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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Turnovers tell tale in Bucs' victory over Saints

Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 03:14 AM

Raheem Morris proved to be quite a prophet during the week.

A few days before Sunday's pivotal NFC South matchup against New Orleans, the head coach of the Buccaneers talked about the challenge of facing down Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees.

"At the end of the day," Morris said, "Brees is going to get his 300 yards. But he's also going to give you some opportunities to make plays."

Both statements came true as Tampa Bay held on for a gutty 26-20 triumph that forged a tie with the Saints atop the division.

Brees completed 29 of 45 passes for 383 yards and a touchdown, but the Bucs picked him off three times after registering only two interceptions through the first five games of the season.

"Brees trusts his receivers, and that allowed us to make some plays today," Bucs cornerback Elbert Mack said. "We had a couple of tipped passes fall our way, and that hasn't happened much in the past few weeks. Give our guys up front some credit, too. …They're growing up before our eyes."

Linebacker Geno Hayes forced a fumble less than six minutes into the game and second-quarter picks by safety Tanard Jackson and cornerback E.J. Biggers helped Tampa Bay to a 20-10 halftime lead.

"We just played Buc Ball today," said Biggers, who intercepted a pass intended for Marques Colston at the Bucs 25-yard line. "This was a rivalry game between two teams with lots of firepower. We had a chance to be tied for first place and we needed this one bad."

Tampa Bay's biggest takeaway came in the shadow of the Bucs end zone with 3:16 remaining.

On fourth-and-2 from the 4-yard line, Brees rolled right to buy some time, looking for ex-Bucs tight end John Gilmore. But linebacker Quincy Black stepped in front of Gilmore for an interception in the end zone.

The Bucs ran the clock out to improve to 4-2.

"They took the ball away four times," said Brees, "and if you can do that, you're going to win a lot of games."

The Saints rolled up 453 yards and Brees wasn't sacked, but Tampa Bay's pass rush disrupted his timing much of the day.

"When our defense plays like that, nobody is going to beat us," tackle Donald Penn said. "Hat's off to those guys. It's scary when Drew Brees has the ball in his hands with the game on the line. I admit it, I was worried, but our defense came through big-time."