The Buccaneers close out their 2013 season Sunday against the slumping Saints at the Superdome, where New Orleans is looking to finish 8-0 at home for the second time in three seasons. Here’s a closer look at the matchup:
RECORDS: Bucs 4-11. Saints 10-5.
REGULAR-SEASON SERIES: Saints lead, 26-17.
BUCS ROAD RECORD vs. SAINTS: 10-14.
LAST MEETING: The Saints rallied in Week 2 as Garrett Hartley’s 27-yard FG on the final snap lifted New Orleans to a 16-14 triumph, spoiling Tampa Bay’s home opener. MLB Mason Foster had given the Bucs a 14-13 lead in the fourth quarter by returning a Drew Brees interception 85 yards for a score. Kevin Ogletree caught a 5-yard TD pass from Josh Freeman, who completed only 9-of-22 attempts for 125 yards. Doug Martin ran for 144 yards on 29 carries, but Tampa Bay couldn’t overcome 10 penalties for 118 yards. Brees was picked off twice while throwing for 322 yards, including a 56-yard TD strike to TE Jimmy Graham. After Rian Lindell missed a 47-yard FG try that could have put the Bucs ahead by four points with 66 seconds remaining, Brees connected with Marques Colston for a 31-yard completion, highlighting a game-winning 54-yard drive.
NEED TO KNOW: The Saints have dropped three of their last four, averaging only 12 points in setbacks against Seattle, St. Louis and Carolina. Brees directs the NFC’s No. 1 passing attack, but he has been sacked 36 times and New Orleans doesn’t run the ball effectively. Graham has been on the receiving end for 15 of Brees’ 35 TD passes. Defensively, coordinator Rob Ryan’s blitz-happy scheme has held opponents to 20 points or less 11 times in 15 games.
The Bucs close out a frustrating season, hoping to go 5-3 after an 0-8 start that included MRSA issues and the benching and ultimate release of Freeman after three games. Tampa Bay’s offense, beset by key injuries, has been unable to sustain drives in the past five weeks and WR Vincent Jackson is the only proven weapon surrounding rookie QB Mike Glennon. Tampa Bay leads the NFC with 31 takeaways and pressure on Brees will be critical Sunday.
CATEGORY Bucs Saints
Total Offense 32nd (276.1 ypg) 5th (395.4 ypg)
Rushing Offense 22nd (102.5 ypg) 25th (91.7 ypg)
Passing Offense 32nd (173.7 ypg) 2nd (303.2 ypg)
Total Defense 13th (340.0 ypg) 4th (306.7 ypg)
Rushing Defense 17th (110.9 ypg) 19th (114.1 ypg)
Passing Defense t15th (229.1 ypg) 2nd (192.7 ypg)
Points Scored 29th (18.1 ppg) 13th (24.8 ppg)
Points Allowed 14th (23.1 ppg) 5th (19.1 ppg)
Sacks 23rd (34.0) 4th (47.0)
Sacks Allowed 27th (45.0) t11th (36.0)
Turnover Margin t4th (+11) t16th (-1)
Rushing Yards Bobby Rainey (497) Pierre Thomas (529)
Passer Rating Mike Glennon (84.9) Drew Brees (101.8)
Receptions Vincent Jackson (74) Jimmy Graham (81)
Receiving Yards Vincent Jackson (1,189) Jimmy Graham (1,144)
Sacks Gerald McCoy (9.0) Cameron Jordan (12.5)
Interceptions Lavonte David (5) Keenan Lewis (3)