Saints vs. Buccaneers: New Orleans Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 15

Jonathan Peralta@itsjperaltaContributor IIIDecember 17, 2012

Saints vs. Buccaneers: New Orleans Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 15

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    Well, the New Orleans Saints definitely flipped the script on its ear in Week 15, unexpectedly steamrolling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 41-0, recording their first shutout in 17 years and snapping their three-game losing streak in emphatic fashion. The Saints were firing on all cylinders and showed everyone that, contrary to popular belief, they still have plenty of fight left in them.

    Shockingly, the Saints are still alive for a playoff berth, but that would require a lot of things to go the Saints' way; the team has to finish 8-8, and several other teams have to lose their last two games in order for the Saints to have any hope of sneaking into the playoffs.  

    But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

    Before next week's crucial matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, let's take a look at Week 15's winners and losers.

Winner: Drew Brees

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    Drew Brees finally ended his three-game slump, throwing for 307 yards and four touchdowns against Tampa Bay, completing 67 percent of his passes. He looked like, well, like Brees; something that has been a little too infrequent this season.

    No. 9 did not throw an interception for the first time in three games and was deadly, picking apart the Bucs defense. Brees was accurate, he made good decisions and he marched the Saints offense down the field with command, spreading the ball around while completing passes to nine different receivers.

Loser: Continuation of Dropped Passes

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    In a game where the Saints were dominant on both offense and defense, it's hard to find something that went wrong, so this is a reach, but the dropped passes continue to be an ugly trend for the Saints.

    The New Orleans Saints are second in the league with the most dropped passes with 33. In Sunday's game, tight end Jimmy Graham extended his dropped passes; he entered Week 15 tied for the lead in dropped passes. Not something you want to be known for.

    Devery Henderson, Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham dropped very catchable passes and could have been costly in a different situation.

Winner: Jabari Greer

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    The Buccaneers made the mistake of targeting cornerback Jabari Greer this week. Greer played some of his best ball, intercepting Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman twice. It was the first time in Greer's career that he had two interceptions in one game.

    The cornerback also had four tackles and four passes defended. He was one of the key players on the Saints defense, helping with the turnovers.

Winners: Will Smith and Cameron Jordan

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    The Saints defensive unit played its best defense of the season, shutting down the Bucs. Compared to what we've seen at the beginning of the season, it was night and day.

    New Orleans' front seven look more comfortable under Steve Spagnuolo's schemes. One of New Orleans' biggest problems was its lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. In Week 15, that was not the case, making Tampa Bay's quarterback look silly.

    Both defensive ends, Will Smith and Cameron Jordan, turned in tremendous efforts. Both Smith and Jordan had a sack each, and Jordan had a fumble recovery. Smith making Josh Freeman miserable the entire game, putting constant pressure on him causing him to make a lot of mistakes. Smith also had five quarterback hits on the day.

    Jordan now has eight sacks in the season, and Smith has six. Not too bad for a unit that has been spotty throughout the season.

Big Winner: Saints Defense

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    The biggest story of Week 15's game against the Bucs is the Saints defense. What a great collective effort by a unit that ranks among the worst in the NFL this season, so this shutout was completely unexpected.

    They did almost everything right, except for giving up 386 yards (yards that came at the end when the defense was in prevent mode). The Saints flew to the ball, they created turnovers (five), constantly put pressure on Josh Freeman and were also able to shut down sensational rookie running back Doug Martin. Martin finished the game with nine carries for only 16 yards.

    Lights-out defense. Something New Orleans fans never thought they would say.


    Make sure to follow me on Twitter for more Saints news and other NFL updates: @ItsJPeralta.