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Brees, Saints run past rival Buccaneers, 27-16

NEW ORLEANS - Drew Brees and the Saints responded to their most humbling loss of the season with a commanding performance against a division rival.

Brees passed for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and New Orleans gained 195 yards on the ground in a 27-16 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Brees' scoring passes went for 3 yards to Lance Moore and 21 yards to Darren Sproles. Pierre Thomas added a tackle-breaking, 9-yard score for the Saints (6-3), who watched their running game bounce back after gaining only 56 yards at St. Louis a week earlier.

Despite losing starting cornerback Tracy Porter to a neck injury early in the game, New Orleans held Tampa Bay (4-4) without a touchdown until Josh Freeman hit Kellen Winslow with 5:33 left.

Freeman had 256 yards passing, but was routinely pressured and plagued by untimely overthrows.

Brees' first scoring strike to Moore in the first quarter gave him TD passes in 36 straight games, tying Brett Favre for the second-longest streak in NFL history. Brees will need to keep that streak going into next season in order to tie Johnny Unitas, who had scoring passes in 47 straight games.

Connecting on 27 of 36 passes, Brees also extended his NFL record of consecutive games with 20-plus completions to 29.

New Orleans led 24-6 after Thomas' touchdown in the third quarter.

Tampa Bay then converted two fourth downs during a 15-play, 73-yard drive that took 7:03 off the clock, but had to settle for Connor Barth's third field goal of the game to make it 24-9 after Freeman threw a pair of incompletions from inside the Saints 10.

Winslow's late 5-yard touchdown catch, set up by cornerback Leigh Torrence's pass interference penalty, pulled the Bucs to 24-16. Brees responded by marching the Saints 63 yards in an 11-play drive that ate 4:16 off the clock. He converted a key third-and-4 play with a 20-yard scramble, setting up John Kasay's 34-yard field goal with 1:17 left.

With the victory, New Orleans remained atop the NFC South, a half-game ahead of Atlanta (5-3). The Saints visit the Falcons next week.

Tampa Bay dropped into third place with its third loss in four games.

The Bucs had hoped to get a boost from the return of leading rusher LeGarrette Blount, who had missed two games with a left knee sprain. He gained 72 yards on 13 carries.

The Saints were coming off their worst performance of the season in a 31-21 loss at previously winless St. Louis and had lost two of their last three, including an earlier meeting with Tampa Bay. Bolstered by the return of starting right tackle Zach Strief, the Saints' offensive line did not allow a sack on Brees, who was hauled down six times the week before.

The Bucs also struggled to contain Sproles, who finished with 57 yards receiving on five catches and 42 yards rushing on only four carries. Chris Ivory added 67 yards rushing and Thomas 66.

Porter hurt his neck on the second play from scrimmage when he broke up a pass with a hard hit on receiver Mike Williams. Porter lay face down for several seconds and was placed on a stretcher by trainers and paramedics, but was able to move his extremities and gave a thumbs up before being taken to a hospital as a precaution.

New Orleans struck first on Moore's leaping catch of Brees' 3-yard fade, capping a drive that featured Sproles' 35-yard run and 15-yard reception.

Sproles added a 21-yard touchdown on a short pass out of the backfield -- his third receiving TD this season -- to give the Saints a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.

Freeman's 46-yard completion to Dezmon Briscoe set up Barth's 40-yard field goal to make it 14-3 with 1:39 to go in the first half. Brees then quickly drove New Orleans 76 yards to the Tampa Bay 4, spiking the ball to stop the clock with a second left to set up Kasay's 21-yard field goal that made it 17-3.

Early in the third quarter, the Bucs had a chance to cut their deficit to one touchdown when Ronde Barber ripped a swing pass from Sproles for an interception at the Saints 33. However, Blount's personal foul for swatting his open hand across defensive end Will Smith's face mask after the whistle forced Tampa Bay to settle for Barth's 48-yard field goal, which made it 17-6.

New York Sports