Surging Bucs hold off Saints 16-11 for 5th straight victory

The Saints have four regular-season games left, meaning Vaccaro's won't play again this season unless New Orleans (5-7) rallies to make the playoffs.

Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

Meanwhile, the Saints defense remains one of the league's worst, though they've been respectable at times. Most of it was a sword fight with butter knives, or butter fingers (more on that later), boring wits at 20 paces with scarcely a clever remark lobbed between them.

But, one of the biggest surprises that no one seems to be mentioning is the resurgence of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Many of the Buccaneers' biggest wins have come on the road, but they've won two straight at home, and Koetter recognized a surge in the attendance to match the one in the standings. The NFC South is still a two-team race between the Bucs and the Falcons but with the Bucs riding high, they look like the team to beat. Humphries is likely to be replaced by a platoon of every active receiver on the Bucs' roster, most notably Russell Shepard and Josh Huff.

"Us and Atlanta sitting there at 7-5, New Orleans at 5-7, just do the math for New Orleans and we're not too far ahead". There were enough flags that if laid end to end would have allowed the Saints to walk home from Tampa across the Gulf of Mexico without getting wet. "Clinton McDonald, Gerald McCoy and Lavonte (David) have taken it to a whole new level", Winston said. Time to bounce back against their division-leading rival, and the Saints know they can't afford another loss if they want a chance at a playoff spot. Paul Kruger and company broke through on the first play to force the safety.

The Saints must also be sound in the kicking game.

The Saints face this disappointing scenario despite their formerly leaky defense holding Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston to no rushing or passing touchdowns for the first time in his college or professional career.

"It's huge", center Tim Lelito said.

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Saints frustrations mounted in the second half like an elaborate sandcastle being built on Clearwater Beach.

Winston was among the 34 former Alabama high school or college players (that didn't play for Alabama or Auburn) who got on the field on the 14th Sunday of the National Football League season.

The Saints had three turnovers and also hurt themselves with 13 accepted penalties for 104 yards, including a false start that backed them on second-and-goal in the final minute of the second quarter.

"That can't happen", Brees said. Ellerbe had 6 tackles, including one for a loss, provided good pressure off the edge, and played well in space.

And yet, this defense kept the Saints in it, grudgingly surrendering just 16 points and 270 total yards.

The Saints are back in action next Sunday out west against the Arizona Cardinals. "Coach Koetter said, 'That Buc defense is starting to get back'". On the next play, Brees tried to throw a quick dart to wide receiver Brandon Coleman in the left flat but Tandy read it all the way and almost intercepted it on the run.

What's left for the Saints? "When we watch this tape, we're going to see it come up time and time again".

You hear Winston in the video talking about playing for each other, and the team has bought into its quarterback.

  • Lawrence Cooper