a gameplan to near perfection – the Saints held Tampa Bay to 44 yards of offense in the first half, produced four turnovers (interceptions by nickel corner Alontae Taylor and safety Johnathan Abram, fumble recoveries by linebacker Demario Davis and cornerback Isaac Yiadom) and got off the field on third down (Tampa Bay was 2 for 8). Even a couple of penalties wound up not being detrimental, because the Saints kept the Bucs out of the end zone. Yes, you'd like to see the defense have a little better finishing kick and keep them out of the end zone totally, but all in all the Saints flew around and created havoc. They stopped the run (15 carries for 57 yards) and they harassed quarterback Baker Mayfield (two interceptions, two sacks). It was a major undertaking to stop an offense that averaged 29 points during Tampa Bay's four-game winning streak, but New Orleans handled the job.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game, too, carried its weight. Blake Grupemade three field goals and half of Lou Hedley's six punts pinned Tampa Bay inside the 20. Not sexy, but efficient and effective when the Saints needed them to be. Rashid Shaheed had two punt returns for 27 yards; hopefully, he's on the verge of popping another one, against Atlanta.

Check out the game action shots from the New Orleans Saints game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17 of the 2023 NFL season.

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