Saints Pivotal Moments
1983 @Buccaneers: 70y INT Return Sparks Victory
The 4-3 Saints traveled to sunny Florida to meet the injury-riddled Tampa Bay Bucca­neers, who had not won any of their first seven games. Yet the Saints were considered only a three-point favorite as they sought to get to a 5-3 record for the first time in their 17-year history. The road team had won each of the five games in the Bucs-Saints series.
The Bucs' woes started in the offseason when QB Doug Williams and owner Hugh Culver­house could not agree on the extension of Doug's contract. So the former Grambling star sat out the 1983 season.
Bucs Jump in Front
The home team scored two first half touchdowns thanks to mistakes by the Saints' offense and special teams. Four of Tampa's six first-half possessions began inside Saints territory. And the deficit could have been worse, but the Bucs botched two field-goal tries because of high snaps.
The Saints received the opening kickoff and went backward. Their first possession started on the 20 and finished on the three. WR Lindsay Scott dropped a pass on first down. DT Lee Roy Selmon sacked QB Ken Stabler on second down, forcing a fumble that T Stan Brock recovered back on the three. On third down, Scott muffed another pass. So Russell Erxle­ben's booted 36y line-drive, end-over-end punt that Andre Tyler returned 16y to the NO 22.
Tampa Bay took six plays to score, with RB James Wilder going over from the two.
Bucs 7 Saints 0 (11:21)

L-R: Lindsay Scott, Ken Stabler, Russell Erxleben, George Rogers
The Saints managed two first downs on their second series to move into Tampa territory. But Stabler threw into double coverage, and rookie CB Jeremiah Castille, an Alabama product like Snake, intercepted on the Tampa 31 and returned it to pay dirt.
Bucs 14 Saints 0 (11:21)
Saints Score on a Lucky Bounce
The Saints snapped out of their offensive lethargy long enough to move 75y in 14 plays to cut the lead in half. Along the way, they converted two fourth downs. RB George Rogers gained three on fourth-and-one from the TB 30. Then Guido Merkens ran 16y to the five on a fake field goal. Rogers gained 3y but lost the ball. Fortunately, the pigskin squirted directly to G Kelvin Clark, who was lying on his back in the end zone. Bucs 14 Saints 7 (11:36 in sec­ond quarter)
Minutes later, NO FS Frank Wattelet intercepted Thompson's pass and returned 8y to the TB 23. But the Saints went backwards 10y in three plays. So Morten Anderson booted a 50y field goal.
Bucs 14 Saints 10 (9:51)

L-R: Guido Merkens, Kelvin Clark, Frank Wattelet, Morten Anderson
Bucs Extend Their Lead
The Bucs responded by driving 79y in 13 plays. Thompson went 7 of 9 on the drive for 70y including a 16y completion to TE Jimmie Giles on third-and-10. Wilder got the touchdown from the seven.
Bucs 21 Saints 10 (3:23)
Tampa would get two more chances to add to their lead before halftime but botched both.
First, Stabler threw into the hands of CB John Holt to put the Bucs in business at the NO 15. But a sack by LB Rickey Jackson back to the 21 brought on K Bill Capece, who clanged one off the crossbar from the 39.
But Snake had another interception up his sleeve. This one went to CB Mike Washington, who returned to the 33. But the Bucs went backwards again when NT Reggie Lewis sacked Thompson to force Tampa Bay's only punt of the first half.
Halftime score: Bucs 21 Saints 10
Saints Defense Makes Halftime Resolution
"We made up our mind that we had to score on defense because our offense was sputter­ing," said LB Dennis "Dirt" Winston. "Our linemen really started getting off the ball. They were putting pressure on the quarterback."
Taking advantage of a patchwork Bucs' offensive line, the Saints' front stunted on most plays, causing confusion on the offensive line and panic in the pocket.
"We just wanted to get back there," said NT Derland Moore. "It was something we had to do in order to win."
The result was a second half shutout, but would the Saints score enough to win?

L-R: Rickey Jackson, Reggie Lewis, Dennis Winston, Derland Moore
Saints Pull Closer
After forcing a three-and-out and the first of seven Bucs punts in the second half, the Saints marched 69y in 10 plays. Along the way, Rogers rambled for 13y, and Stabler hit rookie WR Eugene Goodlow for 8y on fourth-and-seven to keep the drive alive. Ken went back to Goodlow for the 12y scoring toss.
Bucs 21 Saints 17 (9:06)
Saints Defense Fulfills Its Vow
When the Saints got the ball back, Stabler threw his fourth–and last–pick to give Tampa the ball in NO territory again. But on third-and-10, Thompson rushed a throw to TE Jimmie Giles with Lewis in his face. Rookie DB Bobby Johnson broke on the ball, grabbed the inter­ception, and scurried 70y to put the Saints ahead for the first time.
Saints 24 Bucs 21 (0:50)
"I really don't think the quarterback saw me," Johnson explained as he clutched a game ball in the locker room. "I just jumped in front of (TE Giles), and the ball hit me in the hands. All I saw was nothing but sidelines. I just got happy running it back."
Thompson: "I thought Jimmie Giles had leverage on the corner. I guess he didn't."
Behind for the first time, the Tampa offense lost more confidence. "We were yelling, 'We're coming to get you' at him the whole second half," said Saints DE Bruce Clark. "He was throwing the ball in the flat and throwing screens to avoid the rush. It looked like he was doing everything he could to avoid us."
RB Wilder said, "In the second half, everybody started getting tight."
WR Kevin House agreed. "It was like we felt we couldn't make a first down."
The Saints didn't score again, but they didn't need to.
LB Rickey Jackson finally sealed the victory with an interception with 1:10 left. That allowed Stabler to take two snaps and genuflect twice to bleed the clock.
Tampa Bay's offensive totals in the second half: Points 0, first downs 1, turnovers 2, yards 30. No defense can play better than that.
The victory put the Saints in a tie for second in the NFC West with the Los Angeles Rams, both one game behind the San Francisco 49ers.
The 141y the Bucs gained for the game was a new Saints record–9y less than they had ever allowed. The Black & Gold defense also registered seven sacks as they held Tampa to just 30y of offense in the second half.
The Saints had six turnovers and could not have won against any other NFL team except the woeful Buccaneers.
Stabler, playing on two bad knees, understated the obvious. "Our defense has carried the team." He admitted he had a bad day: 12 for 29 for only 94y with four interceptions. "I just made two or three bad throws, and they came up with them. A couple of them (interceptions) were tipped. I misread the coverage on a couple of them. ... I just haven't played very well the last three weeks."
Coach Bum Phillips: "I'll take a win any way you can get it. I thought we played extremely hard on defense, as hard as any football team can play. We overcame quite a bit. In all fair­ness, though, the Bucs miss Doug Williams."
Asked about Stabler's performance, Bum replied, "I wasn't disappointed in him. I was disappointed we didn't hold onto the football. Heck, we dropped the things too darn many times from the beginning."
Thompson was downcast. "A quarterback on winning teams will throw an interception, and it doesn't seem to hurt. When I throw one, it always seems something bad happens. I can't explain it. A game like today, when we started so well, makes you feel like you took two steps forward and three steps backward."