The New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers square off for the 63rd time this Monday night in Tampa Bay. New Orleans (4-8) desperately needs a win to have any hope at all of winning the NFC South. A win by 5-6 Tampa Bay slightly strengthens their tenuous hold in the division race.
New Orleans leads the all-time series 39-23, including an 18-9 advantage on the road. There haven't been many significant games between these two teams, who were placed in the NFC South together in 2002.
Since the formation of the NFC South, New Orleans has won one Super Bowl championship, while Tampa Bay has taken two titles. A 9-7 Saints team would sweep the 12-4 and eventual Super Bowl champ Buccaneers in 2002. A 3-13 Tampa Bay squad would hand the 13-3 Saints one of their only defeats on the way to their Super Bowl championship in 2009.
New Orleans would again sweep the Buccaneers during their second championship season in 2020. The Saints actually won the NFC South that season with a 12-4 record, while Tampa Bay came in with an 11-5 mark before going on their postseason run.
Part of that Buccaneers playoff run included the most significant game in the series history between these two teams.
January 17, 2021
Buccaneers at Saints
NFC Divisional Playoffs
New Orleans and Tampa Bay both came into this showdown with elite defenses. They also both had legendary future Hall of Fame quarterbacks; the Saints with Drew Brees and Bucs with Tom Brady, just signed the previous offseason.
Defenses dominated the contest, holding both offenses to less than 320 total yards. However, the Buccaneers benefited from four New Orleans turnovers, including three interceptions of Brees and a costly fumble by TE Jared Cook.
Those turnovers paved the way for a 30-20 Tampa Bay win. It was the closest call of their playoff run. The loss also marked the end of a record-setting career of Brees, sending him into a bittersweet retirement.
This game was the fourth of four straight heartbreaking playoff defeats for the Saints. However, one of the blackest marks in their franchise history occurred in the first-ever meeting between these teams.
December 11, 1977
Buccaneers at Saints
Tampa Bay played their first NFL season in 1976. They lost the first 26 games they played, a losing streak that remains the longest in NFL history. The Buccaneers came into the Louisiana Superdome in Week 13 of the 1977 season with an 0-12 record and riding that 26-game losing streak without ever tasting victory in their brief franchise history.
New Orleans wasn't exactly setting the world on fire either in 1977. The Saints were in their 11th NFL season and had never had a winning record. They came into this game at 3-9, bit were quoted in the media saying that it'd be an ''embarrassment'' to lose to the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay handed New Orleans that embarrassment with a 33-14 victory. It was the first time the Buccaneers, who had a 12-game total of just 53 points, had ever scored 30 points in a game. In the loss, New Orleans turned the ball over 7 times, including six interceptions of QBs Archie Manning and Bobby Scott. Tampa Bay returned three of those turnovers for touchdowns in the second half, turning the game into a rout.
The loss hastened the firing of Saints head coach Hank Stram, who was let go after two losing seasons and a 3-11 finish in 1977. Stram would eventually be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his success as a coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. 1977 would be the final season of his coaching career.
The 4-8 Saints and 5-6 Buccaneers are among the NFL's most disappointing teams in 2022. However, a win on Monday night would give the victor a big advantage in the pursuit of a division title in the dismal NFC South. A loss for New Orleans would all but provide the final kill shot to an underachieving campaign.
First-year Saints head coach Dennis Allen is under a great deal of fire from team fans and media. A win could conceivably spur the team on a run to a division championship, while a loss would increase pressure on the front office to fire him after just one season. An awful finish could also cause New Orleans to part with several big-name stars this offseason.
It's widely expected that this could be the last season of Tom Brady's decorated 23-year career. Brady hasn't played well, but he's far from the biggest problem on his struggling team, who may have their own issues with first-year coach Todd Bowles.
Brady was part of the club that ushered Brees into retirement in unceremonious fashion. A loss to New Orleans would be a big nail in Brady's career coffin, perhaps causing him to miss the playoffs for just the second time in his career.
It seems likely that neither the Saints or Buccaneers will have a year to remember in 2022. However, the loser of Monday's game could very well hasten the end of some big names with their respective teams.
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