From the start, the New Orleans Saints exerted control.
The immediacy with which the Saints (6-2) enforced their will upon Tampa Bay (6-3) in a 38-3 victory on Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa couldn't possibly have escaped notice, because New Orleans delivered its message with physical influence from the outset.
The Saints won the toss, elected to defer, then sent the defense on the field to establish the tone.
Following a touchback, with the Buccaneers beginning the game's opening drive on their 25-yard line, quarterback Tom Brady dropped back to pass on first down. But Saints left defensive end Cameron Jordan pushed Bucs right tackle Tristan Wirfs back into Brady's face, and Jordan made enough contact with Brady on the pass attempt to cause it to fall incomplete.
On second-and-10, Bucs running back Ronald Jones gained seven yards – Tampa Bay officially would finish with eight rushing yards in the game, on five carries, a league record for the fewest rushing attempts in a game – to set up third-and-3.
From the 32-yard line, Brady again attempted to pass, from the shotgun. But his throw for tight end Rob Gronkowski was wide, the result of tight coverage.
The pass rush, run stop and coverage on the drive were harbingers of things to come for the defense. New Orleans pasted together its best game of the season, complete with four consecutive three-and-outs to open the game (as well as three sacks and three interceptions). That, paired with an offense that took advantage of Tampa Bay at every turn and might have posted even more points if not for two lost fumbles, and special team units that did all the things they needed to do to help keep the scoreboard tilted, put the Saints in position for a rout.
But the opening-drive stop by the defense set the tone and showed that the Saints, now winners of five straight games and leaders of the NFC South Division, were going to be a headache to deal with on Sunday night.
Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints at division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 9 of the 2020 NFL season.