On what I figure to be the north end zone in Raymond James Stadium is a mock pirate ship that the Tampa Bay organization rents to corporate sponsors. According to a staffer at the stadium, there really isn't anything inside of it. Just a place for people to hang out, throw Mardi Gras beads (how original) and blast t-shirts from a launcher.
There's also a cannon that fires every time the Buccaneers score.
On Sunday, the Saints largely silenced the Bucs' guns as the Black and Gold offense stayed on the field and the defense (aided by two Buccaneer missed field goals) kept the home team in check.
Though not nearly as opportunistic as last season's ball-hawk secondary, the 2010 Saints defense has improved greatly in stopping the run, though they haven't made much progress in terms of sacking opposing quarterbacks.
The Black and Gold offense started to finally resemble the powerhouse squad that wowed the league under head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, scoring the most points of the 2010 regular season and combined with the defense's play, finally covered the spread.
But the real star of the game was undrafted rookie running back Chris Ivory, who went from practice squad potential to starting running back as the next four people ahead of him went down with injuries starting with the first pre-season road trip.
Ivory racked up an amazing 158 yards on the ground on 15 carries, including a long of 33 yards.
But the day was not all roses for the unheralded, yet now much loved Tiffin product. Ivory coughed up the ball on a fumble for the third time in four games. Fortunately the ball went out of bounds and the Saints did not lose possession.
Despite his challenges with ball control, the quick yet hard-running Ivory is a shoo-in to remain on the 53-man roster when fellow running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush return to good health. However, a good run is quickly negated by a fumble and his shaky hands don't inspire a whole of confidence in key situations.
A player whose job appeared secure going into this game was kicker Garrett Hartley, who had spent the past two games in "Time-Out" as veteran kicker John Carney returned to the team to temporarily assume field goal and extra point duties.
After making a 27-yard field goal in the second quarter, Hartley missed wide-left a 33 yard field goal. He made all of his extra-point attempts, which there were many thanks to Brees finding the end zone three times.
The Saints did themselves a huge favor with the big win, even if against a subpar team....after all didn't the Saints lose to a sub-par team the week before?
The Black and Gold now has the same record as the Dirty Birds in the NFC South, though Atlanta has the tie-breaker until the Saints get a chance to even things on Monday Night Football after Christmas.
Conference wins are big; divisional wins are critical. Hopefully this was the game that helps set the tone for establishing the type of play for the remainder of the season.