After two less-than-stellar performances, Drew Brees looked like a two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year once again.
Brees completed 26-of-39 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns to lead the New Orleans Saints to a 41-0 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Lance Moore, Joe Morgan, David Thomas and Darren Sproles each caught a touchdown pass for the Saints (6-8), who put the brakes on a three-game losing streak. Jabari Greer had two interceptions in the win.
"Pitching a shutout after the first couple of games this years, you couldn't have predicted that," said interim head coach Joe Vitt. "But that is staying the course with the right players, the right coaches, the right attitude, the right teaching progression and the proper accountability to one another.
Josh Freeman struggled, completing 26-of-47 passes for 279 yards, four interceptions and a lost fumble. Doug Martin, who was second in the league in yards from scrimmage entering the game, picked up just 35 yards combined for the Buccaneers (6-8), who were shut out for the first time since a 24-0 loss to the New York Giants in 2009 .
"I didn't get this team ready to go today for whatever that reason is," said Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano. "They fought their guts out. It's just that I didn't do a good job of getting ready and we didn't play well."
Tampa Bay has dropped four straight and have officially been eliminated from playoff contention with the setback.
The Saints scored on the game's opening drive when Brees connected with Thomas for a 9-yard touchdown completion. Earlier in the drive, Brees completed a short pass to Pierre Thomas, who turned up field 24 yards to the Tampa Bay 11 to set up the touchdown pass.
After trading punts, Freeman's pass was intercepted by Greer at the Saints' 16. Brees then orchestrated an 11-play, 74 yard march that ended with Garret Hartley's 25-yard field goal to put the Saints up 10-0.
Following another exchange of punts, Freeman was picked off once again. Brees and the Saints needed eight plays to find the end zone as Brees connected with Sproles for a 2-yard touchdown pass and a commanding 17-0 lead.
Brees added a 7-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore with nine seconds left in the first half to push the Saints' spread to 24-0.
Freeman was picked off once again early in the third to set up Brees' 34-yard touchdown pass to Morgan down the left sideline put New Orleans ahead 31-0.
Hartley added a 36-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and Mark Ingram ran it in from 11 yards out for the decisive score.
It has been a good week for New Orleans both on and off the field.
Earlier this week NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned the ruling of current Commissioner Rodger Goodell regarding the suspensions of several players involved in the NFL Bounty Scandal.
Current Saints defensive players Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith, along with Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, were all suspended in May for roles in the bounty program from 2009-2011.
Vilma had been suspended for the entire 2012 season, while Hargrove was originally given an eight-game penalty. Smith was banned for four games and Fujita was slapped with a three-game suspension.
The suspensions were overturned by an appeals panel in September, then re- issued by Goodell -- with slight modifications -- in October. Another appeal led to Tagliabue's appointment, and he decided to overturn the suspensions after reviewing the case.
The Saints completed their first series sweep of the Bucs since 2006 ... New Orleans posted its first shutout since beating the Jets 12-0 in 1995 ... The Bucs haven't made the playoffs since 2007 ... Since 2002, only eight of the 22 games between the two clubs have been decided by more than one touchdown.