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Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat New Orleans Saints 26-20, move into tie atop NFC South

TAMPA — As Bucs defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake found out, celebrating isn't always a happy thing.

Lake instructed Tampa Bay's secondary to be physical with Saints receivers Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. But when safety Tanard Jackson produced the first of three interceptions, Lake's jump didn't result in joy.

Instead, he landed awkwardly and tore his left patellar tendon.

That wasn't the biggest turnover — or worst injury to a coach — in the Bucs' 26-20 win, which left them tied atop the NFC South with New Orleans at 4-2.

On the Saints' third offensive play, tight end Jimmy Graham was shoved out of bounds after a short reception and rolled into coach Sean Payton's left leg, causing a torn MCL and broken tibia.

He spent the second half watching the game on television in the training room and turned play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.

"I would think it would affect them a little bit not having their play-caller to go to," Lake said. "I don't think you ever plan for your play-caller to go down."

Who knows what would have happened if Payton wore the headset when the Saints faced fourth and 2 from the Bucs 4 with 3:24 left in the game?

Drew Brees faked a handoff and rolled right, but his pass for Graham (who caught seven passes for 124 yards) in the back of the end zone was intercepted by linebacker Quincy Black.

"They had it all covered up pretty well," Brees said. "So I tried to scramble and got to a point where, hey, it's fourth down and throw it up and just didn't quite get it up high enough over the linebacker. It would've been a tight window. I just didn't put enough on it."

A week after looking hapless in a 48-3 loss at San Francisco, the Bucs played ball-hawking defense, producing three interceptions and a fumble recovery.

Meanwhile, the offense did just enough. Josh Freeman passed for 303 yards and touchdowns to Arrelious Benn (65 yards) and Preston Parker (19). Earnest Graham, filling in for the injured LeGarrette Blount, rushed for 109 yards on 17 carries and caught two passes for 22. And Connor Barth kicked field goals of 48, 42, 42 and 38 yards.

But the big story was the Bucs limiting the Saints to one touchdown and two field goals among four trips inside the red zone.

And Jackson's return from a one-year suspension.

Jackson was reinstated by the NFL on Tuesday, stepped in as a starter in practice Wednesday and on Sunday ran out of the tunnel during introductions carrying the Bucs flag.

He said his nerves went away after the Saints' first play. He finished with five tackles, an interception and a pass defensed while helping hold the Saints to 70 yards rushing. Jackson's pick came after receiver Devery Henderson deflected a Brees pass over his right shoulder.

"It's always great to make those plays," Jackson said. "But coming back from 56 weeks … to be able to come in and make a play like that and hear the crowd behind me, it's a great feeling."

Lake knew from his first meeting with Jackson on Tuesday that it would be a seamless transition despite no offseason or training camp.

"He's an unbelievable talent," Lake said. "When he first came back, we started going through our defenses and he was finishing my sentences. He's an instinctive football player and a play-maker."

Lake instructed Jackson to rough up the Saints receivers, and it worked. E.J. Biggers and Elbert Mack were called for pass interference penalties, but New Orleans' wideouts short-armed a few passes and dropped others while Jackson, Biggers and Black had interceptions.

"They play a fastbreak, basketball-type of offense, and to (defend) that, you've got to hit these guys," Lake said. "We talked about being physical with the receivers, being physical with the tight ends … knocking these guys around. It's a credit to our guys getting after them and our DBs just playing physical."

Lake won't be jumping for joy any time soon. He said he will accompany the Bucs to London for Sunday's game against the Bears and have surgery during the ensuing bye week. Payton is scheduled for surgery today.

Lake finished the game upstairs in the coaches' box. Leaning on crutches in the locker room after the game, he celebrated another small victory over Payton and the Saints.

"He didn't come back," Lake said of Payton. "I came back."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat New Orleans Saints 26-20, move into tie atop NFC South 10/16/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 17, 2011 1:29am]

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