SANTA MONICA, Calif.

— The Saints finally won their third consecutive game Saturday night, beating the Bucs in OT to snap a four-game losing streak and take control of the NFC South race.

The Saints have won five of their last six games, including four straight.

New Orleans led 15-3 after the first quarter when it beat Jacksonville 17-14.

The Panthers rallied from an early 6-0 deficit to tie the game.

Then the Saints held on for a 17-16 lead on two late touchdown passes by quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Willie Snead.

The Bucs went on to win the game 24-17 in overtime.

“It was just a great effort by our guys,” Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman said.

“They’re a great team, but we didn’t get the job done tonight.”

The Saints came into the game averaging 35.6 points, which ranked 15th in the NFL.

They also averaged just 4.6 yards per carry.

It was their third game this season in which they were shut out.

They’ve won their last two games by at least 17 points, and only twice by more than seven.

Tampa Bay was coming off a 49-17 loss at San Diego on Sunday.

Rookie quarterback Vincent Jackson had three interceptions, a sack and two fumble recoveries.

The Buccaneers scored just 10 points after trailing 28-3.

They led 24-0 midway through the second quarter.

“We had to do a better job of defending the run, which was a big mistake,” Jackson said.

Tampa was 4-for-19 on third down.

The only other time they had a field goal in the second half was in Week 6 at Carolina.

The first-round draft pick had a season-high 13 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown in his return to Tampa Bay after a year away.

He also had a career-high four tackles.

Rookie linebacker O.J. Howard had a tackle for loss in the first half.

He was limited to a tackle on a first-quarter pass interference and a sack on another late in the fourth quarter.

Rookie running back Chris Ivory also was limited by a shoulder injury.

“You’re going to have injuries,” coach Joe Philbin said.

The Falcons were without linebacker Thomas DeCoud (back), who was out with a sprained right ankle.

They were without cornerback Ricardo Allen (knee), safety Deion Jones (ankle) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (knees).

The Bucs had their two leading receivers, wide receiver Mike Evans and running back Doug Martin, both out.

Evans had six catches for 116 yards and scored his first career touchdown.

Martin had eight catches for 139 yards and had a pair of touchdown runs in the Bucs’ 27-14 win over Atlanta in Week 5.

Bucs wide receiver Vincent Jackson (17) and running backs Vincent Jackson Jr. and Devonta Freeman (25) celebrate with receiver Deion Sanders after Jackson caught a pass from receiver Mike Williams (20) in the third quarter of their Week 7 matchup in Atlanta.

“Our focus was to keep the momentum going,” Evans said.

Rookie wide receiver Kenny Stills caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Johnson in the closing minutes.

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Saints.

They had won six straight games at home against Atlanta before that.

“This was a very, very big blow to our team,” Stills said.

Stills had 10 catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

“The way we play and how we perform is what’s going to get us here,” Stuarts said.

After the loss, Saints linebacker Stephone Anthony (back) was carted off the field.

Saints running back C.J./Tyrone Wheatley (hamstring) and cornerback Brent Grimes (kicker) were limited in practice.

Saints tight end Willie Sneads (kicked by Falcons linebacker Deion Lewis) returned to practice after missing three games with a knee injury.

Saints receiver Roddy White (ankles) practiced.

Saints wide receiver Lance Moore (anklicare injury) and safety Glover Quin (foot) also practiced.

Falcons defensive tackle Aaron Donald (kicking injury) is limited after being carted to the locker room.

The game was the Saints first in New Orleans since Sept. 14.

The team was 0-2 against the Buccaneers, who have lost seven straight there.

The two teams split four meetings last season.

They haven’t played in a playoff game since the 2006 NFC Championship Game.

Brees threw for 336 yards and five touchdowns against Jacksonville.

“I think we were able to step up to the challenge and get in there and play with a little bit of energy and a little little bit more energy, and the fans were excited,” Saints quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.

He had his best game of the season, completing 17 of 25 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

Rookie defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had 12 tackles and a fumble recovery. He missed

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