TAMPA, Fla. — The six-game suspension of New Orleans Saints interim coach Joe Vitt came to an end with the conclusion of Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Vitt traveled to Tampa on a commercial flight Sunday morning before the game, and accompanied the team on its charter flight back to New Orleans after a 35-28 victory over the Bucs in Raymond James Stadium.
Multiple media outlets reported that Vitt, who was suspended for his role in the alleged bounty scandal, would return with the team when his ban officially ended at the final whistle.
He regains the reins from offensive line coach and run game coordinator Aaron Kromer, who was the interim to the interim for the first six games.
Saints fullback Jed Collins tweeted: “Got a special guest on the plane ride home Welcome Back Coach Vitt!!!”
Brees and Brady
Drew Brees took advantage of the Bucs’ 31st-ranked defense Sunday when he threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, becoming the first quarterback to do that since Tom Brady in 2009.
The Bucs, who were torched for 510 yards by Eli Manning in a Week 2 loss to the New York Giants, went into Sunday’s game allowing 312.2 yards a game — which Brees topped in the first two quarters.
Breaking the streak
Despite their troubles, the Bucs hadn’t allowed a passing touchdown since Manning got them twice in the final quarter of that game on Sept. 16.
Their streak of 12 quarters came to an end when Brees teamed with Marques Colston for a 17-yard score in the first quarter, then went to Darren Sproles (9 yards), Joseph Morgan (48 yards) and David Thomas (20 yards) in the second period.
Colston moves up
Colston’s touchdown catch was the 53rd of his career, moving him into a tie for second on the club’s all-time list with former LSU star Dalton Hilliard.
Colston, a seven-year veteran who has five touchdowns in his past three games after being shut out in the first three games, is just two shy of Deuce McAllister’s franchise mark of 55 touchdowns set from 2001-08.
In an Oct. 7 win over San Diego, Colston broke Joe Horn’s club record for receiving touchdowns when he caught the 51st of his career.
Thomas, who started in place of an injured Jimmy Graham, honored his teammate after his TD reception with 15 seconds left in the first half.
Thomas ran to the goal post and executed a finger roll over the crossbar for Graham, a 6-foot-7 former basketball player who accentuates each touchdown catch he makes with a slam dunk over the bar.
Graham missed the game with a sprained right ankle.
In addition to Graham, the Saints’ inactives were WLB David Hawthorne (hamstring), RB Chris Ivory, DE Turk McBride, CB Elbert Mack, DT Tyrunn Walker, and T Bryce Harris. Among the Bucs inactives was former LSU linebacker Jacob Cutrera, who was promoted earlier this month from the practice squad.
Morgan was taken to the hospital after suffering a chest injury in the second half. Kromer said it was a precautionary measure, and Morgan was able to get back to the airport to accompany the team on its flight home and tweeted, “Sorry the team had to wait on me. lol. I’m all good.”
Brees’ four TD passes gave him 299 for his 12-year career. With one more, he’ll tie John Elway for sixth on the NFL’s all-time list. … Brees also extended two of his NFL-record streaks with a touchdown pass in his 49th straight games and now has 20 completions in 42 games in a row. … With their fourth consecutive win coming off a bye, the Saints are now 4-3 since Sean Payton took over in 2006. … The Bucs donned bright orange creamsicle jerseys, which are replicas of the uniforms they wore in their inaugural season in 1976, for the fourth straight season.