Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 24 New Orleans Saints – 31
Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans, LA)
Tampa Bay (8-7) traveled to New Orleans to take on the Saints (7-8) as they fought to keep their playoff hopes alive. Tampa Bay needed to win today to keep pace with the Green Bay Packers, who defeated the Minnesota Vikings earlier on Sunday. The Saints came into the game playing for pride and momentum for next year, but Drew Brees seemed to not miss a beat. Throwing for 299 yards and a touchdown, he helped the Saints manage the clock beautifully, even as the defense struggled in the first half. After two disappointing weeks in a row on offense, the Saints have put together two strong performances with the ball in their hands. Totaling only three punts for the game, one in the second half, Brees and the offense fended off countless attacks by Jameis Winston until the defense arrived in the second half.
New Orleans defense continued their style of play, blitzing quarterback Jameis Winston heavily. Although they only totaled two sacks on the day, they were in Winston’s face for the majority of the game and knocked down the quarterback twice. Safety Jairus Byrd finally woke up from a three-year slumber to pick off the Buccaneers’ quarterback twice in the second half with one clinching the seventh win of the season for New Orleans. With Mark Ingram controlling the ball on the ground and the defense forcing turnovers, the Saints returned to their style of football and put away the Buccaneers in their second meeting this season. Both teams are virtually eliminated from the playoffs but have shown promise for seasons to come.
Play(er) of the Game:
Jairus Byrd – Free Safety #31
6 total tackles
2 pass deflections, 2 interceptions
Jairus Byrd had an immaculate game at safety after struggling for the majority of the year. The Saints signed Byrd after his pro bowl season in hopes of reviving a struggling Saints’ secondary. He was a ball hawk in Detroit and after injuries stunted his career in the Big Easy, he came up with two huge interceptions in the second half to seal a Saints’ victory in Week 15. Late into the fourth quarter, down 10, Jameis Winston dropped back to pass but came up early as Jairus Byrd reached up to pick off a ball intended for Russell Shepard deep in New Orleans territory. New Orleans punted on the ensuing drive, but Byrd left Winston with too little time on the clock to put together two consecutive scoring drives.
Looking Forward to Week 17:
The Saints travel to Atlanta to take on the NFC South division winner Atlanta Falcons in hopes of getting revenge after their Week 3 blowout earlier this season. Matt Ryan comes in hot, with one of the best offenses in the league, and will be looking to move into a position for a first round bye for this year’s playoffs. Although the Saints will not be playing for a playoff position for the third straight year, Brees is a competitor and will be looking to one-up their division rival to finish off the season. With rumors of a possible move of Sean Payton in the offseason, look for the Saints’ head coach to continue to coach his style of game and keep his offense firing on all cylinders. In what could be the last game in the Georgia Dome for the Falcons, both teams will be on edge headed into the final game of the season.