|Teams involved||Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints|
|First contested||December 11, 1977
TB 33, NO 14
|Number of meetings||43 meetings|
|Most recent meeting||NO 42, TB 17 (2013)|
|All-time series||New Orleans leads 27-16|
|Current streak||Saints, 4 wins|
Division Championships (11)
The Buccaneers–Saints rivalry is between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. The two teams met for the first time in 1977. The expansion Buccaneers had been winless over their first two seasons to that point, and entered the game with a collective record of 0-26. Tampa Bay upset the Saints, earning their first win in franchise history.
During the period from 1976-2001, the two teams were not in the same division, but played one another many times during the regular season as well as during the preseason. In 2002, the two teams were placed in the NFC South division and became division rivals. The Buccaneers and Saints are scheduled to play one another twice each season, once each at Tampa and New Orleans. As of 2012, the two teams have yet to meet during the playoffs.
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. 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 from Gary Huff to Morris Owens that capped off a 71-yard drive. Mike Washington made it 20–0 early in the second half, returning an interception 45 yards for a touchdown. The Buccaneers also recovered a fumble, and had six interceptions in all. Their three interception return touchdowns, with Richard Wood and Greg Johnson also scoring, tied an NFL record. The Buccaneers finally broke through, and won their first win in franchise history, ending their NFL-record losing streak at 26 games.
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. 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 seven, the Buccaneers hosted the Saints, and the game was scoreless at halftime. The Saints, however, rolled with 42 points in the season half, winning by a score of 42-14. Archie Manning went 11 of 14 with a touchdown each rushing and passing. Mike Strachan rushed for two touchdowns.
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 one another every year during the regular season from 1981-1992. They also played twice during the preseason in the 1980s. The Saints dominated the regular season series during that period, winning 9 of 12 games.
In 1991, en route to their first NFC West division title, the powerful Saints defeated Tampa Bay 23-7. The Buccaneers scored first, becoming the first team to score a touchdown against the Saints defense in 18 quarters. But 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.
The Tampa Bay 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 nay impressive either, but three field goals were plenty for a 9-3 victory. Three times the Buccaneers had the ball inside the Saints 25 yard line, but came up with zero points. At one point, Bert Emanuel caught a touchdown pass, but the officials ruled it incomplete, saying he "trapped" the ball against the turf.
During Christmas week, Tampa Bay entered the game 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. The Buccaneers took a 30-0 lead into halftime. The scoring continued into the second half, and the Saints finally got onto the board. With two minutes remaining in the game, Ronde Barber intercepted Aaron Brooks pass, and returned it 36 yards for a "icing-on-the-cake" touchdown. Since kicker Martin Gramatica was siedlined with a pulled hamstring, the team had to forgo an extra point attempt. Adding a little insult to injury, back-up quarterback Shaun King attempted a two-point conversion, and with its success, the Buccaneers tied the franchise record for most points in a game at 48.
Tampa Bay would go on to clinch a playoff spot, but eventually lost to Philadelphia in the wild card round. Head coach Tony Dungy was fired at season's end. It would be the final meeting before the two clubs would join the same division. At 7-9. New Orleans would not make the postseason.
In 2002, due to league-wide reorganization, New Orleans and Tampa Bay 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. Tampa Bay would go on to win Super Bowl XXXVII and finish with a record of 12-4, but New Orleans swept the season series.
On opening day, the Jon Gruden era began at Tampa Bay on a hot, humid 90° 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 the overtime period, 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, and the Saints were credited with 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.
Tampa Bay was the defending Super Bowl champion, while New Orleans was looking to be a contender for the playoffs. During the first meeting, the Saints once again appeared to have the Buccaneers in check, pulling out to a 14-0 lead. In the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers rallied, and tied the score at 14-14. In the final two minutes, the Saints got the ball and kicked a game-winning field goal with 8 seconds left. It was the Saints third consecutive victory over the Buccaneers.
In December, the second meeting of the year finally went Tampa Bay's way. The Buccaneers were barely clinging to a chance for a playoff berth, and the Saints likewise were also on the outside looking in. The Tampa Bay defense sacked Aaron Brooks seven times and forced three fumbles. Warren Sapp entered the game as a tight end, and scored a touchdown on offense, the second of his career. New Orleans was in the game until the waning seconds of the first half. With 1:49 to go in the second quarter, Joe Horn dropped a sure touchdown pass in the end zone. On the next play, Aaron Brooks was sacked and fumbled. Jermaine Phillips recovered the fumble, and returned it 20 yards. Tampa Bay took a 14-7 lead into halftime, and neither team scored again.
Both teams would miss the playoffs in 2003.
