Saints Remind Bucs What a Playoff Team Looks Like

Luke Easterling

You remember the playoffs, right Bucs fans?

That thing where your team gets to play more games at the end of the season, with a chance to play for a championship?

You'd be forgiven for forgetting the postseason exists. The Pewter Pirates haven't tasted playoff football since 2007, when Jameis Winston was in middle school. 

Remember when the Bucs hoisted the Lombardi after the 2002 season? That was their last postseason victory.

The only hopes current Bucs fans have of seeing a playoff team are when one of them comes to town to beat their favorite team. The New Orleans Saints were the latest, sweeping the 2019 season series with a 34-17 win at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Saints gave Tampa Bay a masterclass in playoff football Sunday. 

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The Bucs turned the ball over four times, while the Saints didn't give it away once. The Saints had the ball for 14 more minutes than the Bucs did. Jameis Winston was hit 12 times Sunday, while the only sack the Bucs could muster came on a safety blitz.

The Saints mounted a sizable early lead, but didn't give it up in the second half, something the Bucs have struggled to do in multiple games this year.

Not only did the on-field play show Bucs fans what a playoff team looks like, it also proved how to build a winner in the offseason.

The Saints have the benefit of consistency and continuity in their coaching, playing in their 13th season under head coach Sean Payton. The Bucs have had six different head coaches over that same stretch.

Sure, having a Hall of Fame quarterback helps, but the Saints have drafted extremely well in recent years, surrounding Drew Brees with a strong supporting cast. Their 2017 draft alone landed them difference-makers like Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams and Alvin Kamara. They did just as well the year before, landing Sheldon Rankins, Michael Thomas and Vonn Bell with their first three picks.

The only player left from Tampa Bay's 2016 draft class? Special-teamer Ryan Smith. The only player from their 2017 class making a positive impact is Chris Godwin.

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Much like the current New England Patriots, the Saints are winning with sound fundamentals and blue-chip defense, rather than relying on Brees to out-duel opposing quarterbacks in a weekly shootout. Payton and the rest of the Saints' decision-makers have done a masterful job at adjusting their roster on an annual basis to accentuate their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses.

The Bucs are still floundering and sputtering, searching for an identity under yet another first-year head coach, and a general manager that has overseen a record of 30-60 during his tenure.

The Saints are 8-2, on their way to another NFC South title and their third straight postseason appearance. 

The Bucs are headed for their fifth top-10 draft pick in six years.

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