John DeShazier | Senior Writer - NewOrleansSaints.com
A snapshot from the season opener barely would resemble the photo that will be presented Sunday.
When the New Orleans Saints (10-2) and Tampa Bay (5-7) play at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., neither team will be like the one that opened the regular season in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sept. 9, a 48-40 victory by the Buccaneers.
The Saints rocketed and became the hottest team in the league, winners of 10 straight before a loss to Dallas on Nov. 29, with major additions on offense (running back Mark Ingram’s return from suspension) and defense (the trade for cornerback Eli Apple). And defensively, after allowing that 48 in the opener, New Orleans has allowed a total of 51 points in the last four games.
The Bucs won their first two, against the defending NFC South Division champ (New Orleans) and the defending Super Bowl champ (Philadelphia), before posting three- and four-game losing streaks, firing defensive coordinator Mike Smith, and changing the starting quarterback three times – from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Jameis Winston, back to Fitzpatrick, and now back to Winston.
The three months between games seems more like three years. ...
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