Buccaneers 20

(9-3, 4-2 away)

Saints 23

(8-4, 4-2 home)

Coverage: ESPN/WatchESPN

8:30 PM ET, December 1, 2002


1 2 3 4 T
TB 2 7 3 820
NO 0 6 14 323

Saints beat Bucs for second time this season

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their league-leading defense might be dominating the rest of the NFL, but they can't dominate New Orleans.

Steve Gleason

Steve Gleason signals everything is going right for the Saints, who recovered another Bucs' fumble.

Despite a record-setting sacks performance by Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice, the Saints ended the Bucs' four-game winning streak 23-20 Sunday night.

Aaron Brooks, playing with a bruised throwing arm, threw two touchdown passes in the first six minutes of the second half, while the defense shut down the Bucs' running game and held off a late touchdown by the Bucs.

It was the second victory over Tampa Bay (9-3) by New Orleans, which beat the Bucs 26-20 in overtime on the opening day of the season. And it made a three-team race of the NFC South; the Bucs now lead Atlanta (8-3-1) by a half-game and the Saints (8-4) by a game.

''This is kind of a round-robin,'' Saints coach Jim Haslett said. ''We beat Tampa twice. Atlanta beat us twice. Hopefully, Tampa will beat Atlanta next week and we'll just pass the thing around.''

''It was great,'' added Joe Horn, who caught one of Brooks' touchdown passes. ''Now we'll just let them and Atlanta fight it out. This gets us back on track.''

Rice, the NFL's sacks leader at 14, took only five minutes to get two sacks and set a record for consecutive games with multiple sacks with five. Six minutes later, he got a third, and it resulted in a safety for a 2-0 lead.

But the Saints' 26th-ranked defense played just as well, forcing three turnovers and holding Tampa Bay to 34 yards rushing. The Bucs, who came in leading the league with a plus-15 turnover differential, forced just one turnover.

''When you lose the turnover ratio on the road vs. a good team, I believe it's going to turn up biting you in the end,'' Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden said.

New Orleans forced the Bucs to run nearly two minutes off the clock from first-and-goal at the 1 before a 2-yard fourth-down touchdown pass from Brad Johnson to Keenan McCardell with 2:49 left. Brad Johnson hit Keyshawn Johnson for a two-point conversion that cut the deficit to 23-20.

But Jake Delhomme, who replaced Brooks for the final series, completed a 10-yard slant to Horn on third-and-8 from the 18 after the two-minute warning to clinch the game.

''The big thing we did is stop the run,'' Saints defensive tackle Norman Hand said. ''That's exactly what we wanted to do. If you let them have both things, you're in trouble.''

Brooks, who bruised his biceps on the last play of the first half, finished just 9-for-25 for 155 yards. But with the Saints trailing 9-6 at the half, he threw touchdown passes of 3 yards to Jake Reed and 14 yards to Horn on the first two possessions of the third quarter.

Late in the first period, a 52-yard punt by Tom Tupa, with an illegal block penalty added on, put the Saints back at their 8-yard line. On third-and-8, Rice broke through, slapped the ball away from Brooks on the goal line and knocked it out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

But New Orleans went 80 yards in 10 plays, capped by Deuce McAllister's 6-yard touchdown run five minutes into the second quarter. Coach Jim Haslett tried a two-point conversion, but McAllister was stopped a yard short.

Tampa reciprocated by going 90 yards in six plays, with the score coming on a 44-yard pass from Johnson to Mike Alstott, who caught the ball a yard beyond the line of scrimmage and raced to the end zone.

The Saints took a 13-9 lead on the first series of the second half as Brooks' 52-yard pass to Horn on third-and-13 set up the touchdown pass to Reed in the back of the end zone.

Four minutes later, Horn beat Brian Kelly and Brooks found him in the end zone from 14 yards. That touchdown was set up by Michael Lewis' 56-yard punt return.

Martin Gramatica cut it to 20-12 with a 51-yard field goal with five minutes left in the third quarter. But John Carney hit from 48 yards just more than five minutes into the fourth quarter for New Orleans.

Then came the final touchdown and Delhomme's one moment in the spotlight.

''It was supposed to be a run with an option to pass,'' Haslett said. ''But Joe Horn told the corner that if it came down to third down, he was going to catch it. So I guess it was a pass along.''

Game notes

McAllister, who missed the game last week with a sprained right ankle, had 99 yards on 27 carries to go past the 1,000-yard mark. He now has 1,049 yards on the season. ... The Saints' two-point conversion attempt was their 10th of the season, an NFL record. ... McCardell had 11 receptions for 107 yards, five more catches than his previous best as a Buccaneer. ... Tampa Bay had intercepted at least two passes in each of its previous four games. The Bucs had none Sunday night.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Scoring Summary

Drive info: 3 plays, 20 yds, 0:50
Drive info: 3 plays, 20 yds, 0:50
noFG10:00John Carney 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 4 plays, 3 yds, 2:00
noSF4:10NO safety.
Drive info: 3 plays, -26 yds, 0:20
Drive info: 6 plays, 80 yds, 3:28
Drive info: 6 plays, 54 yds, 1:52
Drive info: 6 plays, 80 yds, 3:28
Drive info: 6 plays, 54 yds, 1:52
tbFG5:10Martin Gramatica 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 9 plays, 39 yds, 3:39
noTD10:55Deuce McAllister, 6 yd run
Drive info: 10 plays, 80 yds, 15:18
tbTD3:30Touchdown(Brad Johnson pass to Keyshawn Johnson for 2pt conversion)
Drive info: 17 plays, 84 yds, 6:52