NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore caused Tampa Bay's second-ranked passing game so much frustration that several Buccaneers lost their composure.
New Orleans rookie running back Alvin Kamara stirred the Superdome into a frenzy by turning a short catch into a serpentine, tackle-escaping touchdown.
These first-place Saints, winners of six straight, look nothing like the club that languished at .500 or below throughout the previous three seasons. A pair of 2017 draft choices are a big reason why.
Kamara had 152 yards total yards and two touchdowns, Lattimore helped hold Tampa Bay's standout receiving tandem of Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson to three catches for 38 yards, and the Saints routed the reeling Buccaneers 30-10 on Sunday.
Lattimore also was in the middle of a brief scuffle along the Tampa Bay sideline , and said later of the Buccaneers, "I could tell they were frustrated."
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who completed 81.2 percent of his passes (22 of 27) for 263 yards and two touchdowns, had strong praise for Kamara.
"Alvin's doing a lot of good things. He's very versatile," Brees said. "He can be in the game in any moment."
The Buccaneers (2-6) were trying to stem a four-game skid, but instead were not just beaten, but beaten up. Quarterback Jameis Winston left with shoulder soreness after the first half. Starting defensive end William Gholston was carted off the field with a neck injury. And tensions boiled over when Winston, after he had left the game, appeared to instigate the scuffle along the sideline.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said he was "embarrassed," and hoped Bucs players were, too.
Winston said he didn't want leave the game and that his status for next week was unclear, but the quarterback also criticized his recent play.
"I know I'm not doing my job, so I have to do a better job," said Winston, who was 7 for 13 for 67 yards. "Everyone needs to do a better job."
Brees' touchdowns went for 33 yards to Kamara and 36 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. Kamara, who had six catches for 84 yards, also scored on a 6-yard run.
Kamara caught four passes on the drive that ended with his long touchdown on a screen pass .
"I'm just trying to bob and weave and get in the end zone," Kamara said. "I was smelling it."
New Orleans also got pressure in the backfield, finishing with four sacks. Cameron Jordan had 1 1-2 sacks.
Tight end Luke Stocker scored the lone touchdown for Tampa Bay on a pass from backup Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The scuffle erupted in the third quarter and was ignited when Winston vigorously pressed his finger into the back of Lattimore's helmet during a dead-ball period between a failed third-down pass and a punt.
"I told him to go to his sideline," Winston said.
Lattimore turned and shoved Winston, after which Evans leveled Lattimore from behind.
"I'm going to protect my quarterback no matter what, but I shouldn't have done that. That was kind of malicious. I shouldn't have hit him in his back like that," said Evans, who also called his own behavior childish and unprofessional. "I should have just shoved him away trying to break it up."
Saints defensive back De'Vante Harris then came charging into the melee to defend Lattimore. As the scuffle was broken up, Saints coach Sean Payton marched halfway across the field, gesturing angrily at the Tampa Bay bench before officials chased him back to the Saints' sideline.
The score was 30-3 at the time. Evans was called for unnecessary roughness. Payton said he thought Evans should have been ejected, but Lattimore said he was glad Evans stayed in the game.
"I wanted to go at him after that," Lattimore said, comparing his coverage of Evans to "a fight after that every play."
"It's bigger than football at that point when you do something like that," Lattimore added.
Justin Hardee's touchdown came on the first of two blocks on consecutive snaps.
Hardee, an undrafted rookie, said there appeared to be a missed blocking assignment, which allowed him to come in clean up the middle for a smothering block on punter Bryan Anger. The ball then bounced high and behind Anger, allowing Hardee to run under it practically in stride and glide into the end zone for a 7-yard score.
The Bucs' Ryan Smith then blocked Wil Lutz' extra point, leaving New Orleans with a 9-0 lead.
Buccaneers: In addition to Winston's and Gholston's injuries, left tackle Donovan Smith went out with a knee injury.
Saints: Left tackle Terron Armstead took himself out of the game with a chest injury late in the first half, but said after the game that he was hurt on his first play and tried to play through it. In the third quarter, the Saints announced safety Kenny Vaccaro was out with a groin injury.
Buccaneers: Host the New York Jets on Sunday.
Saints: Visit the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
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Posted on Mon, November 6, 2017
by By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer