By FRED GOODALL AP Sports Writer
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Drew Brees threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns to lead the New Orleans Saints to a 34-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
The NFC South leaders (8-2) rebounded from a 26-9 loss to struggling Atlanta, with NFL receptions leader Michael Thomas becoming the first player in league history with 90-plus catches in the first 10 games of a season and Brees tossing TD passes of 16 yards to Thomas, 3 yards to Jared Cook and 6 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. after being held out of the end zone by the Falcons.
Safety Marcus Williams put an exclamation point on a strong defensive performance, returning the third of New Orleans’ four interceptions 55 yards for a touchdown that put the Saints up 34-17 with just over five minutes remaining.
Thomas had eight receptions for 114 yards, boosting his season totals to 94 catches for 1,141 yards. Alvin Kamara rushed for 73 yards on 13 attempts and had 10 receptions for 47 yards against a Tampa Bay defense ranked No. 1 against the run but dead last against the pass.
A battered Jameis Winston completed 30 of 51 passes for313 yards and two TDS for the Bucs (3-7), who have lost five of six following a 2-2 start. In addition to throwing four interceptions, Winston was sacked twice and pressured day by a relentless pass rush that left him hobbling across the field to try to make the tackle on Williams’ long interception return up the New Orleans sideline.
Brees, meanwhile, was 28 of 35 with no interceptions in his third start since returning from a thumb injury that sidelined him five games. The Saints outgained the Bucs 195 yards to 11 while building an early 20-0 lead, controlling the ball for 20 of the game’s first 25 minutes. An offensive line playing without injured guard Andrus Peat protected the 40-year-old quarterback, who was not sacked Sunday after Atlanta got to him six times the previous week.
Winston threw TD passes of 6 yards to Peyton Barber and 30 yards to Chris Godwin. Tampa Bay ran the ball just eight times for 36 yards, with Winston scrambling for a team-leading 23 on two attempts.
Saints: Played without CB Marshon Lattimore (hamstring) and LG Andrus Peat (forearm), who were injured during last week’s loss to Atlanta.
Buccaneers: OLB Carl Nassib (groin) missed his second straight game, replaced in the starting lineup by Jason Pierre-Paul.
Saints: Return home to host Carolina on Sunday, continuing stretch of four consecutive games against NFC South rivals.
Buccaneers: at Atlanta on Sunday.