The New Orleans Saints (13-5) have their season come to an end inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome by losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 30-20. Tampa Bay forced 4 takeaways in the team's first playoff matchup, scoring 21 points off the New Orleans turnovers. The NFC Championship matchup is set to kickoff at 2:05 PM CST as Tom Brady will battle Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs for the first time in their NFL careers.
Here are my three takeaways from the Saints' NFC Divisional Round playoff loss.
Turnovers Doom New Orleans
The Saints began the 2021 Divisional Round with a BANG! Deonte Harris provided the Saints great field position on the team's first drive of the game off of a punt return and had a touchdown called back just moments later. However, the Saints couldn't capitalize on the Special Teams boost and allowed Tampa Bay to stay in the ball-game.
The Bucs athletic defense had an outstanding performance in the second half and racked-up three turnovers in the game's final 30 minutes. Of their 4 total turnovers, 3 resulted in touchdowns, and 2 came in the final 10 minutes of the Divisional Round's action. The opportunistic takeaways buried the Saints and sent the Black and Gold packing as the Buccaneers advance to the NFC Championship Game to battle the Packers.
Drew Brees' Final NFL Game?
Fox's Jay Glazer reported that Sunday's game would be Drew Brees' last game inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome regardless of the result. Brees' last glance over his shoulder at the historic building as he walked into the tunnel echoed Glazer's report. In what appears to be Brees' final act as an NFL quarterback, he completed 19 of 34 passes for 134 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions.
The future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback has spent the last 15 years with the New Orleans Saints leading the team to 7 division titles, 3 NFC Championship Appearances, and 1 Super Bowl Victory. Along the way, Brees has shattered nearly every NFL passing record and this year became the first player to throw for 80,000 yards in an NFL career.
If Sunday were Brees' final football action, he would end his NFL career with a loss to a fellow all-time great in Tom Brady. Brees has not publicly decided on his NFL future, and he is under contract with the Saints for the 2021 season. Brees told the New Orleans media, he hasn't made a decision yet.
We'll wait.Another Heart-Breaking Playoff Loss
For the fourth consecutive season the New Orleans Saints' season comes to a close with a painful playoff exit. In what looks to be Drew Brees' final NFL game, the New Orleans offense failed to get much going outside QB Jameis Winston's touchdown strike to Tre'Quan Smith in the first half. The Saints offense tallied less than 300 total yards and reached the end zone just twice in their third matchup against the Buccaneers this season.
The defense bent as much as they could before they broke. The Saints surrendered 30 points, 21 off of turnovers, and allowed over 127 rushing yards to Tampa Bay's 27th ranked rushing offense. Tom Brady and Co. were able to pull away late in the third following two Saints turnovers and a punt on three consecutive drives.
New Orleans' championship window appears to be coming to a close as another year of playoff heart breaks looms over a team, city, and fan base that desperately wanted to see Sean Payton and Drew Brees lead the team to another Super Bowl title. The Payton/Brees era looks to have concluded its final chapter and there are more questions than answers as the team heads into the fall of 2021. But one thing is for sure... for an entire team and fan base this one hurts. A lot.
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