Saints vs. Buccaneers Series History
The New Orleans Saints host an NFC South rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this Sunday in the most anticipated game on the 2020 NFL season's opening weekend, primarily because of the quarterbacks involved. The game features two legendary quarterbacks, Drew Brees of the Saints, the NFL's all-time leader in passing yardage, completions, and touchdown passes, against Tom Brady of the Bucs, who won six Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots.
This game is the 57th meeting between New Orleans and Tampa Bay, with the Saints holding a 35-21 advantage in the series. That includes a 19-12 record against the Buccaneers in New Orleans, site of Sunday's clash. New Orleans has won the last three between these two, including a 31-24 victory the last time they played Tampa Bay at home on October 6, 2019.
The first meeting between the two franchises was on December 11, 1977, in New Orleans, Tampa Bay's second season of existence. The Buccaneers had yet to win a game as a franchise and entered the contest with an 0-26 record. New Orleans turned the ball over seven times during the game, three of which turned into defensive touchdowns for the Buccaneers in a 33-14 loss. The first-ever win in Tampa Bay's history was New Orleans franchise history's most embarrassing moments.
From 1977 to 2001 the Saints were in the NFC West division, while Tampa Bay competed in the NFC Central. New Orleans would own a 13-7 (9-4 at home) record against the Buccaneers during this stretch, fueled by winning six straight and 10 out of 11 victories against the Bucs between 1983 and 1994. Both teams were often doormats in the conference, but each saw some periods of success.
For the Saints, it was the ‘‘Dome Patrol era'‘ with an underrated offense and a ferocious defense led by a dominant LB corps of Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Sam Mills, and Vaughan Johnson that paced the team to four playoff appearances in six seasons between 1987-1992 before the Saints would return to the playoffs in 2000. Tampa Bay would make the playoffs in 1979, 1981, and 1982 before a postseason dry spell that lasted until 1997, when they would qualify for the postseason in four out of five years between 1997 and 2001.
The NFL would realign each conference after the 2001 season, placing the Saints and Buccaneers in the newly formed NFC South, where the two teams would be division foes since. Tampa Bay would win their only world championship that year, carrying a 12-4 record and the first-ever NFC South title on to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. The Saints would hand the Buccaneers two of those losses that year; a 26-20 overtime win in Tampa on opening day and a 23-20 triumph later that season. New Orleans owns a 22-14 advantage over the Buccaneers since being placed in the same division and a 10-8 record against them at home during this period.
Head Coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees kicked off a new Saints football era when each joined the franchise in 2006. In their 13 seasons with the Saints (the league suspended Payton during the 2012 season), New Orleans has won six NFC South titles, qualified for the postseason 8 times, and brought home the franchise's only world championship with a victory in Super Bowl XLIV during the 2009 season. The Saints own an 18-10 record (9-5 at home) against Tampa Bay during the Payton/Brees era, including 7 straight wins between 2011 and 2014, the longest winning streak by either team in this series. Over the last decade, the Saints own a 14-6 record against Tampa Bay and a 7-3 mark against them at home.
The offseason addition of Tom Brady, along with RB Leonard Fournette and his former Patriots teammate TE Rob Gronkowski, has elevated the Buccaneers into Super Bowl favorites in several circles. Brady will have outstanding catchers in WR Mike Evans, WR Chris Godwin, TE O.J. Howard, and TE Cameron Brate along with Gronkowski to target. A suspect Buccaneers offensive line must show they can protect the 43-Yr old Brady against a New Orleans pass rush with 100 sacks over the last two seasons. Evans is a game-time decision with a leg injury, and Godwin face a critical showdown with an elite New Orleans CB duo of Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins. At the same time, All-Pro LB Demario Davis and a talented trio of Saints safeties look to contain Tampa's tight ends and running game.
For Tampa Bay to return to the postseason for the first time since 2007, they must have major improvements from a defense that has been abysmal against the pass for several years. The Buccaneers have a talented, but thin, front seven that pressures opposing quarterbacks well (47 sacks last year) and is stout against the run. Their defense will be tested by a Saints offense that is one of the most balanced in the league. Drew Brees is well protected by one of the most powerful offensive lines in the game, one that also bullies opponents in the running game. That running attack is led by Pro Bowl RB Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, and the versatile Taysom Hill. While the Saints running game keeps opponents off-balance, Brees has a deep supply of pass catchers to find in the incomparable All-Pro WR Michael Thomas, Kamara, Hill, Pro Bowl TE Jared Cook, newly signed WR Emmanuel Sanders, along with a host of other promising targets.
An NFL offseason that saw the cancellation of all offseason activities and preseason games should give an experienced and balanced team such as the Saints an edge early in the year.
Saints -31, Buccaneers - 20