The rainy conditiions didn't slow down the Bucs' rushing attack, but the passing game tallied only 33 net yards through the first two quarters
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a 6-3 lead over the New Orleans Saints with just over two minutes to go in the first half, but then Drew Brees did what he does best, leading the Saints on a scoring drive that gave them the edge at halftime.
Brees hit WR Lance Moore from 13-yards out with less than a minute to go in the first half and the teams headed to the locker room with New Orleans leading 10-6.
The Bucs had allowed just 87 yards to the NFL's top-ranked offense before that two-minute drill. Overall, the Saints finished the first half with 159 yards, all but four of them in the passing game. The Bucs had just 123 yards of their own, with only 33 coming through the air on a very wet and rainy afternoon.
The Bucs' defense started the game off strong, stuffing the Saints on a fourth-down play on the opening drive of the game. After driving into Tampa Bay territory, the Saints elected to go for it on fourth-and-one at the 30-yard line, but LB Barrett Ruud smacked WR Devery Henderson for a three-yard loss on an end around, forcing the turnover on downs.
The Saints got the ball back quickly, however, and put points on the board after a turnover by the Bucs. A third-down pass from QB Jeff Garcia was caught by WR Michael Clayton, but Saints LB Jonathan Vilma ripped the ball away from Clayton and gave the Saints the ball deep in Bucs' territory. The Tampa Bay defense held up, limiting the Saints to a 47-yard Garrett Hartley field goal that gave the Saints an early 3-0 lead.
The Bucs got some points of their own soon after, evening the score early in the second quarter on a 38-yard field goal by K Matt Bryant. QB Jeff Garcia led the Bucs on a 13-play, 54-yard drive that was capped by Bryant's field goal, and the score stood 3-3 with 14:50 left in the half.
The teams then proceeded to trade punts for much of the remainder of the second quarter, but the Bucs were able to take the lead on a 23-yard field goal by Bryant with 2:34 left in the half. Garcia led the offense on an eight-play, 34 yard march after RB Clifton Smith busted a 42-yard punt return that set the Bucs up in Saints territory. Garcia nearly found an open WR Michael Clayton in the end zone on third down from the Saints' six-yard line, but the pass was behind Clayton and fell incomplete.
The Saints were able to drive down the field and take the lead right back late in the half. Brees led the New Orleans offense on a six-play, 72-yard drive that was capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass to WR Lance Moore with less than a minute left in the second quarter that made it 10-6 in favor of New Orleans.
In the half, the Saints outgained the Bucs in total yards by a count of 159 to 123. With heavy rain falling for a portion of the first half, Garcia completed just five of his 13 passes for 39 yards, while Dunn led the Bucs on the ground with 34 yards on nine carries.
The Bucs were able to shut down New Orleans' running game, allowing the Saints to rush for just four net yards in the half, but Brees went 14-of-24 for 155 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown pass to Moore.
