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Behind Brees, Saints beat Buccaneers

Nov 5, 2006 - 9:05 PM TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- Drew Brees made it look like a breeze.

Brees threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns as the surprising New Orleans Saints posted a 31-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Continuing to show he was one of the best signings of the offseason, Brees enjoyed his fourth 300-yard passing game of the year.

"I thought (he was) outstanding," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "He's always looking for that perfect game. He threw three touchdown passes. He made great decisions. He avoided some sacks at times. He played extremely well."

The latest performance for Brees came with relative ease as he dissected the Bucs' secondary and completed 24-of-32 passes without a turnover.

"We're right where we want to be," Brees said. "We want to get into these situations where we're winning and it continues to breed more winning."

Brees used his weapons on the outside, leading to big games for rookie Marques Colston and Devery Henderson.

Colston had 11 catches for 123 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown. Henderson had TD catches of 52 and 45 yards and finished with three receptions for 111 yards.

Brees was able to put up the big numbers despite the absence of veteran receiver Joe Horn due to a groin injury.

"I had an idea they were going to play a lot of man with single-safety zone, so I had an opportunity to make plays, especially with Joe being out," Colston said. "We figured they were going to load up the box and see if we can throw it on them."

Behind the play of their offense, the Saints (6-2) completed a season sweep of the Bucs and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South. New Orleans already has doubled its win total from last season.

"We came out and expected to win," Saints running back Deuce McAllister said. "The total record overall is good but it's another W."

Rookie Bruce Gradkowski threw touchdown passes of 46 and 17 yards to Joey Galloway for the Bucs (2-6), who surpassed their loss total from last season when they won the South.

"We didn't make enough plays," said Galloway, who had four catches for 97 yards. "They did what they wanted to on offense and they stopped us when we had the ball. It's going to be tough to win like that."

Brees started in impressive fashion, throwing touchdown passes of 15 yards to Colston and 52 yards to Henderson on the Saints' first two possessions.

"They get open and they can catch the ball," Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber said. "I give them credit for catching the ball when they are wide open. That's football."

On the Saints' third drive, John Carney kicked a 46-yard field goal for a 17-0 advantage.

The start was anything but pretty for the Bucs, who went three-and-out on their first six possessions. They picked up their initial first down with under five minutes left in the first half.

"Right now, we are not a juggernaut, offensively," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "I really have confidence that we are going to continue to get better.

But Gradkowski found Galloway for scores on the Bucs' final two possessions of the first half to cut the deficit to 17-14.

Gradkowski completed 18-of-31 passes for 185 yards without a turnover.

"I felt like we had the momentum going into halftime, we put together two nice drives," Gradkowski said. "We just needed to put together another drive in the third quarter. We just had spurts. We have to put together a full 60 minutes. We're going through some tough times right now."

However, the Saints re-established control in the third quarter.

McAllister scored on a three-yard run with 5:59 left in the period. With 33 seconds left, Brees found Henderson for a 45-yard score down the left side for a 31-14 cushion.

The Saints also shut down Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, holding him to 39 rushing yards on 12 attempts.

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