This may have just been the biggest beatdown short of the 62-3 win over the Colts last season that I have ever seen the Saints put down on a team in my lifetime. While it does nothing to satisfy my postseason aspirations when the season began, and it also does nothing to help the Saints' draft position, I think it all served to make us feel better in realizing the Saints are much better than their 6-8 record. If Sean Payton returns to coach this team next season, we all have to feel pretty good about the team's chances. It was only a matter of time before the Saints played a complete game in all there phases at some point this season, and sure enough, it came at the expense of the Bucs. 41-0 is your final, but it's a bittersweet result as it leaves you wondering where this performance, consistent with the Saints of 2011, has been all season. Below are my bullet thoughts on the game.
Elbert Mack, Isa Abdul-Quddus and Rafael Bush continue to perform at a high level. The latter to had interceptions, and I'm more convinced than ever these three need to play a big role in the Saints' defensive backfield next season.
Brees missed some throws, and had numerous drops, but still put together an incredibly solid stat line (307yds, 4 TDs). Most importantly, he put that awful slump he was in behind him and did not turn the football over.
Most impressive about Brees in this one was how much he spread the ball around. 9 different receivers caught a pass.
The defense gave up 386 yards, but the majority of that came late in the game when they were in prevent mode and the Bucs were throwing every play. At haltime, the Bucs had 96 total yards of offense. This was a simply dominant performance. The Bucs ran for just 67 yards, and 18 of those came on a fake punt.
The Saints had 5 turnovers, which I can't remember happening since 2009, 4 picks (Greer x2, IAD and Bush) and a sack/forced fumble/recovery trifecta by Cam Jordan.
Will Smith had one of his best games of the season, very stout against the run and disruptive rushing the passer.
Mark Ingram led the team in yards gained from scrimmage with 90 yards rushing. Arguably the best game of his career.
Joe Morgan is getting better and better each week. I definitely think he has Robert Meachem in his prime qualities now, and he's only going to get better. I'm glad he getting these reps now because he's going to make a major impact next season.
Jimmy Graham played a decent game, but continues to drop numerous balls. I counted at least 3, and another one was debatable. Evidently his wrist is a real problem, and I question whether it's healthy enough for him to be out there.
Josh Freeman looked HORRIBLE in this game and looked completely out of synch with his receivers. Credit the Saints for a good pash rush and even better coverage for most of the game, helped by their control of the line of scrimmage, but still... You have to wonder if the Bucs reconsider entering 2013 with Freeman as their trigger man after this game.
Doug Martin, who has been beastly all season, had 9 carries for 16 yards. Steve Spagnuolo deserves credit for planning the perfect game. This defense has really improved and there's reason for excitement next season.
If you're a glutton for punishment, we're rooting for the Steelers to beat the Cowboys to keep our incredibly slim playoff hopes alive. The Saints are 6-8 and move into 2nd place in the NFC South thanks to a season sweep over the Bucs.