• 46°

Bucs, Saints collide with first place on line in NFC South

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees won’t be the only compelling storyline when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints clash with first place on the line in the NFC South.

The NFL career passing leaders meet for the seventh time Sunday night, with Brady (561) and Brees (560) ranking first and second on the touchdown passes list after exchanging the lead three times in the past two weeks.

The Bucs (6-2) have won three straight, six of seven since losing to Brees in Week 1.

The three-time defending division champion Saints (5-2) have won four in a row to stay on the heels of Brady, Tampa Bay’s ever-expanding collection of offensive playmakers and a defense that has emerged as one of the best in the league.

Brees, 41, called the TD pass race “pretty cool” while stressing what’s more important is winning and regaining the division lead.

“Speaking for myself, I’m just laser focused on the job that is right in front of me, and the opportunity that we have this week,” the Saints quarterback said.

Brady, 43, also had little to say about the uniqueness of him and Brees chasing history at the same time.

Brees took over the top spot with two TD passes in an overtime win over Chicago last Sunday. Brady reclaimed the lead with a pair of scoring passes against the New York Giants on Monday night.

“We’ve both been around for quite a while. He’s a great quarterback,” said Brady, second in career yards passing behind Brees with 76,760.

“I have a lot of respect for him as a player, as a person, and we’re both closer to the end than we are to the beginning,” Brady added. “I think we both still enjoy being out there on the field with our teammates playing and competing, and it’s going to be a very competitive game Sunday night.”

The primetime matchup will also feature Antonio Brown’s debut with the Bucs.

The four-time All Pro receiver signed with Tampa Bay last week and is coming off an eight-game suspension for multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

He’s the latest big-name addition the Bucs have made on offense since signing Brady in free agency, joining Rob Gronkowski, LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette.

“I’m just excited to put my hand in the pile. There are so many great guys here,” Brown said.

“I’m just super grateful for this opportunity and … excited to fit in and do what’s best for us to win,” Brown added. “Whatever that entails.”

GETTING IT DONE

Brady is off to a terrific start, throwing for 2,198 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has tossed 17 TD passes vs. one interception over the past six games.

Brees is coming off a 280-yard, two-touchdown, zero-interceptions game against Chicago. In one fewer game than Brady, he has thrown for 1,898 yards, 13 TDs and three interceptions.

Bucs coach Bruce Arians was asked what his defense has to do disrupt Brees on Sunday night.

“Knock him down a few times. That always helps,” Arians said. “None of them – especially the older guys – like getting knocked down. We’ve got to pressure him, get him off his spot and have really good, tight coverage.”

BRACING FOR BROWN

Saints coach Sean Payton is well aware of how difficult Brown can be on a defense. When the Saints edged out the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-28 in the Superdome in 2018, Brown was arguably the best player on the field. The Saints couldn’t stay with him, and he finished with 14 catches for 185 yards and two TDs.

Payton said one of the big challenges Brown presents is his explosiveness. So, limiting his catches most of the game could be undone by “one big play at the wrong time.”

Payton added that “it doesn’t require 11 catches” for Brown to have a significant effect on a game.

RUN STUFFERS

While both teams have viable running games, both defenses are stout against the run. The Buccaneers rank first in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 70.4 yards per game. The Saints rank third, allowing 90.6 yards per game.

“There’s 32 teams that will say, ‘We want to stop the run,’ right? That’s just a fact, everyone is going to say that,” Payton said. “And yet, they’ve been able to back that up year after year.”

Meanwhile, the Saints could be short-handed in the interior of their defensive line. Starting defensive tackle Shedone Rankins, a 2015 first-round draft choice, hurt his knee last Sunday in Chicago. It’s not yet clear when he’ll be ready to return.

 

News

Rep. Sam C. Mims, V, Awarded State Legislator of the Year by Rural Health Association

DEVELOPING NEWS

Natchez mayor announces change in Christmas parade plans after COVID-19 numbers spike

News

Bird’s-eye view: Artist with Natchez roots gives creations new perspective

News

Hundreds turnout for Natchez Christmas tree lighting Saturday night

BREAKING NEWS

Natchez-Adams schools to continue virtual learning only through December

News

E-911: Seconds can seem like minutes in emergencies (with audio)

COVID-19

Hospital CEO tests positive for COVID-19 as local cases rise

BREAKING NEWS

Flash flood warning issued for parts of Natchez

News

Hospitals using antibody therapy to help fight virus

News

Stewpot serves 300 Thanksgiving meals thanks to generous donations

News

Trash collection one day behind schedule for Thanksgiving

News

Ferriday man sentenced to life for 2019 slaying of Natchez schoolteacher

Business

Mayor: Silver Street raising and dock plans moving forward

News

Tree lighting event is Saturday in Natchez

News

Former Natchez Alderman David Massey dies at 72

News

Stewpot ready to serve needy on Thanksgiving

News

Saturday high-speed chase began in Louisiana, ended with crash in Natchez

News

No print edition of The Democrat on Friday

News

Natchez school board cancels bid opening for new high school due to COVID-19

News

5 Miss-Lou residents die of COVID-19 over weekend

News

Remains found in Natchez neighborhood

News

The Dart: Natchez resident loves music

News

Coroner: A Natchez woman dies with COVID-19 Sunday

DEVELOPING NEWS

Suspect in high-speed vehicle chase arrested in Natchez