The New Orleans Saints beat Tampa Bay on Sunday night, taking the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs, and will face the Philadelphia Eagles this Saturday at 7:10 p.m. on WDSU.
Despite their woes on the road, the Saints continue to dominate opponents at home — this time a 42-17 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final game of the 2013 regular season.
“It’s hard to win 11 games in this league. It’s hard to do,” said Saints head coach Sean Payton during his postgame press conference. The Saints finished the regular season with an 11-5 record, and won every game at home. “We’re looking forward to playing in the post-season,” Payton said.
Payton also congratulated the Carolina Panthers, who took the NFC South title. “They certainly deserve everything they’ve earned.”
The Saints could have secured the division title and a first-round bye earlier in the day, but the Atlanta Falcons fell apart against the Carolina Panthers, losing by one point in a game in which quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked nine times.
Back in New Orleans, it was another record-setting day for Drew Brees, who surpassed the 5,000-yard passing mark for the third straight year, and for the fourth time in his career. No other NFL quarterback has ever passed for over 5,000 yards more than once.
Brees threw four touchdowns, including one to Jimmy Graham, the Saints’ Pro Bowl tight end, for Graham’s team-leading 16th touchdown of the season. Brees even ran a touchdown in himself, a 9-yard dash at the 14:08 mark of the fourth quarter.
"We are as complete on offense as anyone out there, and as we've ever been," said Brees after the game.
The Buccaneers managed to stay in the game through the first half, and chewed up 8:25 of the clock on a scoring drive to start the third, but New Orleans’ offensive machine responded, and then some, to every Tampa Bay score.
The Saints started the scoring with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore at the 10:23 mark of the first quarter. It capped an 80-yard scoring drive, and included an entertaining Lance Moore celebration after the fact that drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag for Kenny Stills' participation.
Tampa Bay responded just 1:35 later with a 62-yard drive of their own, capped by 48-yard touchdown pass to Tiquan Underwood for the tying score. The play was a flea-flicker, a handoff by Mike Glennon to Bobby Rainey, who lateralled back to Glennon for the deep middle pass right into the end zone.
The Saints worked the deep ball all night, including on their next drive when they capitalized on a 33-yard pass to Jimmy Graham to move down the field, finishing up with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Graham to close out first quarter scoring.
New Orleans widened their lead to 21-7 at 8:12 of the second quarter, a 40-yard Brees pass to Robert Meachem, who fell back one yard through the front corner of the end zone. The play was upheld after a challenge by the replay officials.
Though Tampa Bay scored again, taking just over four and a half minutes to do it, the Saints responded immediately. Sean Payton challenged an incomplete pass to Jimmy Graham and lost, but Brees took the next snap and threw a 29-yard dart to Kenny Stills, who then ran 47 yards for a touchdown. It was a three-play, 80-yard, 48-second drive that put the Saints up 28-14 before halftime.
The Bucs notched a field goal at 6:35 of the third quarter, and that's the closest they would get. Pierre Thomas scored on an 8-yard run at 1:22 of the third, and Brees closed out scoring with his 9-yard run at 14:08 of the fourth.
This story has been updated.