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Brees throws four TD passes, Saints rout Brady, Buccaneers – TSN

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TAMPA, Fla. — Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady, and the battle for supremacy of the NFC South, was a one-sided affair.

Brees threw for 222 yards and four touchdowns, regaining the NFL career TD pass lead and lifting the New Orleans Saints into first place with a 38-3 rout of Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night.

The three-time defending division champion won their fifth straight game, intercepting Brady three times and completing a season sweep of the Bucs (6-3), who also suffered a double-digit loss at New Orleans in Week 1.

“Each time you can win and find different ways to win, I think it just builds confidence and creates momentum,” Brees said.

“Obviously, tonight was a great night,” he added. “All the way around, in all three phases, it was pretty exceptional.”

The Saints (6-2) weren’t perfect — turning the ball over twice themselves — however the offence was extremely efficient with receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders back in the lineup, and the defence played its best game of the season.

Brees was 26 of 32 passing, including first-half TD throws of 14 yards to Tre’Quan Smith, 8 yards to Adam Trautman and 12 yards to Sanders, who missed the previous two games while on the COVID-19 list. The 41-year-old added a 3-yarder to Josh Hill to make it 38-0 with just over nine minutes remaining.

“We knew this was a big game, divisional opponent, Tampa’s playing extremely well,” said Brees, who lost a fumble on Tampa Bay’s only sack but did not throw an interception.

“Obviously we’ve been a little short-handed over last few weeks … Tonight, it was good to get everybody back, get them back in the mix,” Brees added. “We wanted the spread the ball around, we wanted to play complementary football. I can’t say enough about our defence, they just played phenomenal.”

Brees regained the league career TD pass lead with 564, three more than the 43-year-old Brady, who had thrown for 17 touchdowns and just one interception over his previous six games. The Saints intercepted Brady twice in a 34-23 season-opening win, with Janoris Jenkins returning one for a TD.

Defensive Tackle David Onyemata and safeties Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins picked off Brady this time — the last on a throw the six-time Super Bowl threw wildly into the middle of the field as scrambled to avoid a relentless pass rush.

“We didn’t play well in any phase of the game,” Brady said.

“Everyone’s got to do a lot better,” the Bucs quarterback added, “and it starts with me.”

Brady was sacked three times and finished 22 of 38 for 209 yards, including three completions for 31 yards to Antonio Brown, who made his debut for Tampa Bay in his return from an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

The Bucs ran the ball just five times, including Blaine Gabbert‘s kneel-down on the final snap of the night.

The Saints scored on five of their first six possessions to build a 31-0 halftime lead, and the Bucs were fortunate the biggest first-half deficit of Brady’s career wasn’t larger.

Jared Cook fumbled at the Bucs 2 with the Saints looking to build on an early 7-0 lead. But with Tampa Bay’s offence sputtering and one of the league’s stingiest defences unable to slow down Brees, New Orleans pressed on.

“That’s the most complete game we’ve played … It’s poetry in motion when we get going like that,” Saints running back Alvin Kamara said.

Brady’s first interception, ending a Bucs franchise-record streak of 200 consecutive pass attempts without a pick, led to Kamara’s 1-yard TD run that made it 28-0 midway through the second quarter.

The Saints outgained the Bucs 241 yards to 36 up to that point. They added Will Lutz’s 36-yard field goal and a second interception, with Marcus Williams snaring a deep throw intended for Brown in the closing minutes of the opening half.

Tampa Bay avoided a shutout with Ryan Succop‘s 48-yard field goal with 5:52 remaining.

Arians was asked why, with the Bucs trailing by 38 points, he kept Brady in the game in the face of a strong pass rush.

“To get points on the board,” Arians said. “He’s the quarterback.”

Gabbert replaced Brady at the end after the Saints turned the ball over on downs with former Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston filling in for Brees in the final minute.

BRADY/BREES

Brees and Brady, who also rank first and second on the career passing yards list, met for only the seventh time. Brees holds a 5-2 edge in the matchups.

The two chatted briefly on the field after the game.

