BATON ROUGE, La. – Ronde Barber made Aaron Brooks’ success of a week ago look like a brief aberration.

Barber intercepted Brooks three times and Chris Simms hit Joey Galloway for the only touchdown Tampa Bay needed for the Buccaneers to beat the Saints 10-3 on Sunday.

On New Orleans’ final drive, Brooks threw for the end zone on what could have been a game-tying score when Barber picked off the pass.

Coming off one of his best outings of the season in a victory over the Jets a week earlier, Brooks suffered through one of his worst games against Tampa Bay (8-4), throwing four interceptions, all in Tampa Bay territory.

On all three of his interceptions, Baber appeared to read Brooks’ intentions early and cut underneath the intended receiver. He also stopped the Saints’ first scoring threat of the game when he stepped in front of a pass on the Tampa Bay 16-yard line and returned it 42 yards. Tampa Bay could not take advantage of that play as the ensuing drive ended with a blocked field goal.

Barber’s second interception, which came on an underthrown deep pass into double coverage, set up the game’s only touchdown.

Five plays later, Simms hit Galloway on an inside route and the receiver cut back outside for a 30-yard score. It was the highlight of an otherwise unspectacular day for Simms, who was 12-of-21 for 123 yards.

With a number of slippery moves and second-effort gains, Carnell Williams managed 96 yards, but the Saints defense never folded and generally frustrated the Bucs with an array of line stunts and blitzes. It was for naught, however, because of Tampa Bay’s clutch stops against New Orleans.

The Saints (3-9) gained 65 yards on the ground. Brooks finished 18-of-34 for 215 yards, which might have done the job had not he been so erratic.

For an announced crowd of 34,411, it was another day of frustration as the Saints failed to capture their first victory in Louisiana this season. Including the preseason, they have played five times in the state, three in Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina forced the team to relocate its headquarters to San Antonio.

New Orleans’ only score of the game came late in the first half as John Carney’s 26-yard field goal cut the Bucs’ lead to 7-3. The score was set up by Aaron Stecker’s 41 yard gain on a screen pass to the Tampa Bay 25. Louisiana’s football-savvy fans, aware of the Saints’ struggles on screens this season, responded with a sustained standing applause.

The Buccaneers had a chance to take a two-score lead after Simms’ heady third-down flip to Williams for a 9-yard gain, setting up a first-and-goal on the 7-yard line. New Orleans’ defense stiffened, however, forcing the Bucs backward on the next three plays. The 12-play drive, which ate up 6:20, ended with France’s 28-yard field goal that made the score 10-3 with 9:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.

AP-ES-12-04-05 1623EST


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