Saints keep on climbing

Drew Brees and the Saints made easy work of the Raiders on Sunday. (REUTERS)

Drew Brees and the Saints made easy work of the Raiders on Sunday. (REUTERS)

Rob Longley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:31 PM ET

The trap was set for the New Orleans Saints, but they didn’t take the bait.

With four wins in their previous five games to erase the bad taste of an awful start to the season, Drew Brees and Co. headed into the Black Hole of Oakland with what certainly had the scent of an easy win over the struggling Raiders.

But because of their own early struggles, the Saints didn’t have the luxury of taking any opponent lightly, even a slumping Raiders team banged up with injury.

Instead, the Saints jumped on Oakland early and never let up, cruising to a blowout 38-17 victory over the Raiders, who have now tumbled to 3-7.

The Saints have now won 14 in a row in November and have moved to 5-5 and on the fringes of what promises to be a fierce race for NFC wild-card playoff spots.

With some help from a defence that forced a pair of turnovers, Brees had a big afternoon, completing 20 of 27 pass attempts for 219 yards and three touchdowns. Raiders counterpart Carson Palmer, meanwhile, was picked off twice including one returned for a touchdown by the Saints’ Malcolm Jenkins.

Out of the Black Hole, the Saints have now dug themselves out of an 0-4 hole to start the season, a slide brought on in part from the after affects of Bountygate. Winning against the Raiders was essential if the Saints planned to stick around in the playoff hunt given they have games against the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons the next two weeks.

Bucs look like money

At what point do we need to start taking the Tampa Bay Bucs seriously?

How about now?

After an unlikely win the team’s official twitter feed called the most incredible victory in the 37-year history of the franchise, the Bucs escaped Charlotte with a 27-21 overtime win over the hard-luck and struggling Carolina Panthers.

Trailing 21-10 with less than five minutes remaining, Panthers quarterback Josh Freeman went to work. He led his team to a field goal, touchdown with two-point conversion and finally a 15-yard TD pass to Dallas Clark in overtime to swipe it.

When the smoke cleared, the upstart Bucs had won their fourth in a row and move into the stretch with a 6-4 record.

“The fight in our team, the resilience, the belief in all the training they’ve done,” was first-year coach Greg Schiano’s explanation when asked by reporters how his team pulled off the unlikely comeback.

When Panthers quarterback Cam Newton converted a 29-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell with six minutes left, Carolina led by 11 points and seemed headed for their third win of the season.

On the game-tieing touchdown, Freeman executed an 80-yard drive in 50 seconds to force the extra period.

The drive was capped with a 24-yard TD toss to Vincent Jackson, who was triple covered. And rather than hand the ball to rookie running back Doug Martin, Freeman went back to Jackson for the two-point conversion.

It was another gutting defeat for Newton and the Panthers, who have now lost five times in games they’ve held a lead into the fourth quarter.

Martin was a major factor in the win as he keeps himself in the picture for being named the NFL’s top offensive rookie. Martin smashed through 1,000 rushing yards on the season on a 138-yard day, including 48 in overtime.

While the Bucs have been impressive to this point, the next two weeks will tell us how seriously they can be considered with a home game to Atlanta followed by a trip west to face Denver.

Chiefs mauled

How bad have things been for the woeful Kansas City Chiefs this season?

Heading into Sunday’s blowout home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, running back Jamaal Charles didn’t even know how many games in a row his team had lost.

After another non-competitive effort, you can make it seven, Jamaal.

The Bengals, hardly a fearsome force on the road, came into Arrowhead Stadium and throttled the Chiefs, 28-6.

The Bengals, meanwhile, were one of several 4-5 teams looking to fight there weay back into playoff contention. A week ago, they snapped a four-game losing streak with a win against the New York Giants and now are headed in the right direction.

Against the Bengals, it didn’t take much.

Played before a restless Arrowhead Stadium crowd — the stadium was barely half full for much of the game — the Chiefs did little to breathe life back into the reeling organization. As part of an organized protest, many in the crowd were dressed in black, a movement designed to push team ownership into cleaning out the front office a team that has been outscored by an average of more than two touchdowns.

“I focus on the game,” a grumpy sounding Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. “I don’t get into the crowd.”

Nor does his 1-9 team give them much to get excited about.

Quarterback Matt Cassel, the whipping boy for fans much of the season, was replaced after going 8 for 16 and 93 yards on the Chiefs’ first seven possessions. Brady Quinn took over early in the third quarter and did nothing to improve their offensive fortunes.

The Bengals have now moved to 5-5 and at least in the conversation for an AFC wild-card playoff spot.

 

 


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