“We’ve been playing against each other for 22 years? So, there’s obviously a lot of respect there,” Brees said.

“Throughout our careers I think what we both say is just how grateful we are to have this opportunity to play this great game,” Brees added, “to play as long as we’ve been able to play it, play with so many great teams, great coaches, great players. So, just thankful for that.”

RUNNING IN PLACE

Tampa Bay set an NFL record with just five rushing attempts in a 38-3 loss to New Orleans, and that includes backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s kneel-down on the final snap of the night. Ronald Jones ran three times for 9 yards, Leonard Fournette had one carry for no gain, and Gabbert lost a yard to give Tampa Bay 8 yards rushing for the game. The previous record for fewest runs was six, set four times previously and most recently by Minnesota against Buffalo in 2018.

INJURIES

Saints: WR Michael Thomas played for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain during the Saints’ season-opening win over the Bucs. He finished with five receptions for 51 yards.

Buccaneers: WR Chris Godwin (three catches, 41 yards) returned after missing one game with a broken right index finger. … LG Ali Marpet (concussion) was inactive. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Joe Haeg.

UP NEXT

Saints: 49ers at home on Sunday.

Buccaneers: at Carolina on Sunday.

___

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New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job

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The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.

The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.

A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.

Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.

He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.

He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.

The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.

The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.

Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.

–Field Level Media

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NHL wants answer on Canada border crossing soon

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The NHL has asked the Canadian government for a decision by June 1 about U.S. teams crossing the border during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, ESPN reported Friday.

 

The Canadian teams played only each other during the 2020-21 season in a revamped North Division because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that will continue during the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s what happens after that — in the semifinals and finals — that is up in the air.

 

“The conversations are ongoing. We’ve told them we really do need to know by the end of the first round, and that’s around June 1,” Steve Mayer, the league’s chief content officer, told ESPN. “That’s pretty much the date that we’ve talked to them about, saying we have to know one way or another.”

 

Last season, the playoffs were held in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto.

 

Under current rules, American-based teams couldn’t play in Canada without mandatory quarantines, which would make travel for home-and-away games impossible under the playoff calendar.

 

The NHL and government representatives last talked a week ago, and the Canadian officials submitted a variety of questions for the league’s response.

 

In the interim, Mayer said, the league has discussed the possibility of the Canadian team that advances from the North Division being based in the U.S. for the duration of the postseason. Talks have occurred with officials at NHL arenas where teams didn’t qualify for the playoffs.

 

An NHL source told ESPN this week that the league expects “a positive resolution” to the issue, however.

 

–Field Level Media

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Canada to play 2 more home World Cup qualifiers in U.S.

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As Canada continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s national soccer team will play two more of its home World Cup qualifying matches south of the border in June.

Canada will face Aruba in Bradenton, Fla., on June 5, and will take on Suriname in suburban Chicago on June 8, Canada Soccer confirmed Monday.

The games are Canada‘s last two of four matches in CONCACAF Group B. A March 26 Canadian home match against Bermuda was held in Orlando, Fla., which Canada won 5-1. Also, the Caymen Islands were the host team on March 29, when Canada rolled, 11-0.

Only one national team advances to the next round, and Canada and Suriname top the group and the game against Suriname in Bridgeview, Ill., figures to be the deciding match in both teams’ efforts to advance.

Thirty nations from Central and North America are competing in this first round with six group winners advancing to a second round of head-to-head knockout matches for the right to compete in the CONCACAF final round of eight teams competing for four places in the 2022 World Cup. A fifth team from CONCACAF advances to an intercontinental play-in round.

As was executed in Orlando, the match in Chicago will be staged in accordance with the FIFA International Match Protocols supported by the relevant public health requirements.

“We had hoped to play these matches at home with Canadian fans providing the support and momentum to play a tough nation like Suriname in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” said John Herdman, coach of the Canadian men’s national team. “The reality of the global pandemic and the priority to keep our communities in Canada safe means the match will be played at a neutral site in Chicago with no home advantage, but we will embrace that challenge.

“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round.”

-Field Level Media

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