The "breathe easy" moment for the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., likely didn't occur until the final seconds ticked off the clock in their 9-0 victory over the Buccaneers.
Until then, the lead was precarious and for the majority of the game, New Orleans (7-7) was one play away from trailing. But a third-quarter defensive play that relieved a mountain of anxiety was pivotal to the Saints sweeping the regular-season series from Tampa Bay (10-4) for the third consecutive season.
The Buccaneers' last drive of the third quarter – their fourth of the quarter, and the one that had advanced furthest – had Tampa Bay facing third-and-7 at the Saints' 24-yard line with 73 seconds left in the quarter, and the Saints leading 6-0.
Quarterback Tom Brady took a snap in shotgun formation and due to pressure from his left applied by Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan – who already had posted two sacks, raising his career total to 100.5 – Brady flushed to his left where he saw an opening.
He turned upfield and appeared to have enough room to, perhaps, run for a first down.
But Jordan, who missed the first game of his NFL career the previous week after testing positive for Covid-19 and being placed on the Reserve/Covid list, had a signature moment in his 173rd NFL game.
With Brady on the move, Jordan continued his pursuit and after Brady had gained a couple of yards, the lunging Jordan not only tracked him down, but punched out the football from behind while in the process of making the tackle. The ball bounced forward to the Saints' 13-yard line, where it took a nice enough hop for cornerback Marshon Lattimore to scoop it on the bounce.
Lattimore only returned the fumble one yard, but New Orleans turned back Tampa Bay's deepest drive by forcing the first of two turnovers by the Buccaneers, and preserved its 6-0 lead while swiping back the momentum that Tampa Bay was building.
The Buccaneers never advanced that far again, and the Saints added a field goal to provide the final margin.