After a 21-9 victory over the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card round, the 13-4 New Orleans Saints will play in the 23rd postseason game in their franchise history when they host the 12-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday in the Divisional Playoffs. This is the 8th time the Saints have played a divisional playoff game out of their 14 trips to the postseason.
New Orleans has a 3-4 record in the Divisional Round, and a 3-3 mark under Head Coach Sean Payton. The Saints have hosted a Division playoff game three times, all under Payton, and have a 3-0 record in those contests.
Here is a look back at the team's history in the Division Round.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 6, 2001 (AWAY - MINNESOTA VIKINGS)
The first postseason win in New Orleans franchise history was just one week earlier, a 31-28 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams. Their first-ever trip to the divisional round wasn't as joyful. The Saints were no match for the Vikings, who had one of the league's most explosive offenses. Minnesota pulled out to a 17-3 halftime lead behind two touchdown passes from Daunte Culpepper to future Hall of Fame wideouts Randy Moss and Chris Carter.
The Saints, who were without injured All-Pro wideout Joe Horn, got 295 yards passing from QB Aaron Brooks. They didn't have enough firepower to support their terrific defense and match the Vikings offensively. Culpepper had 302 yards passing and 3 scores. Moss and Carter accounted for 221 yards receiving in the 34-17 Minnesota victory.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 13, 2007 (HOME - PHILADELPHIA EAGLES)
New Orleans came into these playoffs with a first-round bye and as NFC South champions under first-year head coach Sean Payton and free-agent quarterback Drew Brees. Their first playoff game would be at home but would be a dogfight with the NFC East champion Eagles. The Saints took a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter, but that was erased by a 75-Yd touchdown pass from Philadelphia QB Jeff Garcia to former Saint WR Donte Stallworth. New Orleans grabbed the lead back on a touchdown run by rookie RB Reggie Bush, but the Eagles took a 14-13 lead into the half with a scoring run from Brian Westbrook.
Philadelphia widened its lead to 21-13 with a 62-Yd scoring run early in the third quarter from Westbrook. After that, New Orleans regained control of the game with a brilliant second half from their running back Deuce McAllister, who had 143 rushing yards and two third-quarter touchdowns. The second score, an 11-Yd scoring reception from Brees, who had 243 passing yards, gave the Saints a 27-21 lead going into the fourth quarter. A field goal from the Eagles early in the fourth brought them to within three, but the Saints defense held on for a 27-24 victory that sent the franchise to its first-ever conference championship game.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 16, 2010 (HOME - ARIZONA CARDINALS)
The Saints had a historic year in 2009, winning their first 13 games and an NFC South title on the way to the conference's top seed for the playoffs. However, they had lost their last three regular-season games, and their momentum took a bigger hit when Arizona running back Tim Hightower took the opening snap for a 70-Yd touchdown. New Orleans settled down after that and dominated in every phase of the game.
An offensive explosion bolstered the Saints to a 35-14 halftime lead, and an aggressive defense sealed the win in the second half. Drew Brees threw for 247 yards and three scores, but running back Reggie Bush stole the show with a performance for the ages. Bush had 217 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns for the night. The second score was an explosive 83-Yd punt return that put the finishing touches on a 45-14 New Orleans win. The Saints would win Super Bowl XLIV three weeks later for their first world championship.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 (AWAY - SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS)
The 2011 New Orleans Saints had the best passing offense in NFL history. Drew Brees threw for 5,476 yards, shattering a 27-Yr old league record, along with 46 touchdown passes. They won the NFC South with a 13-3 record and rolled into the division round against the 49ers after routing Detroit in the Wild Card game. The Saints repeatedly shot themselves in the foot this day, turning the ball over five times in a tight contest.
Brees threw for 462 yards and 4 touchdowns, while TE Jimmy Graham, WR Marques Colston, and RB Darren Sproles all eclipsed the 100-Yd receiving mark. However, the Saints could not establish a running attack during the game, and their defense couldn't keep the 49ers out of the end zone. A frenetic 4th quarter produced 35 total points and four lead changes in the last 4 minutes.
Despite a monumental effort from Brees, Sproles, and Graham, the 49ers fired the last shot. A 14-Yd touchdown pass from San Francisco QB Alex Smith to TE Vernon Davis with nine seconds left gave the 49ers a 36-32 victory. It was one of the greatest games in NFL playoff history, but one of the most painful moments in New Orleans franchise history.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 11, 2014 (AWAY - SEATTLE SEAHAWKS)
New Orleans came to top-seeded Seattle as heavy underdogs and was blown out by the Seahawks on this same field a month earlier. An intimidating Seahawk defense pounded the Saints and held a 16-0 halftime lead. A resilient New Orleans squad fought back in the second half and clawed their way back into the game. Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, who lives in the nightmares of New Orleans faithful for his "Beast Quake" playoff run three years earlier, again tortured the Saints with 140 yards and two touchdowns.
Drew Brees countered with 309 passing yards, with 11 receptions and 144 yards from WR Marques Colston, who brought the visitors to within a touchdown with a 9-Yd scoring catch with only 26 seconds remaining. Incredibly, the Saints recovered the ensuing onside kick, giving them the ball at midfield with a chance to tie the contest. Three plays later, an illegal lateral by Colston ended the game, and the Saints season, with a 23-16 Seattle victory. The Seahawks would go on to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 14, 2018 (AWAY - MINNESOTA VIKINGS)
New Orleans returned to the playoffs in 2017 after three consecutive 7-9 seasons, winning the NFC South and defeating division rival Carolina in the Wild Card round. They'd return to Minnesota for the divisional round, where they were beaten in the season opener. The Vikings dominated the first two quarters of play, taking a 17-0 halftime lead.
New Orleans came alive in the second half, getting a few defensive stops to allow their offense to claw back in the game. Drew Brees threw for 294 yards and 3 second half scores. The first two to WR Michael Thomas, one late in the 3rd then another early into the 4th quarter, to pull them within three points. After a Minnesota field goal, Brees connected with Offensive Rookie of the Year RB Alvin Kamara on a 14-Yd touchdown pass to give the Saints a 21-20 lead with just three minutes to play.
The Vikings jumped back in the lead with a long field goal, leaving just 1:29 on the clock. Brees responded by leading his team on a 50 yard march that ended with a Wil Lutz field goal and a 24-23 lead with only 25 seconds to play. What seemed like a resounding upset win would turn to tragedy just moments later. After an incomplete pass, Minnesota QB Case Keenum completed a miraculous throw to WR Stefon Diggs, who sprinted into the end zone for an improbable 29-24 Viking victory on the last play.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 13, 2019 (HOME - PHILADELPHIA EAGLES)
For just the second time in franchise history, the Saints captured the NFC's top seed, entering the postseason with a 13-3 record. They’d host the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round. New Orleans stumbled out of the gate, falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter. The Saints methodically took control of the game after that and closed to a 14-10 halftime deficit.
New Orleans dominated play in the second half, out gaining the Eagles 420-250 in total yardage and getting 301 yards through the air from Brees. Wide receiver Michael Thomas set franchise postseason records with 12 receptions for 171 yards, which included a go-ahead touchdown catch late in the third quarter. New Orleans added a field goal, and the Saints defense emphatically shut down the Eagles in the second half to clinch a 20-14 victory.
This is the first meeting between the Saints and Buccaneers in the postseason. New Orleans has a 37-21 all-time record against Tampa Bay, and were victorious against them in both meetings this season.