Buccaneers–Saints rivalry

The Buccaneers–Saints rivalry is the rivalry between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints of the National Football League.[1] While the teams first met in 1977, the rivalry did not develop until the teams were placed in the NFC South in 2002, resulting in two annual meetings. The Saints lead the overall series, 33–20. The two teams have not met in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wordmark
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Orleans Saints wordmark
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints wordmark



The first meeting between the two teams occurred on December 11, 1977. Tampa Bay, an expansion franchise in 1976, entered the game with a collective record of 0–26 over its first two seasons. Teams around league were fearful of earning the dubious distinction of becoming the Buccaneers' first victim.[2] Despite six shutouts in the previous nine weeks, the Tampa Bay defense was improving, and a win seemed imminent. New Orleans did not get a first down until midway through the second quarter, and did not get past midfield until nearly the end of the half. The Buccaneers began their first five drives in Saints territory, scoring on two Dave Green field goals, and a five-yard pass touchdown from Gary Huff to Morris Owens. Mike Washington made it 20–0 early in the second half, returning an interception 45 yards for a touchdown.[3] The Buccaneers also recovered a fumble, and had six interceptions in all.[4] Their three interception return touchdowns, with Richard Wood and Greg Johnson also scoring, tied an NFL record.[5] The Buccaneers finally broke through with their first win in franchise history, ending their NFL-record losing streak at 26 games.[6][7][8] Before the game, John McKay had read the team an article in which Saints quarterback Archie Manning stated that it would be disgraceful to lose to Tampa Bay. Inspired by the statements, the Buccaneer defense yelled, "It's disgraceful! It's disgraceful!" at him as the clock wound down.[9] After the game, Saints head coach Hank Stram lamented "What a nightmare. It was the worst experience of my coaching career. We're all ashamed for our people, for our fans, for our organization." Stram was fired the following week.

Tampa Bay surprised the league in 1979, turning around the club and starting the season 5-0. In Week 7, the Buccaneers hosted the Saints, and the game was scoreless at halftime. The Saints, however, scored 42 points in the second half to win 42–14. Archie Manning went 11 of 14 with a touchdown each rushing and passing. Mike Strachan rushed for two touchdowns.[10] Despite the loss, Tampa Bay would advance to their first NFC Championship game. New Orleans would finish with a record of 8-8.

Despite not being in the same division, the Saints and Buccaneers played each other every regular season during the regular season from 1981–92. The Saints dominated the regular season series during that period, winning 9 of 12 games. The twelve consecutive seasons is the longest streak of any pair of non-division opponents facing each other in NFL history.[11]

In 1991, en route to their first NFC West division title, the Saints defeated the Buccaneers 23–7. The Buccaneers scored first, becoming the first team to score a touchdown against the Saints defense in 18 quarters.[12] However, the Bucs were no match for the punishing Saints defense. Quarterback Chris Chandler threw two interceptions, fumbled once, and was sacked six times in defeat. The Saints now had won eight out of the last nine regular season meetings.

In 1998, the Buccaneers offense dropped seven passes, Patrick Hape lost a fumble at the Saints 3 yard line, and quarterback Trent Dilfer threw an interception, as offensive futility plagued the Tony Dungy-led Buccaneers. The Saints offensive numbers were not impressive either, but three field goals were enough for a 9–3 victory. Three times the Buccaneers had the ball inside the Saints 25 yard line, but came up with zero points.

In Week 15 of 2001, Tampa Bay entered the game against the Saints needing a victory to stay in playoff contention. Tampa Bay exploded with a record-setting performance against New Orleans. Aaron Stecker took back the opening kickoff a then-franchise record 86 yards, tackled on the Saints 14 yard line. Two plays later, Brad Johnson connected with Karl Williams for a 14-yard touchdown, and a lead the Buccaneers never surrendered. In the first half, Williams, Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn each scored touchdowns, while Martin Gramatica added three field goals. to take a 30–0 lead into halftime. The scoring continued into the second half, as the Buccaneers would win 48–21. Tampa Bay would go on to clinch a playoff spot, but eventually lost to Philadelphia in the wild card round.

2002–09: Super Bowls for both teams

Game action between the Buccaneers and Saints at the 2002 Opening Day meeting.

After the 2002 NFL realignment, The Buccaneers and Saints were placed into the newly formed NFC South division. They became division foes, and would begin an annual two-game, home/away series each season.