- The Bucs won the coin toss and deferred, so the Saints elected to receive the opening kickoff. WR Robert Meachem fielded K Matt Bryant's kickoff and returned it to the New Orleans 19-yard line. RB Reggie Bush took a quick pass from QB Drew Brees on first down but was smacked down after a gain of just two yards. On second down, Brees found TE Jeremy Shockey over the middle for a gain of nine and a first down to the New Orleans 30. Brees fired another quick pass to the left, this time to WR Lance Moore, for a gain of two, then hit TE Billy Miller over the middle for seven more yards, setting up third-and-one at the Saints' 39. On the play, RB Pierre Thomas burrowed up the middle for a gain of two, enough to move the sticks. Another quick pass immediately after the snap to Bush went for seven yards on first down, but Brees' second-down pass intended for WR Marques Colston was off the mark and incomplete. Facing third-and-three at the New Orleans 48, Brees completed a pass to Bush for a first down, but a holding penalty on the Saints negated the play and moved the ball back 10 yards. Now facing third-and-13, Brees was able to sidestep the pressure and complete a pass to Colston that picked up 22 yards and another first down. With the Saints now in Bucs' territory at the 39-yard line, Brees hit Meachem on the left sideline for a gain of eight, but Thomas was dropped on a second-down handoff after a gain of just one, setting up third-and-one at the 30. On the play, Brees threw a pass intended for Miller, but tight coverage by LB Derrick Brooks forced an incomplete pass. The Saints elected to go for it on fourth down, but an end around to WR Devery Henderson was snuffed out by the LB Barrett Ruud for a loss of three and a turnover on downs. * Taking possession at the Tampa Bay 33, the Bucs began their drive with a handoff to RB Warrick Dunn for a two-yard gain. Dunn then took a handoff to the right on second down and darted through a hole for a gain of six more yards. On third-and-three, Garcia threw a short pass over the middle to WR Michael Clayton, but LB Jonathan Vilma ripped the ball out of Clayton's hands. The ball never hit the ground, but the play was ruled a lost fumble by Clayton and the Saints took over at the Tampa Bay 34-yard line. * Thomas took a handoff up the middle on first down and was brought down after a gain of just one. Brees was able to get a pass off in the face of pressure and complete it to Bush for a gain of eight, setting up third-and-one. On the play, Bush took a pitch to the right but was unable to find a hole and was pushed out of bounds for a loss of four. K Garrett Hartley came on to attempt a 47-yard field goal, and the kick sailed through the uprights to give the Saints an early 3-0 lead. * RB Clifton Smith took the ensuing kickoff back to the Tampa Bay 22-yard line. On first down, a play action pass from Garcia to TE John Gilmore over the middle went for a gain of seven. Garcia tried to dump a short pass to Dunn on second down, but the ball was batted at the line of scrimmage and fell incomplete. Facing third-and-three, Garcia rolled to his right before scrambling back to his left for a gain of seven and a Bucs first down. Dunn took a handoff on the next play and found a hole to the right, picking up nine yards. Garcia then faked a handoff before firing a pass in the right flat to WR Antonio Bryant, who sprinted ahead for 12 yards and another first down. With the ball now in Saints territory at the 44, Garcia looked for Bryant again, but Bryant had lost his footing and slipped, so the ball fell incomplete. The Bucs then burned their first timeout of the half before the second down play. After the break, Dunn took a pitch to the left and lost his footing, slipping to the ground for a loss of one. Facing third-and-11 at the Saints' 46, Garcia completed a pass to TE Jerramy Stevens for 10 yards, but the Saints had jumped offside on the play. The Bucs declined the penalty, however, as the play set them up in a fourth-and-inches situation. RB Cadillac Williams got the call on fourth down and burst up the middle for a gain of seven and a fresh set of downs. Dunn ran right on the next play and was spun down after picking up two yards. On second down, Garcia dropped back to pass but decided to run up the middle, dodging two defenders on his way to a five-yard gain as the first quarter came to a close. On third-and-three at the New Orleans 21, Garcia threw incomplete for Bryant, bringing the field goal unit on to the field. Matt Bryant's 38-yard try was good, evening the score at 3-3. * Meachem took the ensuing kickoff to the Saints 34-yard line. On first down, Brees threw for Shockey, but the ball slipped free of his grasp and fell incomplete, and Bush then dropped a pass over the middle on second down for another incompletion. Before the third down play, a false start penalty moved