In the second meeting of the season, former Buccaneer Aaron Stecker returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown (something he never accomplished while playing for Tampa Bay). New Orleans beat Tampa Bay 21-17. 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 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 Baton Rouge.
New Orleans 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 was actually leading 21-17 late in the fourth quarter when Reggie Bush returned a punt 65-yards for a touchdown. The Saints emerged with a 24-21 victory, and it was Bush's first touchdown in the NFL.
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 crown. 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. After the safety kick, New Orleans looked to run the clock out. Reggie Bush fumbled a double-reverse intended for Devery Henderson and Jovan Haye recovered for Tampa Bay at the New Orleans 37-yard line. Six plays later Jerramy Stevens caught a 4-yard game touchdown pass, and Tampa bay won the game in shocking fashion.
New Orleans won the first meeting handily by a score of 38-7. Tampa Bay was in a rebuilding year under first-year coach Raheem Morris. 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 were 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. Carnell Williams scored a rushing touchdown with about 13 minutes remaining. With less than 3 minutes left in regulation, Micheal Spurlock scored a 77-yard punt return touchdown 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. Saints owner Tom Benson was shown in the press box celebrating what appeared to be a win, only to stand in disbelief seconds later when it was determined the kick had actually sailed wide-right.
In the overtime period, 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, then gone 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. The Saints defeated the Colts to win their first championship, and likewise broke the 33-year old "Tampa Bay Curse."
New Orleans swept the season series, scoring 76 points over the two games, the most ever between the two clubs in one season. During the first meeting, Tampa Bay was trailing by the score of 28-35. In the final seconds, Josh Freeman threw a potential game-tying touchdown pass in the back of the endzone, which could have sent the game to overtime. 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 most lopsided game in the series' history. It was also the first shutout by either team.
Regular season results
New Orleans leads the series 26-17
Tampa Bay leads the series 4-1
|Season||Day||Date||Visiting team||Home team||Site|
|1978||Saturday||August 19||Buccaneers 14||Saints 3||Louisiana Superdome|
|1979||Saturday||August 18||Saints 7||Buccaneers 14||Tampa Stadium|
|1983||Saturday||August 6||Saints 17||Buccaneers 20||Tampa Stadium|
|1985||Saturday||August 24||Buccaneers 14||Saints 10||Louisiana Superdome|
|1998||Friday||August 28||Buccaneers 6||Saints 10||Louisiana Superdome|
Since the two teams joined the same division, the series has been mostly a back-and-forth contest. The longest winning streak all-time was by the Saints in the 1980s, who won six straight. Since 2002, the longest winning streak is four, currently by New Orleans. Tampa Bay has never won more than two times in a row.
New Orleans holds the edge in total victories (27-16). From 1976-2012, the home and away teams each won 21 times. The home team won nine straight from 1984 to 1992, while the away team won the first six meetings. The teams have gone to overtime twice, with the visiting team winning both instances.
Since 2002, both New Orleans and Tampa Bay have managed to sweep their opponent on multiple occasions. New Orleans has swept Tampa Bay four times (2002, 2006, 2012, 2013). Tampa Bay has swept New Orleans twice (2005, 2007). The Saints notably swept Tampa Bay the season the Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII.
The two franchises have each appeared in the Super Bowl once. They made their first respective Super Bowl appearances in 2002 (Tampa Bay) and 2009 (New Orleans). Both managed to win the Super Bowl in their lone appearance; they are two of only four teams to currently be undefeated in the Super Bowl (the Jets and Ravens are the others).
- Kaufman, Ira (2011-11-04). "Rivalry brewing with Saints". The Tampa Tribune. Retrieved 2013-07-12.
- Mizell, Hubert. “Bucs edging point spread - little else.” St. Petersburg Times. 3 October 1977
- Mizell, Hubert. “Buccaneers win one!” St. Petersburg Times. 12 Dec 1977
- Zier, Patrick. “Bucs Finally Get ONE Win”. The Lakeland Ledger. 11 Dec 1977
- Korth, Joanne. “Gameday”. St. Petersburg Times. 10 Oct 2004
-  1977 season at bucpower.com. Accessed 25 Mar 1977
- Litsky, Frank. “John McKay, U.S.C. and Buccaneers Coach, Dies at 77”. The New York Times. 11 Jun 2001
- Associated Press. “It’s official: Coryell fired”. The St. Petersburg Times. 11 Feb 1978
- Rosenthal, Bert. “Bucs break into win column”. The Prescott Courier. 12 Dec 1977
- Associated Press. "Bengals Club Steelers in Upset". Penn State Daily Collegian. 15 October 1979
- Running on empty