Steve Walsh turned a rough beginning into a starring role in his first start of the season.
He converted key third-down plays on three scoring drives and passed for a fourth-quarter touchdown that helped seal a 23-7 victory for the New Orleans Saints over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Walsh started in place of Bobby Hebert, who has a bruised right shoulder, and completed 19 of 31 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown to help the Saints improve to 7-0. The Buccaneers fell to 1-6.
"I don't look at myself as a backup," Walsh said. "I started 11 ballgames last year, and I regard myself as a starter."
Both Saint touchdowns came after interceptions thrown by Chris Chandler.
Brett Maxie picked off a Chandler pass in the first quarter, and the Saints went 43 yards, scoring on a one-yard touchdown run by Gill Fenerty. Toi Cook intercepted a Chandler pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 18 yards to the Tampa Bay 11-yard line. Eric Martin, who had 75 yards on four receptions, scored on an eight-yard pass from Walsh.
"Steve had a couple of interceptions early when the receivers and the quarterback weren't on the same page," Martin said, "but that's something you can correct, and we will get it corrected."
Morten Andersen kicked field goals of 32, 28 and 48 yards before missing from 40--his second miss of the season in 19 attempts.
Frank Warren and Pat Swilling led a six-sack effort for the Saints, the league's top-ranked defense, with 2 1/2 sacks apiece.
"They can only hit you so hard, and then you don't feel it anymore," said Chandler, who completed 17 of 31 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown.
The Buccaneers' touchdown came on a five-yard pass from Chandler to fullback Robert Wilson during the third quarter. It was the first touchdown given up by the Saints in 18 quarters.