the Saints back five yards, setting up third-and-15. On the play, Brees threw high for WR Lance Moore, but the ball tipped off his hands incomplete and the Saints were forced to punt. P Glenn Pakulak's punt was caught in bounds by Smith, but his momentum carried him immediately out of bounds at the Bucs' 23-yard line. * Williams took a handoff on first down and was brought down after a gain of four. Bryant then took an end around and followed his blocks for a pickup of 13 yards and a Bucs first down at their own 40. Garcia was pressured on the next play and threw short of his intended receiver incomplete. On second down, Garcia was nearly intercepted by CB Jason David on a pass intended for WR Ike Hilliard, but the ball fell harmlessly to the turf. Facing third-and-10, Garcia moved up in the pocket and tried to hit Bryant, but the pass was broken up. P Josh Bidwell's 33-yard punt sailed out of bounds at the New Orleans 27-yard line. * Thomas took a handoff on first down and was brought down after a gain of three. On second down, Brees found a wide-open Colston over the middle for a gain of 10 and a first down. Bush was smacked down in the backfield on the next play for a loss of six, but caught a pass on second down and darted ahead for 10 yards. The Saints then used their first timeout of the half. Facing third-and-six after the break, Brees hit Shockey over the middle for a first down, but a pass interference penalty on Shockey nullified the play and moved the Saints back 10 yards. Now facing third-and-16, Brees hit Bush out of the backfield, but he was brought down after a gain of just five, forcing another punt. Smith nearly broke free from the Saints' coverage team, but was brought down at the Bucs' 34-yard line. * Dunn got the call on first down and pushed the pile forwards for a gain of four yards, then danced his way ahead for four more yards on second down. On third-and-two at the 42, Garcia threw a short pass intended for Bryant, but Vilma was there once again to break up the pass and the Bucs were forced to punt. Bidwell's low punt took a friendly bounce and rolled out of bounds at the New Orleans 11-yard line after traveling 47 yards. * On first down, Brees misfired on a pass intended for Shockey and the ball fell incomplete. The second down play saw Brees throw a deep pass for Colston, but CB Ronde Barber made an excellent play to knock the ball out of Colston's hands incomplete. On third-and-10 at the 11, Brees was pressured and tossed a short pass incomplete. The Saints were flagged for holding on the play, but the Bucs declined the penalty. Pakulak blasted a 70-yard punt that sailed over Smith's head, but he fielded the punt on a bounce and returned it 42 yards, setting the Bucs up in New Orleans territory at the 39-yard line. * Dunn took a handoff up the middle on first down and picked up two. The Saints then brought pressure with a blitz on second down and were able to bring Garcia down for a six-yard sack. Facing third-and-14, Garcia dumped a short pass to Stevens, who was brought short of the first-down marker after gaining 11 yards. The Bucs elected to go for it on fourth-and-three, and Garcia made a play with his legs, scrambling up the middle for a huge gain of 20 yards and a first down, moving the Bucs into the red zone at the Saints' 12-yard line. Dunn lowered his shoulder and plowed ahead for a gain of six on first down, then Garcia scrambled to his left on second down for one more yard. The Saints then used their second timeout of the half, and the Bucs proceeded to use another timeout of their own after Garcia didn't like what he saw at the line of scrimmage. On third-and-four at the six, Garcia scrambled in the pocket and looked for a wide-open Clayton in the end zone, but his pass on the run sailed behind his target and fell incomplete, but Bryant's 24-yard field goal gave the Bucs a 6-3 lead. * WR Courtney Roby took the ensuing kickoff back to the Saints' 28-yard line. On first down, Brees had time in the pocket and found a wide-open Shockey for 14 yards as the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning. Brees' pass on first down was batted away incomplete by Barber, but Brees found a streaking Colston deep over the middle on the next play for a 37-yard gain, all the way to the Bucs' 21-yard line. Brooks very nearly intercepted Brees' pass on first down but was able to knock the ball away, and Bush then sprinted ahead for eight yards on second down. Facing third-and-two at the Bucs' 13-yard line with under a minute to go in the half, Brees eluded the pressure, scrambled to his right and lofted a pass to Moore for a touchdown. The extra point gave the Saints a 10-6 lead. * Hartley's kickoff bounced through the end zone for a touchback, setting the Bucs' offense up at their own 20. Garcia took a knee, sending the teams to the locker rooms with the Saints leading 10-6.