It was one of the most anticipated primetime matchups of the 2020 NFL season. Saints at Buccaneers, Brees versus Brady, Super Bowl contender versus Super Bowl contender.
Two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time meeting for the second time this season as divisional rivals, leading two teams at the top of the conference. It was supposed to be a battle. It turned into a blowout.
The New Orleans Saints dominated every facet of the Week 9 "Sunday Night Football" game, putting up nearly 40 points and preventing Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from scoring until 5:52 left in the fourth quarter.
The 38-3 Saints victory, their fifth in a row, lifted New Orleans to 6-2, into a tie for best record in the NFC and atop the NFC South.
5. Brees outshines Brady in Saints' win
Five minutes into the first quarter, Tre’Quan Smith found himself wide open. He took a few slow steps, positioned his feet just inbounds, and caught Drew Brees’ perfect spiral at the back of the end zone to open the scoring. Arm strength was, and will continue to be, a question for the 41-year-old Brees, but on Sunday night he looked in his prime.
Brees shared the ball around early, didn’t force passes — nine Saints had receptions in the first quarter alone — and while Tom Brady’s Buccaneers couldn’t pick up a first down, the Saints were picking up touchdowns.
Brees’ touchdown pass at the end of the first quarter, number 562 on his career, pulled him ahead of Brady all-time. The Saints QB added two more TDs alongside his 223 passing yards, and now sits three ahead of Brady on the all-time list.
4. Taysom Hill does it all for the Saints
The Saints have one of the most dynamic running backs in the league — three-time Pro Bowler, 2017 Rookie of the Year, and the NFL’s leader in yards from scrimmage heading into Week 9 — Alvin Kamara.
But heading into the locker room for halftime, up 31-0, the Saints leading rusher was Taysom Hill.
Hill is coach Sean Payton’s Swiss Army knife with abs. He finished the Saints' win with 48 passing yards, 54 rushing yards, and 21 receiving yards.
Hill perfectly fills the gaps of the aging Brees’ game, flashing elite athleticism, arm strength, and versatility. Though he has yet to throw a passing touchdown in his career, Hill and the Saints QB3 (Jamies Winston) provide more value than most quarterback rooms around the NFL.
3. Antonio Brown debuts for Buccaneers
In his own end zone, Tom Brady stepped up in the pocket. Avoiding the sack and safety, he sailed a pass toward midfield and a few steps in front of Antonio Brown. Jumping to make the catch, Brown couldn't reach the jump ball and fell to the turf empty-handed. It was the third three-and-out of the game for the Buccaneers (on their third drive) and Brady couldn’t find any of his receivers open, not just Brown.
The controversial wide receiver finished the game with 31 yards on three catches and five targets. Brown lined up in the slot, out wide, and even in the backfield for the Buccaneers, but with Tampa’s O clearly out of sync, fans will have to wait until next week to see how Bruce Arians truly plans to work No. 81 into the mix.
2. Michael Thomas returns for Saints
On the other side of the field was another star wide receiver's return, Michael Thomas. Less than two minutes into the game Thomas nabbed his first pass, a low toss from Brees that took Thomas to his knees to scoop the ball and move the chains for the Saints first first down.
Thomas, who has big-play ability, started the game seemingly pedestrian. His first three catches totaled for just 21 yards, but he proved he could get open and provide Brees with the constant open option he needed to move the sticks. Though not the big games fantasy owners would have hoped in a 38-3 Saints win, Thomas finished the game with a team leading five catches and 51 yards.
1. Saints defense dominates Brady and Bucs
On the opening play of the game, Sainta' All-Pro pass rusher Cameron Jordan bull-rushed rookie tackle Tristan Wirfs. The Buccaneers LT was pushed back into his quarterback as Jordan got a hand in Brady’s face and caused an incompletion.
It was just one of many one-on-one battles the Saints defense consistently won Sunday night.
The Saints' pass rush closed the pocket while secondary blanketed Brady's weapons, forcing the former Patriot to finish just 22 of 38, causing three turnovers, and holding Tampa Bay’s offense to just three total points.Published 09 Nov 2020, 11:09 IST