November 22, 2009

Saints stomp on Bucs early, bury Freeman in second half on way to 38-7 win

  • It was a disappointing start for the Saints defense, allowing a monster 95-yard drive to rookie QB Josh Freeman and the Bucs offense, capped by a Freeman scramble that found WR Mark Clayton standing at the back corner pylon.

    But that turned out to be the only Bucs drive of consequence. The Saints rolled to a 38-7 victory, scoring all 38 points unanswered.

    The Saints would force four turnovers, and collect three sacks before the rain began to fall in Tampa near the end of the game. After that initial 95 yard drive, Gregg Williams' defense allowed only 150 more yards on the day. Malcolm Jenkins, Jonathan Vilma and Chris Reis collected interceptions, increasing the Saints' number to a league-leading 20 interceptions. A fumble forced by Scott Fujita and recovered by Remi Ayodele gives the Saints defense 29 turnovers, also good for the league lead.

  • TE David Thomas and WR Robert Meachem helped the Saints respond to the Bucs' opening touchdown. On the Saints' second possession, Thomas broke free for a 37-yard catch and run to move the Saints to the Tampa Bay 31. Thomas picked up another first down to the Buc 5, and then Meachem on a shallow crossing route at the two caught the ball and stretched for the goal line and the tying score.

  • Great early interception by rookie CB Malcolm Jenkins, diving and rotating to make an interception before the ball hit the ground. It was Jenkins' first pick on the day he made his first start. That pick, and the 14 yard return set the Saints up at the 29. The Saints moved the ball nine yards and kicked a go-ahead field goal, 10-7.

  • There was a display of youthful inexperience on the part of Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, burning both challenges with 4:45 left to go in the first half, which also exhausted his third timeout. He challenged an incomplete pass which bounced off the ground before it was caught by a Bucs linebacker.

  • Both Zach Strief and Jermon Bushrod played at left tackle in the first half, though Bushrod lost his starting job to Strief.

  • End of the first half, Brees' passes were laser-guided to Marques Colston over the middle. He hit the big target for gains of 16, 21, and 20 yards before rolling right, planting and delivering a laser-guided strike to Robert Meachem, crossing in the back of the end zone. It was an amazing throw from Brees and a good, contested catch for Meachem, who has nobody missing the injured Lance Moore.

    Meachem finished the game with two catches for 10 yards and two touchdowns, an odd stat line for a guy usually catching deep touchdown bombs. Meachem has flourished as a blocking receiver in run-heavy formations, the only receiver on the field when the Saints go big with two tight ends and two runningbacks, and also as a deep threat, making so many catches for quick-strike lobs from Brees.

    Today Meachem scored twice, his first multi-touchdown game and his third straight game with a touchdown.
  • That vaunted New Orleans balanced offense was no where to be found in the first half, with 23 passes to 9 rushing attempts. The Saints have 190 yards of offense in the first half, 154 from Brees' arm, 121 of those to Colston or TE David Thomas.

  • The Saints had two first half sacks. The first came when Will Smith was unblocked and nailed Freeman for a loss on the Bucs' touchdown drive, though Freeman was able to recover the yardage. The second came when defensive backs Leigh Torrence and Roman Harper blitzed unblocked on the final play of the half. Torrence staggered Freeman with a hit and Harper wrapped him up.

    Will Smith has 8.5 sacks on the year now.

  • The third quarter was dominated by the Saints. Three Josh Freeman possessions resulted in a forced fumble sack by LB Scott Fujita and recovered by DT Remi Ayodele, an interception by Jonathan Vilma, and a punt. The Saints rushed eight times for 93 yards to five passes for 33 yards in the third quarter. All three third quarter Bucs possessions were followed by Saints touchdowns, one from Brees to TE David Thomas (his first as a Saint) and two from Mike Bell from short yardage.

  • Despite backups like Chris Reis on the field, the next Bucs possession was a turnover on downs. The Saints put in the backups on offense too - Mark Brunell at QB, Courtney Roby at WR, Darnell Dinkins at TE, Lynell Hamilton at RB, Nick Leckey at C.

    Brees left the game with more than six minutes left, having hit 19 of 29 for 187 yards and three touchdowns. He attempted only one pass, an incompletion to Darnell Dinkins, in the fourth quarter. Brees was not sacked and not intercepted, the first game since October 18 against the Giants in which he was not intercepted.

    Hamilton carried the ball eight straight times on the Saints drive that ended just before the two minute warning. He gained 21 yards before losing five yards on a fourth and two attempt at midfield.

    Reis dropped an easy interception to the chest early in the fourth quarter, but Reis collected his first career pick with two minutes left on a deep pass down the left sideline. He returned it to the Saint 42 yard line, and Mark Brunell kneeled away the rest of the game.

  • The Saints are 10-0, so are the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts won on Sunday thanks to a key late mistake, a return fumble by New Orleans native and Baltimore Raven Ed Reed.

    Thanks to losses by the Panthers on Thursday and Falcons on Sunday in overtime, the Saints are five games ahead of the second place Falcons with six games left.

    The Saints return home next Monday night for a titanic tilt with the Patriots, a home game fit in between four road games in five weeks.

  • The Saints have to be in emergency mode at cornerback.

    Cornerbacks Randall Gay and Leigh Torrence, on a day when the Saints could hardly afford injuries in the secondary, both left the game with injuries. Torrence appeared to dislocate his shoulder. He later re-entered the game, and left again after re-injuring the game. Gay strained a hamstring and left the game.

    Rookie Malcolm Jenkins is now the only healthy cornerback on the roster. Backup free safety Usama Young, a cornerback before a switchover this offseason, also played cornerback today in a pinch.

    Veteran Chris McAlister, signed last week after the injury to starter Tracy Porter, was inactive today as he assimilates the play book. McAlister may see extensive playing time on Monday night.

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