In 2002, Tampa Bay began the Jon Gruden era with a home game against the Saints on a humid 90°F afternoon. The Saints held a 20–10 lead late in the fourth quarter, while Tampa Bay's offense had sputtered. The Buccaneers rallied in the final three minutes to tie the score at 20-20 and force overtime. Late in overtime, Tampa Bay was pinned back at their own 5-yard line. Tom Tupa attempted to punt on 4th down from the endzone, but Saints defender Fred McAfee was unblocked. Tupa avoided the tackle, and attempted a desperation shovel pass to John Howell from his non-throwing arm. The ball was intercepted by James Allen, standing in the confines of the endzone for a game-winning touchdown.

During the second meeting, on Sunday Night Football on December 1, New Orleans swept the season series by a score of 23-20. Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson was intercepted once, lost a fumble, and Aaron Stecker lost another fumble. Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks got off to a slow start, but heated up in the second and third periods, pulling out to a 20-9 lead which the Saints would not relinquish. Between the two games played amongst the clubs in 2002, Brooks had four touchdown passed against Tampa Bay's defense on the season; the rest of the league had three through ten games. Despite being swept by the Saints, the Buccaneers would go on to win Super Bowl XXXVII, while the Saints missed the playoffs.

In 2004, former Buccaneer Aaron Stecker returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a Saints touchdown (something he never accomplished while playing for Tampa Bay) to lead the Saints to a 21-17 win in Tampa. The Buccaneers led 17-7 with just over three minutes to go, but late-game miscues on offense and defense sunk the Buccaneers. Aaron Brooks connected on two touchdowns in the final three minutes, lifting the Saints to victory.

The Saints struggled in the 2005 season due in part to their displacement from Hurricane Katrina. Tampa Bay swept the season series en route to a division championship. The game hosted by New Orleans was played at Tiger Stadium at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

In 2006, the Saints swept the season series en route to their first appearance in the NFC Championship game later in the season. During the first meeting in Week 5, Tampa Bay entered the game winless, and was under the helm of rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. Tampa Bay led 21-17 late in the fourth quarter when Reggie Bush returned a punt 65-yards for a touchdown to give the Saints a 24-21 victory. The second meeting of the season came in Week 9. The Saints prevailed by a score of 31–14, behind three touchdown passes by Drew Brees, including a 52-yard pass to Devery Henderson.

In 2007, Tampa Bay swept the season series for the second time. In week 2, Tampa Bay dominated, jumping out to a 28-0 lead, and held on for a 31-14 victory. In week 13, a dramatic finish saw Tampa Bay sweep the series, and put themselves in the driver's seat for the division title. The Saints led 21–20 with four minutes remaining in the game. Punter Steve Weatherford made a successful coffin corner punt which pinned the Buccaneers at their own 2-yard line. Two plays later, Will Smith sacked Luke McCown for a safety and a 23-20 lead. New Orleans tried to run out the clock out, but Reggie Bush fumbled and Jovan Haye recovered for Tampa Bay at the New Orleans 37-yard line. Six plays later Jerramy Stevens caught a 4-yard touchdown pass, and Tampa Bay won the game 27–23.

In 2009, New Orleans won the first meeting handily by a score of 38-7. In week 16, the two teams met at the Superdome, with Tampa Bay entering the game with a record of only 2–12. New Orleans was 13-1, and looking to secure home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Saints jumped out to a 17-3 lead after three quarters. In the fourth quarter, however, Tampa Bay rallied to tie the score at 17–17. In the final seconds, Saints kicker Garrett Hartley attempted a 37-yard field goal that would have won the game. In overtime, Tampa Bay won the coin toss and received. They rushed right down the field in eleven plays, and Connor Barth kicked a game-winning field goal on the first possession.

The game reflected back to the perceived "Tampa Bay Curse." No team had ever lost to the Buccaneers during the regular season and went on to win the Super Bowl that same year. The Saints still clinched home field advantage in the playoffs, and eventually advanced to Super Bowl XLIV, where they defeated the Indianapolis Colts to win their first championship, and likewise break the 33-year-old "Tampa Bay Curse."


In 2012, the Saints swept the season series. During the first meeting, Tampa Bay was trailing by the score of 35–28. In the final seconds, Josh Freeman threw a potential game-tying touchdown pass in the back of the end zone, which would have sent the game to overtime with a successful PAT. However, officials ruled that the receiver had stepped out-of-bounds before making the catch. New Orleans held on to win 35–28. Later in the season, the Saints rolled by a score of 41-0, the biggest blowout in the series' history. It was also the first and, as of 2018, only shutout by either team in the series.

The Saints would also sweep the Buccaneers in 2013 and 2014, extending their winning streak over their rivals to seven games, the longest by either team in the series' history.

In Week 2 of 2015, The Buccaneers won in New Orleans, 26–19. It was rookie quarterback Jameis Winston's first NFL victory.

