This game was built as the game of the week and quite possibly the game of the year up to this point.
The New Orleans Saints strolled into West Central Florida and promptly boat raced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-3 in a battle of NFC South rivals on Sunday Night Football on NBC.
The hype had been building since the Saints took out the Bucs in the opening game of the season. Two of the greatest QBs of all time; Tom Brady on one side and Drew Brees on the other. Together, they have combined to complete 13,681 passes, throw for nearly 157,000 yards and 1,125 touchdowns. While Brees was on point this game, Brady clearly was not.
Brees was a near-perfect 26-32 for 222 yards and four scores. More importantly, he had ZERO turnovers. On the other hand, TB12 was anything but the G.O.A.T. he has been described as by many. Brady was only 22-38 for 209 yards with not one, not two…OK, this is not LeBron James describing what would happen when he was in Miami. Brady threw three interceptions with no TDs for the third time in his career (2003 and 2006).
But this game goes far past the numbers.
The Saints defense smothered the Tampa Bay offense and held them to eight yards rushing on five carries. This is the lowest number of rushing attempts by a team in a single game in NFL history. New Orleans was able to sack Brady three times but really kept him off balance all game with a relentless pass rush. The Saints dominated the time possession as they held the ball for more than 40 minutes.
In typical Brees fashion, he shared the pill all evening with his targets connecting with 12 different receivers including WR Michael Thomas five times on six targets for 51 yards. Thomas was back in the lineup for the first time since injuring his ankle earlier in the year.
The ballyhooed receiver corp for the Bucs of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and the newly-added Antonio Brown was held in check by the Saints secondary as they combined for only 10 receptions.
This victory for the Saints moved them a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay as they own all tiebreakers with the Buccaneers should the division end in a tie.
The second half of the season is shaping up to be a dandy in the NFC South.