After starting the 2012 season with a four-game losing streak, the New Orleans Saints have finally put together a stretch of wins. New Orleans won its second consecutive game by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35-28 on Sunday, October 21. While the win streak is currently only at two games, Saints fans are now getting a glimpse at the team we expected to see all year. Although the defense has some room for improvement, the Saints' offense is now in mid-season form and will likely make things tough on the rest of the team's opponents this year.
Playing on the road on Sunday, the Saints did not get off to a great start, especially on defense. The Bucs jumped out to a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter, leaving Saints fans to wonder again if this team's defense would be able to give the offense a decent chance to win. However, the Saints did not allow Tampa Bay to score for the final 13 minutes of the first half and helped New Orleans bring a 28-21 lead into halftime. In fact, the Bucs did not score again until their final touchdown came with 4:10 remaining in the game.
The fact that this defense went nearly 40 minutes without allowing a score is very encouraging to Saints fans. The most important series of the game came in the third quarter, when Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman hit Vincent Jackson for a 95-yard pass. What appeared to be a sure game-tying touchdown suddenly became a huge defensive stop, as Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins chased Jackson down and tackled him at the goal line. After three failed attempts by running back LaGarette Blount, New Orleans ended the drive by stopping Freeman for a loss of four yards on fourth down.
That goal line stance is the kind of thing that can turn around a game and possibly an entire season. By stopping the Bucs from tying the game at 28-28, the defense allowed Drew Brees to lead the Saints back down the field on a 95-yard drive to take a 35-21 lead.
Obviously the team's offense is clicking right now. Although the running game managed only 81 yards, it was the 26 rushing attempts that helped open things up for Brees and the passing game. Brees passed for 377 yards without having one of his top targets on the field in tight end Jimmy Graham.
The Saints will have a much tougher test next week when facing Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on October 28. As a Saints fan, I just hope the defense can again come up with enough stops to give Brees and the offense a chance to win.
Mike Patton is a sports fan who grew up in New Orleans cheering for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs, and LSU Tigers. As a kid in 1987, he made his first trip to Wrigley Field and also slept outside of the Louisiana Superdome to purchase playoff tickets for the Saints' first postseason appearance. Follow Mike on twitter @MikePattonGBS.
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