The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Carolina Panthers last Sunday, 24-17, and in the process snapped an unusual streak in the all-time head-to-head series with their division rivals. Because Carolina had won a Week Nine game against the Buccaneers in Charlotte, the Bucs' revenge victory forged a season split, the first between these two teams since 2008.
Now the Buccaneers have an opportunity to put an end to an even longer trend against a different division rival. Tampa Bay got its 2018 season started off on a good note when it defeated the New Orleans Saints, 48-40 in the Superdome in Week One. The Bucs and Saints have gone their separate ways since – New Orleans won 10 straight after that loss to Tampa Bay – but on Sunday they will reconvene at Raymond James Stadium to finish the season series. If the Buccaneers win, it will mark their first season sweep of the Saints since 2007. That was also the last year Tampa Bay made the playoffs.
The Buccaneers are still fighting for a spot in the NFC postseason field and almost certainly need to beat the Saints on Sunday to keep those hopes alive. New Orleans, on the other hand, is 10-2, with that 10-game win streak just snapped last Thursday in Dallas. The Saints have to be considered one of the NFC's Super Bowl favorites this year, along with the 11-1 Los Angeles Rams.
That makes for a potentially interesting parallel. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 12-4 in the regular season in 2002 and went on to win Super Bowl XXXVII with a three-game run through the postseason. Two of their four losses in that entire season came to the Saints, who otherwise finished a pedestrian 9-7. Tampa Bay's season began with a loss at home to the Saints, and New Orleans doubled up with a home win over the Buccaneers in Week 13. Tampa Bay had only two losses at that point in the season.
The Buccaneers could get some 2002 payback on Sunday if they finished off the season sweep of a Saints team that otherwise had only two losses. They would certainly trade that outcome for the same final result the Buccaneers enjoyed in 2002.
Here's the all-time series scoreboard:
Tampa Bay 21
New Orleans 32
View photos from the Buccaneers' practice Wednesday at AdventHealth Training Center.
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 was the start of the Buccaneers' Super Bowl season and so 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.
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…12 games, 102 tackles, 2.5 sacks, six stuffs, two forced fumbles, nine passes defensed (his most against any opponent)
· WR Mike Evans…8 games, 32 receptions for 447 yards and three touchdowns, 14.0 yards per catch, 25 first downs
· QB Jameis Winston…5 games, 106 of 178 passing for 1,280 yards (213.3 per game), five touchdowns, five interceptions, 24 rushes for 117 yards and two touchdowns
Saints' Top Performers Against Bucs:
· QB Drew Brees…26 games, 68.0% completion rate, 51 touchdowns, 286.0 passing yards per game, 97.6 passer rating
· DE Cameron Jordan…15 games, 56 tackles, 9.5 sacks, six stuffs, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, five passes defensed
· WR Michael Thomas…4 games, 36 receptions for 437 yards and one touchdown, 12.1 yards per catch, 109.3 receiving yards per game
Bucs-Saints Game-by-Game Record:
· Overall Season Series: Saints lead, 32-21
· Bucs' Home Record: 9-14
· Bucs' Road Record: 12-18
· Current Streak: Win 2 (2017-18)
· Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 2 (seven times)
· Saints' Longest Winning Streak: 7 (2011-14)
· Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 1,013, Saints 1,188
· Most Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: Buccaneers 48, Saints 21 (2001); Buccaneers 48, Saints, 40 (2018)
· Most Points in a Game for New Orleans: Saints 44, Buccaneers 34 (1987)
· Most Points, combined: 88, Buccaneers 48, Saints 40 (2018)
· 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)