What it means: The NFC South race is closer than anticipated. The Saints had a chance to run away with it if they could have collected a third straight road victory. They didn’t. Tampa Bay played its most complete game of the season and earned this one. The Bucs and Saints each are now 4-2, and the Falcons are only a game behind them in the win column.
Play of the day: Tampa Bay linebacker Quincy Black intercepted Drew Brees in the end zone with three minutes and 16 seconds left to seal the victory for Tampa Bay. It’s not often you see Brees not succeed when the game is on the line.
Bizarre scene of the day: With the exception of Joe Paterno, you don’t see many coaches getting hit on the sideline. But New Orleans’ Sean Payton took a big shot in the first quarter. After catching a pass, tight end Jimmy Graham was forced out of bounds and collided with Payton. The coach spent much of the rest of the first half sitting on a bench with his leg elevated. He appeared to still be calling plays. At halftime, the Saints announced that Payton had a torn MCL and a fractured tibia. The team also said Payton would coach the second half in an upstairs booth with some of his assistants.
Who needs practice? Not Tampa Bay safety Tanard Jackson. He was reinstated Tuesday after being suspended for 56 weeks for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. He practiced Wednesday and Thursday, went through Friday’s light walk-through and got the start Sunday. Jackson intercepted a tipped Brees pass in the second quarter to give Tampa Bay’s offense good field position. Three plays later, the Bucs scored a touchdown to take a 20-7 lead.
What’s next: The Bucs play a “home’’ game with the Chicago Bears next Sunday at London’s Wembley Stadium. The Bucs will fly out Monday morning and spend the week practicing near London. The Saints host the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday night at the Superdome.