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3 things we learned about the Saints

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NEW ORLEANS — If it were up to No. 1 overall draft pick Jameis Winston, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback might have burned the videotape of his first NFL start, a two-interception, slap-in-the-face, blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans last week.

However, Winston exhibited an admirable dose of professional amnesia Sunday by calmly throwing for one touchdown and scrambling for another while leading the Buccaneers to a 26-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“Last year we only had two wins, so with this one we are halfway there already,” Winston said. “To get a victory on the road, in the division, it’s huge for us.”

Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said of Winston’s rocky debut, “Early on, you struggle sometimes. Normally, the biggest improvement that I’ve seen is from Week 1 to Week 2. We saw a lot of improvement from Jameis and everybody.”

Winston exhibited his mental toughness by completing 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards, including a 15-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Vincent Jackson just before halftime that put Tampa Bay (1-1) on top for good, 10-7.

3 things we learned about the Saints

1. Don’t look now, but the Saints may be in full rebuild mode after their third 0-2 start in four seasons. Quarterback Drew Brees is looking gun-shy behind porous protection, and the accumulation of hits to his throwing shoulder seems to have affected his velocity and deep ball. “I wouldn’t say there’s a big level of concern, mainly just disappointment in knowing that we have put ourselves in a little bit of a hole,” Brees said. “We can only win one game at a time, though, and that’s next week.”

2. The Saints used to be one of the most feared offenses in the league, but they lack the difference makers to be considered in that category this season. Brandin Cooks (5-62) is an excellent receiver, but he’s short and can’t become Brees’ security blanket in the red zone as tight end Jimmy Graham was for the previous four seasons.

3. The Saints have been penalized 17 times for 188 yards in the first two games, which is no way to make Sean Payton happy. “Too many pre-snaps,” Payton said. “We don’t know what we are doing. It just looks sloppy. That is coaching, and that starts with me. That will change or we will find someone who can do it right.”

Etc.

—QB Drew Brees completed only two passes longer than 20 yards all game and struggled to throw the ball downfield. “This is a marathon, and you’ve got to reiterate that to the young guys and make sure nobody is overreacting,” Brees said. “There’s a sense of urgency. The only way you can right the ship is by winning one game, and there’s no better place to do that than at Carolina next week.”

—P Thomas Morstead is normally the most consistent performer on the team next to Brees, but even he struggled Sunday, hitting four punts for a net average of 35.3 yards. A 38-yard punt from his end zone set up Tampa Bay at the Saints’ 40, leading to their first field goal.

—TE Benjamin Watson caught two passes for 12 yards and TE Josh Hill has one catch for two yards – quite a drop-off from the Jimmy Graham glory days.


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