5 things to know from Saints-Buccaneers
TAMPA, Fla. (AP)
No one has to remind the New Orleans Saints how special Drew Brees can be in clutch situations.
He keeps showing them himself.
Shrugging off a couple of interceptions that put Tampa Bay in a position to beat his team, Brees led a last-minute drive that produced Garrett Hartley's 27-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Buccaneers 16-14 on Sunday.
''He's magical. He really is. It doesn't matter what time of the game it is, at what point in the game it is. He has belief in us. He has belief in himself,'' said tight end Jimmy Graham, who had 10 receptions for 179 yards and a touchdown.
''And he knows that if you give him a minute, if you give him 30 seconds,'' Graham added, ''we all have hope on this team just because of the way we're built, the way he's built.''
Brees completed 26 of 46 passes for 322 yards. He was sacked four times and linebacker Mason Foster returned one of Tampa Bay's two interceptions 85 yards for a TD that put the Bucs ahead 14-13.
Completions of 15 yards to Graham, 8 yards to Darren Sproles and 31 yards to Marques Colston moved the Saints into position to win after Rian Lindell's 47-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left with just over a minute remaining.
''The biggest thing about our team is we're going to do what it takes to win, whether it's the offense stepping up or the defense or special teams play,'' safety Malcolm Jenkins said. ''We play complementary football, every game takes on a life of itself, and all we care about it is winning.''
Five things to know about why the Saints (2-0) are unbeaten and the Bucs (0-2) remain winless:
1. COOL BREES: Since joining the Saints in 2006, the star QB has led 22 winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime of regular season games. He was 3 for 4 for 54 yards in moving them downfield against the Bucs. The incompletion? Brees spiked the ball with 5 seconds remaining to stop the clock to allow Hartley to kick the winning field goal.
''The fact of the matter is we've worked so hard. We've conditioned ourselves to be prepared for these opportunities, and you just visualize success,'' Brees said. ''You visualize yourself making plays, so really I can say there was no doubt among our team.''
2. IMPROVED DEFENSE: Despite allowing an opponent to move down the field to kick a winning field goal in the closing seconds for the second straight week, Tampa Bay's revamped defense played well. The Bucs were last in the NFL in pass defense a year ago, but have an entirely different look - and attitude - following the offseason addition of three-time All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson, an All-Pro with San Francisco last year. They've also have a suddenly rejuvenated pass rush. Tampa Bay has nine sacks in two games after having 27 all season in 2012.
3. CLOSE, BUT ...: The Bucs lost their season opener to the New York Jets 18-17 on a field goal with 2 seconds remaining. Hartley's game-winner dropped Tampa Bay to 0-5 in games decided by three or fewer points under second-year coach Greg Schiano.
''It's tough to lose no matter (how),'' Foster said. ''You've got to tip your hat to Drew Brees and his receivers making great plays. He's a great quarterback. He's proven that over the years.''
4. SAINTS PLAY `D, TOO: Brees and a talented supporting cast on offense garner most of the attention in New Orleans, but the Saints also have done the job defensively the past two weeks. The Bucs were held to 273 yards total offense with a big chunk of that - 57 yards - coming on their last possession. The Saints forced two turnovers, with Cameron Jordan sacking Josh Freeman to create a fumble and Jenkins intercepting a pass in the third quarter.
5. WHAT'S WRONG WITH FREEMAN?: The Bucs' quarterback was 9 of 22 passing for 125 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The only scoring drive he led covered 35 yards after linebacker Dekoda Watson's interception in Saints territory. He was sacked once and had a 73-yard scoring throw to Vincent Jackson nullified by an illegal formation penalty.
''I'm going to have to look at the tape to see what's going on. It isn't just the quarterback. It's squarely on me,'' Schiano said. ''I'm the head football coach. We have to get better. It falls on me, not on anybody else.''
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