Saints' D Has Another Banner Day In Tampa
In a circus-like ending Sunday, it was only fitting that the New Orleans defense came up with a fumble recovery as time ran out on the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium.
The only team to beat Tampa Bay twice last season, the Saints capitalized on six turnovers, including an interception returned 73 yards for a touchdown by Ashley Ambrose, to beat the Bucs for the third consecutive time, 17-14.
Keenan McCardell's game- tying 30-yard touchdown catch from Brad Johnson with 2:17 to play wasn't enough to ruin New Orleans' bid at handing Tampa Bay its third home loss this season. A 47-yard field goal by John Carney with 13 seconds left snapped the Saints defense back to form, as cornerback Fred Thomas fell on a fumble after the Bucs failed on a hook and ladder play on the game's final play.
Constant pressure on Johnson, who was sacked four times and hurried throughout the game, contributed to all but two of the turnovers. ``I guess it's true what they say - things come in bunches,'' said Ambrose, who finished with two interceptions and two pass breakups. ``We hadn't been getting a lot of turnovers and now, the last few weeks, we've have been. And anytime you can do that, you can help your ballclub win.''
With Roman Oben out of the lineup, the Bucs' offensive line did some juggling, putting Kenyatta Walker at left tackle and fourth-year man Cornell Green, who made his first start of his career last year against New Orleans, at right tackle. The new look gave the Saints defensive line more incentive to get after Johnson. ``We saw how San Francisco got after them a couple weeks ago, on film,'' said defensive end Willie Whitehead, who finished with three of the Saints' four sacks. ``And we said, man, we just got to do the same thing, no matter who's in there [at offensive line], and we'll come out victorious. And that's what happened.''
The Saints stumbled early, faking a field goal in the first quarter and then losing a gamble on fourth-and-one at their 49-yard line early in the third. But both ensuing possessions by the Bucs ended with punts. ``Our motto this week was `play to win,' '' New Orleans coach Jim Haslett said. ``We tried to bunt - fake a field goal and go for it on fourth down - and it didn't work out. But, we were here to win.''
The last time the Bucs committed six turnovers in a game was in a 17-10 victory against Kansas City on Nov. 14, 1999.