Talk about a game-changer.
There have been defining moments in New Orleans Saints games this season, and then, there has been what happened in the third quarter Sunday in Raymond James Stadium against Tampa Bay.
Taysom Hill turned the tide.
The Saints trailed 14-3 and, frankly, opened the second half offensively as flat as they had completed the first half. The first possession, to open the third quarter, ended on the second play when Buccaneers defensive end Carl Nassib sacked Drew Brees and caused a fumble that was recovered by teammate Jason Pierre-Paul. New Orleans averted danger when the defense held and forced a 40-yard field goal attempt by Cairo Santos, which Santos missed wide right.
Next possession, the Saints went three-and-out and Thomas Morstead lofted a 48-yard punt that was fair caught at the Tampa Bay 13.
The Bucs managed to drive to their 41, failed to convert on third-and-3, and were forced to punt. That’s where Hill stepped in.
Better, he sprinted through a hole on the left side of Tampa Bay’s protection and blocked Bryan Anger’s punt attempt. Teammate Dwayne Washington recovered at the 30, and that play gave New Orleans the adrenaline boost it needed.
From there, the offense crafted a five-play touchdown drive and two-point conversion to pull to within 14-11. And after the defense forced a three-and-out, the Saints offense put together a lead-taking, 51-yard touchdown drive to take an 18-14 advantage. And after another defensive three-and-out, the offense muscled up a 53-yard touchdown drive to stretch the lead to 25-14.
One more defensive stand, culminating with Sheldon Rankins’ 14-yard sack of Jameis Winston, preceded a 41-yard drive by the offense that led to Wil Lutz’ 36-yard field goal for the last points.
The final tally: A 25-0 second-half blitz by the Saints in a 28-14 victory that gave them the NFC South Division title for the second straight season. An avalanche that had Hill’s hands all over it.