TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Drew Brees was sacked four times, knocked around a bunch more and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Still, the New Orleans quarterback found a way to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers again.
Garrett Hartley kicked a 27-yard field goal as time expired to give the Saints a weather-delayed 16-14 victory and their fourth consecutive win over their NFC South rivals on Sunday.
Brees shrugged off the mistake that gave Tampa Bay the lead early in the fourth quarter to complete three straight passes for 54 yards to lead the Saints (2-0) into position to win.
He finished 26 of 46 for 322 yards, although interceptions by linebackers Dekoda Watson and Mason Foster led to all of Tampa Bay’s points.
The game was interrupted by a 69-minute suspension of play because of lightning that sent fans at Raymond James Stadium scurrying for cover early in the first quarter.
The Bucs (0-2) lost on a field goal in the closing seconds for the second straight week. Foster scored on an 85-yard interception return for a 14-13 lead.
However, Rian Lindell missed a 46-yard field goal attempt just over a minute later, giving Brees one more chance to bring the Saints back.
Brees led his team into scoring position with completions of 15 yards to Jimmy Graham, 8 yards to Darren Sproles and 31 yards to Marques Colston.
It was the 22nd time during the regular season Brees has led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.
The Bucs played resilient defense to stay in the game, but in the end weren’t able to generate enough offense.
Brees threw a 56-yard TD pass to Graham, who finished with 10 receptions for 179 yards.
Hartley kicked a 44-yard field goal in the first quarter, but the Saints wasted a couple of other opportunities.
The Bucs were penalized 13 times for 102 yards during a season-opening 18-17 loss to the New York Jets, including three costly personal fouls — the last of which set up the Jets’ game-winning field goal in the closing seconds. They had three more penalties for hard hits in the second quarter Sunday.
End Adrian Clayborn was assessed an unnecessary roughness penalty a hard hit on Brees, safety Dashon Goldson was flagged for a blow to the head on Sproles two plays later, and safety Ahmad Black later was called for what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit on Graham on an incompletion down the middle off the field.
The game was stopped with 10:30 remaining in the first quarter after Hartley kicked a 44-yard field goal to give the Saints a 3-0 lead and the ensuing kickoff resulted in a touchback.
The teams jogged off the field after game officials huddled and made the decision to suspend play.
Once players and coaches were given the OK to return to the field, the teams were given 10 minutes to warm up.
Brees had completions of 15 and 13 yards to Colston and 21 yards to Graham to set up Hartley’s early field goal.
When play resumed, his first pass was intercepted by Watson at the Saints 35 to set up Josh Freeman’s 5-yard TD pass to Kevin Ogletree for a 7-3 lead for Tampa Bay.
A missed defensive assignment left Graham wide open on his TD reception that put the Saints up 10-7. The tight end’s eighth reception of the opening half gave New Orleans a first down inside the Bucs 1, however Brees couldn’t get his team into the end zone.
The Saints initially settled for what would have been a 20-yard field goal for a six-point halftime after an incompletion and pair of runs left them with a fourth-and-goal at the 2.
When an offside penalty moved the ball to the 1, coach Sean Payton took the points off the scoreboard and elected to try to push the lead to 10.
Mark Ingram was stopped for no gain, leaving the Saints to go into locker room ahead just 10-7.
Freeman completed 9 of 22 passes for 125 yards. Doug Martin rushed for 144 yards on 29 carries for Tampa Bay.
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