In the final week of the regular season, the vast majority of playoff spots were still up for grabs. The New Orleans Saints, for example, could lock up a first round bye, make the playoffs as a wildcard team or miss the playoffs entirely. The last scenario would come about with an Arizona Cardinals win and a Saints loss to the Bucs, prompting this nationally recognized conversation:
The Carolina Panthers would lock up the NFC South in the 1 PM round of games, and as we neared the 4:25 PM kickoff, stats rolled in about one of the Buccaneers defensive leaders.
The Bucs would kick away to the Saints to begin the game. On the drive, the Saints would find themselves in a fourth-down situation, as called by WDAE's Tom Krasniqi:
Directly out of the conversion, QB Drew Brees would open up the offense and set the tone for the game with a strike for the first points of the game.
SAINTS TOUCHDOWN!! Drew Brees with the DIME, 44 yards to Lance Moore for the score. NO 7 TB 0 — NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 29, 2013
On the next possession, the Bucs would find themselves in a third-down situation and, matching the Saints, would pull off the crucial conversion. We hear from Greg Auman:
Nice conversion on third and 5 for Bucs as Mike Glennon connects with Vincent Jackson for 9-yard gain ... first and 10 at Saints' 48. — Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 29, 2013
And, like the Saints, they would quickly finish up the drive with style on a play that picked up a lot of love through the social media channels. Led by Buccaneers.com Senior Writer, Scott Smith, here's Twitter's immediate reaction:
Flea-flicker! I love the flea-flicker! My favorite play. 48-yard touchdown from Glennon to Underwood. Game tied. — Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) December 29, 2013
Trickeration. Nice play boys! — What the Buc? (@WhatTheBuc) December 29, 2013
OH MY. FIRE THE CANNONS. TD Bucs! — Rick Brown (@LedgeronBucs) December 29, 2013
TOUCHDOWN BUCCANEERS!! Mike Glennon to Tiquan Underwood for a 48 yard touchdown. NO 7 TB 7 — NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 29, 2013
The Saints would march right back down the field with an 80-yard, nine-play scoring drive. Pewter Report notes the touchdown and stellar play by the Bucs competition.
Brees finds Graham for TD and Saints now lead Bucs 14-7. Brees on fire with 152 yards passing already. — Pewter Report (@PewterReport) December 29, 2013
The Bucs would punt on the next drive, but the defense would also stand once the Saints took over. Here's the call of another early critical third down for the Saints offense:
SACK! A defensive stop! And that's another half-sack for McCoy, who's at 9.5 for the season! — Sander Philipse (@Bucs_Nation) December 29, 2013
Gerald McCoy splits that sack w/Adrian Clayborn, inching closer to double figures. He has 9.5 now; last 10-sack guy for Bucs - S.Rice, 2005. — Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) December 29, 2013
The takedown would end in a punt, and the Bucs offense would send the ball back with a punt of their own. New Orleans would begin with decent field position, starting at their own 43. And Brees would add to the stat sheet on another big third-down play. Greg Auman again updates the score:
Drew Brees converts a third and 10 and then some -- 41-yard touchdown to Robert Meachem. 21-7 lead, Brees now 15-for-18 for 241 yards. — Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 29, 2013
That play would be reviewed and confirmed and result in a Drew Brees season milestone, courtesy of the Saints' Official Twitter account:
Starting at their 20 on the ensuing drive, the Bucs offense began to string together a nice drive of their own.
Shades of LeGarrette Blount...Brian Leonard leaps over Malcom Jenkins in the middle of a 24-yard run to the Saints' 13. — Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) December 29, 2013
And from a yard out, the Bucs would add seven more points to their total. @TBBuccaneers, the official Twitter of the Bucs and Bucs Nation celebrate:
TOUCHDOWN TAMPA BAY! Tim Wright gets it and the Bucs cut the lead to 21-14. Shootout! — Sander Philipse (@Bucs_Nation) December 29, 2013
Like Brees on the score before, this touchdown would result in some significant milestone and records for the Bucs' QB:
Bucs' Mike Glennon overshadowed by Brees, but playing well early. 10-for-14 for 101 yards, two touchdown passes. Fixed: 19 TDs this season. — Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 29, 2013
With 3:30 still on the clock after the Wright score, the Saints would quickly add seven more to the high-octane first half with a deep touchdown pass to Kenny Stills.
Make that 321 yards for Drew Brees -- 76-yard TD throw to Kenny Stills. Second-longest play allowed by Bucs this season ... — Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 29, 2013
The Bucs would get the ball back and move down the field with some help from the Saints defense. A sack would be negated by penalty, then a pass interference call on an incomplete pass moving the Bucs near midfield with 1:40 left. Then Glennon began to move the ball on his own, including this strike called by WDAE:
A third down incompletion would bring the special teams gang onto the field, but not as most expected. Greg Auman explains the call, while the rest of Twitter shares their own thoughts on the decision.
Wow. Bucs just tried a fake field goal -- lined up with line to center's right. And it failed badly. Nobody open, throw incomplete. — Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 29, 2013
A Saints' kneel-down brought us to halftime.
The Bucs took the opening third quarter kickoff and quickly ran into a fourth down situation. Down 14, they opted to go for it as Scott Smith chimes in again with the update:
A fourth-down gamble pays off from the Bucs' own 45. The Bucs know they have to keep scoring and extending drives to hang in here. — Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) December 29, 2013
The drive would eat up 8:25 minutes of clock and end in three points off a long Rian Lindell field goal.
The Saints would make their way down the field again, fueled by the quarterback play and a rowdy home audience. RB Pierre Thomas capped off the 92-yard drive with the rushing touchdown.
Ready to fight back, Mike Glennon took aim down the field on first down, but the ball would be cut off for the first and only turnover of the day.
With a short field, the Saints would notch seven more, this time with Brees keeping it himself on a scramble up the middle. Pewter Report updates the score:
Saints spread wide and Bucs don't account for Brees who scrambles for a TD giving NO a 42-17 lead in the fourth quarter. — Pewter Report (@PewterReport) December 29, 2013
From there, the Buccaneers and Saints would trade a number of punts before the Saints were able to wind the clock out, locking up a wild card spot and concluding the 2014 Buccaneers regular season.