Saints Win Opener: Defense Helps Offense Beat Tampa 24-20

The New Orleans Saints began their 42nd season with an impressive win against a division rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, giving the city and the fans a big lift as they prepare for the possible arrival of Hurricane Ike. New Orleans provided a show which included the long-awaited debut of TE Jeremy Shockey, three offensive touchdowns (two in the second half), and ending the game by intercepting Tampa QB Jeff Garcia with less than a minute to go.

The Saints began the game with a perfect drive down the field from their 24-yard line, a balanced drive of rushing and passing the ball. Drew Brees (23/32, 343 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) completed all four pass attempts, the longest a 39-yarder to David Patten resulting in their only touchdown of the first half.

New Orleans struggled the rest of the half and gave Tampa’s defense a touchdown when Brees was intercepted by CB Philip Buchanon who returned the ball 26 yards into the end zone. The Saints had six penalties in the first half for a total of 36 yards, not enough to really cause damage but enough to disrupt the momentum of their drives. DE Charles Grant was able to sack Garcia early in the game, one of the team’s two sacks of the day. The score at the end of the half was Tampa 10, New Orleans 7.

The Saints continued their struggles as the second half began. Their first possession looked promising with the Saints starting from the Bucs’ 48-yard line but ended with a fumble by Brees that was recovered by Pierre Thomas. On their second possession, the Saints got to Tampa’s 12 yard line but ended up having to kick a 34-yard field goal after the Bucs turned on the pressure with tight coverage and a sack. The drive lasted 55 yards and 16 plays but brought the team much needed energy from the playmaking of Jeremy Shockey.

With less than a minute to go in the third quarter, Brees took advantage of a free play and threw 84 yards to Devery Henderson for a touchdown. It was Henderson’s first and only catch of the day. Tampa answered back with an extended drive which had their only third-down conversion at the time and had WR Ike Hilliard making a 2-yard rush for a touchdown.

Reggie Bush (163 total yards, 112 of which were receiving, and 1 TD) was up and down during the game. Bush had only 18 rushing yards on 7 carries in the first half for a total of 52 combined yards. A 26-yard rush in the third quarter was reduced by 15 yards when he was called for grabbing the facemask of his tackler. Early in the fourth quarter, Bush owned the drive when he made two big plays on short passes from Brees, the first for 29 yards and the second for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Shockey’s debut with the Saints was exactly what New Orleans had hoped. He caught the first pass thrown to him and ended the day with six catches for 54 yards. But more importantly, he gave the team life when he helped to sustain the drive for the Saints’ only field goal of the game.

The rest of the offense was relatively quiet. Pierre Thomas had 52 yards on 10 carries and Marques Colston had 3 receptions for 26 yards. Last year’s first round pick, Robert Meachem, and Deuce McAllister did not play.

Unfortunately, Pierre Thomas injured his ankle with about four minutes remaining in the game.

The Saints’ defense showed that they are better than their pre-season reputation but that they still have some work to do. They allowed 146 yards rushing and 206 yards passing but held Tampa to only 2 third down conversions out of 12.

Tampa Bay RB Earnest Graham was able to get a 46 yard run late in the third quarter but second-round draft pick, CB Tracy Porter broke up a pass on third and 5 from New Orleans’ 15 yardline, forcing a field goal. DE Bobby McCray sacked Tampa Bay on their last drive of the day, their second sack of the game. Scott Fujita intercepted Garcia with 44 seconds to go, ending the drive and allowing New Orleans to kneel for the final play of the game.

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One Response to “Saints Win Opener: Defense Helps Offense Beat Tampa 24-20”

  1. Rebecca Zalman says:

    Hi Bill –

    I’m not sure if you saw the NFL release, but Drew Brees was nominated as one of the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week for his performance in Week 1. The NFL will announce the winners on Friday, and your readers can vote all week for Brees at up until Friday at 3:00 p.m. EST. The winners are determined solely by online fan votes.

