The New Orleans Saints travel to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a battle for the NFC South lead. It is a rematch of a Week 1 game where the Saints defeated the Buccaneers 34-23 at home. This is the 58th meeting between the two franchises, with New Orleans owning a 36-21 advantage, including a 16-9 record when the games are played in Tampa Bay.
The first-ever game between the two was on December 11, 1977, in New Orleans, when the Buccaneers upset the home team to earn their first win in franchise history after 26 consecutive losses.
New Orleans would exact a measure of revenge in the following year's season finale, when these teams met for the first time in Tampa Bay on December 17, 1978. The Saints would out gain Tampa in total yardage, 421-177, but needed a 4th quarter touchdown pass from Archie Manning to Henry Childs to pull out a 17-10 win. They would duplicate the feat on October 14, 1979, when they rolled to a 42-14 win in Tampa Bay.
The Saints suffered back-to-back home losses to the Buccaneers in 1981 and ‘82 but would forge a long winning streak against them as they built themselves into a consistent NFC playoff contender. New Orleans won six straight games against Tampa Bay between 1983 and 1988, and 10 of 11 games against them through 1994.
Most of those contests were at home, where they were 8-0 against the Bucs in New Orleans. After a 1-3 record against Tampa between 1996 and 2001, the two teams were placed in the same division.
League realignment created the NFC South division in 2002. The Saints, Atlanta Falcons, and Carolina Panthers moved over from the NFC West and the Buccaneers were brought in from the NFC Central to create the division. Since 2002, the Saints own a 23-14 record against the Buccaneers as divisional foes, including a 12-6 record against them in Tampa.
The Buccaneers won the first NFC South title with a 12-4 record in 2002 and would win their only championship that year with a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII behind new Head Coach Jon Gruden. Two of their losses in that title-winning season were to the New Orleans Saints.
The first meeting between these two as division rivals occurred in the 2002 season opener on September 8 in Tampa Bay. New Orleans would get 109 yards rushing from RB Deuce McAllister and 108 yards receiving from WR Joe Horn, but the Bucs would score ten points in the final three minutes to tie the contest at 20 and send it to overtime.
They forced the Buccaneers to punt from their own end zone on their first possession of the extra period. Punter Tom Tupa bobbled the snap and attempted to pass, but New Orleans LB James Allen intercepted his throw at the goal line for a touchdown and a 26-20 Saints win.
After their 2002 season sweep, the two teams would split their meetings over the next three years. A 2005 season that was marred by the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and a 3-13 finish would mercifully end with a 27-13 loss at Tampa Bay, who won the division that year with an 11-5 record.
After the season, New Orleans owner Tom Benson made a change at head coach, hiring Sean Payton to rebuild his franchise. Payton wanted a fresh start at quarterback and signed a lightly regarded free agent named Drew Brees to lead his new team.
The Saints are 19-10 against the Buccaneers since Payton and Brees arrived in 2006, including a 9-5 mark in Tampa Bay. They rattled off seven consecutive wins against the Bucs between 2011 and 2014, the longest winning streak by either team in this series. New Orleans has won the last two times they’ve traveled to Tampa and six of the last eight trips.
That includes a 34-17 triumph in their last trip to the Sunshine State, on November 17, 2019. In that game, New Orleans wideout Michael Thomas caught 8 passed for 114 yards and the Saints defense intercepted Buccaneer QB Jameis Winston four times, including a 55-Yd interception return for a touchdown by S Marcus Williams to seal the victory.
This rematch in front of a prime-time audience features a showdown between two of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL: Brees of the Saints and Tom Brady of the Buccaneers. Brees has completed 69.2% of his throws and averaged 279 yards in 28 games against Tampa Bay, throwing for 55 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. He’s thrown for over 300 yards twelve times against the Bucs but has averaged just 196 yards in his last three appearances against them.
He will have his full arsenal of weapons back with the return of wideouts Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. He’ll also have a formidable offensive line to protect him, a productive running game, Pro Bowl tight end Jared Cook, and the NFL leader in yards from scrimmage in RB Alvin Kamara.
Tampa Bay is one of the few NFL teams with a deeper array of weapons than New Orleans. The Saints will attempt to hit and pressure Brady with their deep and talented defensive line, while underachieving secondary hope to finally step up against a Buccaneer receiving corps that they’ve always played well against.
The winner of this game not only grabs sole possession of first place in the NFC South but also positions itself better for a postseason run as the season heads into its second half. Strap yourself in if you’re a fan of either team, however, because this could just be the second of a three-part battle that culminates with a playoff showdown between two of the best players to ever play the quarterback position.