The Tampa Bay Buccaneers open their 2018 regular season against the same opponent they faced in their 2017 finale, the New Orleans Saints. The venue has changed – the Buccaneers beat the Saints, 31-24, at Raymond James Stadium on Dec. 31 and now they are headed to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – but most of the principle characters remain the same as they were nine months ago.
Sunday's game will mark the second time the Buccaneers have opened a season in New Orleans and the third time they've drawn the Saints for Week One. Hopefully the third time's the charm. The Buccaneers actually begin their Super Bowl-winning season in 2002 with an overtime, 26-20 loss to the Saints at Raymond James Stadium. Six years later, they started a 9-7 playoff near-miss campaign with a 24-20 defeat at the Superdome. Overall the Buccaneers and Saints have met 52 times, with New Orleans holding a sizeable lead in the all-time series:
Tampa Bay - 20
New Orleans - 32
View photos of the Buccaneers' 53-man roster.
1. Tampa Bay 33, New Orleans 14, December 11, 1977
This is one of the most important games in Buccaneers' history, as it marked the first regular-season victory ever for the Buccaneers. After dropping their first 26 over the 1976 and 1977 seasons, the Bucs went to New Orleans and used three interception-return touchdowns to take down the Saints by 19 points. The only other time Tampa Bay has recorded three pick-sixes in the same game, regular or postseason, was in Super Bowl XXXVII.
2. Tampa Bay 48, New Orleans 21, December 23, 2001
The Buccaneers matched their all-time single-game high with 48 points on this Week 15 Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, and seven different players got in on the scoring. Mike Alstott ran one in and Warrick Dunn, Dave Moore and Karl Williams all caught touchdown passes from Brad Johnson. Ronde Barber capped the scoring with a pick-six off one of his favorite punching bags, Aaron Brooks, and backup quarterback Shaun King came in to run in a two-point conversion after Barber's score.
3. Tampa Bay 20, New Orleans 17 (OT), December 27, 2009
This was not a good season for the Buccaneers, who lost their first seven games under new Head Coach Raheem Morris and finished 3-13. This was a very good season for the Saints, who took the NFC South with a 13-3 record and went on to beat Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLIV. That made the Buccaneers' Week 16 win at New Orleans one of the most surprising upsets in NFL history. Even more surprising: The Bucs initially fell behind 17-0 and were still losing by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Micheal Spurlock tied the game with less than three minutes left when he took a punt back 77 yards for a touchdown. New Orleans kicker Garrett Hartley missed a 37-yard field goal with nine seconds left, sending the game to overtime. The Buccaneers won the toss and handed the ball to Cadillac Williams nine times in 10 snaps to set up Connor Barth's 47-yard game-winner.
1. New Orleans 44, Tampa Bay 34, December 6, 1987
The Saints, established in 1967, failed to make the playoffs for their first 20 seasons. That incredible drought ended in 1987, when Jim Mora's club went 12-3 and won a Wild Card spot. The Saints won their last nine games of the regular season, including one at home against Tampa Bay, but the Bucs didn't go down easy. That's not to say the game was every really close; New Orleans got out to a 28-7 lead in the first half and never again led by fewer than 10 points. Still, Vinny Testaverde, making his first NFL start, threw for 369 yards as the Bucs' offense rang up 449 yards and 27 first downs. Bobby Hebert threw two touchdown passes to John Tice and Rueben Mayes ran for two more scores.
2. New Orleans 26, Tampa Bay 20, September 8, 2002
This is the game noted above that started the Bucs' Super Bowl season, so it was also Jon Gruden's first regular-season contest as the team's head coach. Tampa Bay's offense couldn't get anything going in the first half, totaling just 77 yards and four first downs, and the Saints cruised to a 20-10 lead. Brad Johnson finally got the Bucs on track in the fourth quarter, directing two long scoring drives in the last five minutes to tie the game at the end of regulation. Neither team could do much in overtime and on the Bucs' third possession they found themselves punting from their own seven-yard line. The rush team broke through and punter Tom Tupa, seeing his kick would easily be blocked, pulled it down and tried to improvise. He ended up throwing a left-handed desperation lob that landed in the arms of linebacker James Allen in the end zone. Technically speaking, that was a game-ending pick-six for Allen.
3. New Orleans 35, Tampa Bay 28, October 21, 2012
This one was a wild shootout that saw the Buccaneers roll up 513 yards of offense to the Saints' 458. The Bucs opened up a 21-7 lead by early in the second quarter but New Orleans scored the next 28 points as Drew Brees threw three of his four touchdown passes in the second quarter. Josh Freeman got the Bucs back within seven with his third touchdown pass of the game in the fourth quarter and Tampa Bay got the ball back one more time with two minutes to play. Freeman drove his crew down to the Saints' nine-yard line and appeared to tie the game on fourth-and-nine as time expired with a touchdown pass to Mike Williams. However, Williams drew a flag for stepping out of bounds before he made the catch, which nullified the score.
View exclusive photos of the Buccaneers' 2018 Preseason from Team Photographer Kyle Zedaker
Bucs' Top Performers Against Saints:
Among players currently on the roster, here are a few Buccaneers who have fared well against the Saints.
· LB Lavonte David…11 games, 93 tackles, 2.5 sacks, six stuffs, two forced fumbles, nine passes defensed (his most against any opponent)
· WR DeSean Jackson…4 games, 11 receptions for 270 yards and two touchdowns, 24.5 yards per catch, seven first downs, three receptions of 25 or more yards
Saints' Top Performers Against Bucs:
· QB Drew Brees…25 games, 67.3% completion rate, 48 touchdowns (most against any opponent), 279.9 passing yards per game, 95.8 passer rating
· DE Cameron Jordan…14 games, 50 tackles, 9.5 sacks, six stuffs, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four passes defensed
Bucs-Saints Game-by-Game Record:
· Overall Season Series: Saints lead, 32-20
· Bucs' Home Record: 9-14
· Bucs' Road Record: 11-18
· Current Streak: Win 1 (2017)
· Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 2 (six times)
· Saints' Longest Winning Streak: 7 (2011-14)
· Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 965, Saints 1,148
· Most Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: Buccaneers, 48, Saints 21 (2001)
· Most Points in a Game for New Orleans: Saints 44, Buccaneers 34 (1987)
· Most Points, combined: 78, Saints 44, Buccaneers 34 (1987)
· Fewest Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: Saints 41, Buccaneers 0 (2012)
· Fewest Points in a Game for New Orleans: Buccaneers 10, Saints 3 (2005)
· Fewest Points in a Game, combined: 13, Buccaneers 10, Saints 3 (2005)