    The best part is that if Brees wins FedEx will make a $1,000 donation in Drew’s name to the local Safe Kids USA coalition in New Orleans. FedEx is teamed up with Safe Kids USA – a national non-profit organization that works to prevent accidental injury among children – to deliver safer kids by making weekly $1,000 donations in the winning players’ cities. The funding directly benefits pedestrian safety improvements throughout the year.

    The release is pasted below for more info, so hopefully you can mention this to get your readers to vote for Drew this week!

    I look forward to hearing from you and please let me know if you have questions or need anything else.

    Rebecca Zalman


    Fans To Vote For Winners On
    FedEx To Deliver Funding For Safe Kids Organizations On Behalf of Winning Players In
    Their Teams’ Markets

    Quarterbacks DREW BREES of the New Orleans Saints, JAY CUTLER of the Denver Broncos and DONOVAN MC NABB of the Philadelphia Eagles are the finalists for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week honors for games played on September 4 – 8, while running backs MATT FORTÉ of the Chicago Bears, WILLIE PARKER of the Pittsburgh Steelers and MICHAEL TURNER of the Atlanta Falcons are the finalists for the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week honors, the NFL announced today.

    Fans can vote for one player in each category on from 9 a.m. EST on Tuesday through 3 p.m. EST on Friday to determine the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week. The winners will be announced Friday evening on

    Fans will be voting for more than their favorite player. As part of the Air & Ground program for the first time, FedEx is teaming up with Safe Kids USA – a national non-profit organization that works to prevent accidental injury among children – to deliver safer kids by making weekly $1,000 donations in the winning players’ names. The funding directly benefits local Safe Kids coalitions in that team’s city, to fund pedestrian safety improvements throughout the year. This year, FedEx celebrates its fifth year of the program and will surpass the $1 million mark in funding to create safer communities for children.

    New this season, fans can tune into the “FedEx Air & Ground Lowdown” posted only on starting Tuesday evenings. The show examines the nominees in the Air & Ground categories through exclusive video highlights and expert analysis. NFL Network’s MARSHALL FAULK and TERRELL DAVIS host the weekly five-minute show.

    A closer look at the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week finalists:

    • New Orleans’ DREW BREES completed 23 of 32 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns in the Saints’ 24 – 20 win over AFC South rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    • Denver’s JAY CUTLER completed 16 of 24 passes for 299 yards and threw for two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Broncos’ 41 – 14 win over the Oakland Raiders.

    • Philadelphia’s DONOVAN MC NABB passed for 361 yards, scored three touchdowns and completed 21 of 33 passes in the Eagles’ 38 – 3 win over the St. Louis Rams.

    A closer look at the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week finalists:

    • Chicago’s MATT FORTÉ rushed for 123 yards over 23 carries and scored one 50-yard touchdown in the Bears’ 29 – 13 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

    • Pittsburgh’s WILLIE PARKER carried the ball 25 times for 138 yards and three touchdowns in the Steelers’ 38-17 win over the Houston Texans.

    • Atlanta’s MICHAEL TURNER ran for 220 yards over 22 carries and scored two touchdowns in the Falcons 34 – 21 win over the Detroit Lions. Turner’s 220 yards broke the Falcons’ record for rushing yards in a single game.

    FedEx, the premier global provider of transportation, e-commerce and supply-chain management services, is the Official Delivery Service Sponsor of the NFL, Super Bowl and Pro Bowl. Through the weekly FedEx Air & Ground Awards, FedEx recognizes those NFL players who represent the same speed, precision and teamwork that their customers have come to expect from the full range of FedEx air, ground, freight and international shipping services, delivering safer kids in the process. With thousands of trucks out on the roads each day, FedEx is committed to improving pedestrian safety for children, by funding education programs and environmental improvements, from signage and crosswalks to pedestrian walkways near schools and playgrounds.

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