Tampa, Fla. – Victory has a thousand fathers.
Well, maybe not quite that many Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium. But it had identifiable ones in the form of every player wearing a New Orleans Saints color rush uniform during a 38-3 undressing of Tampa Bay, which lifted the Saints to 6-2, was their fifth straight victory and gave them the season series sweep of the Buccaneers (6-3).
New Orleans, the three-time defending NFC South Division champions, served notice that it's stalking consecutive division title No. 4 with its most complete game of the season, led by a host of players.
OFFENSE: The unit was spectacular in its entirety, so singling out a one player as the epitome of the dominance would be an injustice. True, Drew Brees was ruthlessly efficient (26 of 32 for 222 yards and four touchdowns, as he retook the lead in NFL career touchdown passes with 564). And Taysom Hill was at his most versatile – seven carries for a game-high 54 yards, one catch for 21 yards and two completions (in as many attempts) for 48 yards. But the offensive line paved the way for 138 rushing yards against a team that was allowing 70 per game; a whopping 12 players had receptions; and the Saints kept Tampa Bay's defense off balance the entire game. It was the kind of offensive harmony that hasn't always been witnessed this season.
DEFENSE: Same deal as with the offense; there simply were too many standout performances to single out one, so let's roll with the whole unit. Yes, defensive tackle David Onyemata came down with the first interception of his career. And, yes, defensive end Trey Hendrickson picked up two more sacks, raising his season total to 7.5. And, absolutely, cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Jackrabbit Jenkins were on top of their games. But the collective defense was overwhelming; New Orleans forced a three-and-out on Tampa Bay's first four possessions, posted a goal-line stand (four stops from the 1), intercepted three passes (New Orleans has five of Tom Brady's seven interceptions this season) and had three sacks. That production literally was spread across the board, and that's where the credit should be given.
SPECIAL TEAMS: You guessed it; same deal as with the offense and defense. It was a cohesive team effort, in which every part did its respective job. The cover teams covered (46 yards allowed on two kickoff returns and one yard allowed on a punt return); the punt team punted well (one attempt for 51 yards by Thomas Morstead); the kicker kicked (perfect on PATs and a field-goal attempt by Wil Lutz); and the returner returned (Deonte Harris had three punt returns for 30 yards). The unit was clean, and so was the win.