By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New Orleans’ defense gave Tom Brady fits again, shutting down Tampa Bay’s high-powered offense Sunday night as the Saints put the Buccaneers’ division-title celebration plans on hold with a 9-0 victory over the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Despite playing without coach Sean Payton on the sideline, the Saints (7-7) beat the Bucs (10-4) for the seventh straight time during the regular season — fourth since Brady left New England for Tampa Bay in 2020.
The victory gave New Orleans a sweep of the season series between the NFC South rivals and boosted the Saints into playoff position. It also forced Tampa Bay to wait at least one another week to clinch its first division crown since 2007.
The Bucs, who did win a playoff game at New Orleans last January en route to winning the Super Bowl, lead the division by three games with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
With defensive coordinator Dennis Allen standing in for Payton, who missed the game after testing positive for COVID-19, the Saints stymied the NFL’s No. 1 passing and scoring offense and ended Brady’s streak of 255 consecutive starts without being shut out.
Brady leads the NFL in completions, attempts, yards passing and touchdown passes, but was just 26 of 48 for 213 yards and one interception — the eighth he’s thrown in four regular-season games against the Saints, who didn’t have any turnovers Sunday night.
Taysom Hill, meanwhile, was 13 of 27 for 154 yards and no interceptions for New Orleans, which also got field goals of 39, 35 and 42 yards from Brett Maher.
The Saints have won the NFC South every year since 2017, and despite losing star quarterback Drew Brees to retirement and his successor, Jameis Winston, to a season-ending knee injury, they’re not relinquishing the crown without a fight.
Trevor Siemian came off the bench to replace Winston and lead New Orleans to a 36-27 victory in the first meeting between the fierce rivals on Oct. 31. Brady threw for 375 yards and two TDs in that one, but also lost a fumble and had one of his two interceptions returned for a touchdown in the loss.
This time, the Saints defense sacked Brady four times, forced a fumble by the 44-year-old quarterback that ruined Tampa Bay’s best scoring opportunity in the second half, and also intercepted the seven-time Super Bowl winner once.
Saints: Played without LT Terron Armstead and RT Ryan Ramszyk, both out with knee injuries.
Buccaneers: S Jordan Whitehead returned to the lineup after missing two games, but S Antoine Winfield Jr. (foot), CB Jamel Dean (illness) and CB Richard Sherman (Achilles) were inactive. … WRs Chris Godwin (knee) and Mike Evans (hamstring) left in the second quarter, Godwin after taking a hard hit from Saints CB P.J. Williams. Neither receiver returned to the game. … RB Leonard Fournette (hamstring) departed in the third quarter.
Saints: Host the Miami Dolphins next Monday night.
Buccaneers: Travel to Carolina for the first of two games the defending champs will play against the Panthers in the final three weeks of the regular season.
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