In 2017, the two teams met in Weeks 9 and 17. In the week 9 meeting, Jameis Winston was sidelined in the second half due to an injury, and Mike Evans was penalized for unnecessary roughness, for which he would later receive a one-game suspension. In the week 17 meeting, Tampa Bay scored a game-winning touchdown with 9 seconds left in regulation to upset the playoff-bound Saints. Though the Saints clinched the NFC South crown, the last-second loss effectively dropped the Saints from the #3 seed in the NFC playoffs to the #4 seed.

The teams met in the Superdome to open the 2018 campaign. Buccaneers' backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting for a suspended Winston, passed for 417 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Buccaneers to a surprising 48–40 win. In a losing effort, Drew Brees passed for 439 yards and three touchdowns, while Alvin Kamara added two rushing touchdowns. The 88 combined points in this game is the highest total in the series' history, and this game was the Saints' only loss in a 10–1 start to the season.

See also



  1. ^ Kaufman, Ira (2011-11-04). "Rivalry brewing with Saints". The Tampa Tribune. Retrieved 2013-07-12.
  2. ^ Mizell, Hubert. "Bucs edging point spread – little else." St. Petersburg Times. 3 October 1977
  3. ^ Mizell, Hubert. "Buccaneers win one!" St. Petersburg Times. 12 Dec 1977
  4. ^ Zier, Patrick. "Bucs Finally Get ONE Win". The Lakeland Ledger. 11 Dec 1977
  5. ^ Korth, Joanne. "Gameday". St. Petersburg Times. 10 Oct 2004
  6. ^ [1] 1977 season at bucpower.com. Accessed 25 Mar 1977
  7. ^ Litsky, Frank. "John McKay, U.S.C. and Buccaneers Coach, Dies at 77". The New York Times. 11 June 2001
  8. ^ Associated Press. "It's official: Coryell fired". The St. Petersburg Times. 11 Feb 1978
  9. ^ Rosenthal, Bert. "Bucs break into win column". The Prescott Courier. 12 Dec 1977
  10. ^ Associated Press. "Bengals Club Steelers in Upset". Penn State Daily Collegian. 15 October 1979
  11. ^ Urena, Ivan; Pro Football Schedules: A Complete Historical Guide from 1933 to the Present, p. 223 ISBN 0786473517
  12. ^ Running on empty

Works cited

NFC South

The National Football Conference – Southern Division or NFC South is one of the four divisions of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). It was created prior to the 2002 NFL season, when the league realigned divisions after expanding to 32 teams. The NFC South currently has four member clubs: the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Prior to the 2002 season, the Buccaneers belonged to the AFC West (1976) and NFC Central (1977–2001), while the other three teams were part of the geographically inaccurate NFC West. As a matter of fact, the South has more multiple-season members of the old NFC West than the current NFC West does (the Seattle Seahawks are in the current West, but they only played in that division during their inaugural season).

The NFC South is the only division since the 2002 realignment to have each of its teams make a conference championship game appearance as well as a Super Bowl appearance: Tampa Bay (2002), Atlanta (2004, 2012, and 2016), Carolina (2003, 2005 and 2015), and New Orleans (2006, 2009, and 2018). Also since 2002, each team has won at least three division titles, the only such division in the league. It is also the only NFL division to have zero division sweeps by any of its member teams.

Entering 2016, the Saints have the most wins among division members. The Saints record is 356–435–5; their win in Super Bowl XLIV is the highlight of an 8–9 playoff record. The Falcons record is 330–432–6 with a playoff record of 9–13; the Falcons lost in Super Bowls XXXIII and LI, the latter in overtime. The Buccaneers record is 241–386–1 with a victory in their only Super Bowl appearance, Super Bowl XXXVII, and an overall playoff record of 6–9. The Panthers have the best playoff record (9–8) of any team in the division with losses in Super Bowls XXXVIII and 50 and the best overall record in the division (166–169–1).

The NFC South is the only NFC division not to have any teams that predate the 1960 launch of the American Football League, the NFL’s former rival league. The oldest team is the Falcons, who began play in 1966, and the Saints began play only a year later in 1967. Each of the other NFC divisions has 3 teams that began play earlier than 1960, while the remaining three such teams are in the American Football Conference.

The NFC South became the second division in five years to have a champion with a losing record, as the 2014 Carolina Panthers won the division with a 7–8–1 record. (The 2010 Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7–9 record.) Additionally, Carolina became the first team to repeat as NFC South champions since the creation of the division. The Panthers are the only team to win the NFC South three consecutive times from 2013 to 2015. On January 7, 2018 two NFC South teams (Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints) met in the NFL playoffs for the first time since the division was created in 2002.

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