Saints rout Bucs to secure playoff spot
New Orleans, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - Drew Brees fired four touchdown passes in the first half and added a rushing score in the second to help the New Orleans Saints secure a playoff berth with a 42-17 thumping of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Brees completed 24-of-31 passes for 381 yards and hooked up with 11 different targets, with Lance Moore, Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills and Robert Meachem each hauling in a score for the Saints (11-5), who bounced back from consecutive setbacks to claim the sixth seed in the NFC playoff picture.
New Orleans will pay a visit to Philadelphia on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 8:10 p.m. ET. The Eagles won the NFC East title Sunday night by edging Dallas, 24-22.
Mike Glennon capped his rookie campaign by throwing for 219 yards and two touchdowns with an interception on 22-of-41 throws for the disappointing Buccaneers (4-12), who closed the season on a three-game slide.
"Unfortunately, something that we've been pretty good at all year -- playing pass defense -- we didn't do very well today," Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano said. "They (the Saints) had an excellent plan and they executed it very well."
Tim Wright and Tiquan Underwood caught a TD pass apiece in the setback.
Brees was nearly flawless in the first half, throwing as many incompletions as touchdown passes while getting New Orleans into the end zone on four of the team's first five drives.
"We moved the ball very effectively today," Brees said. "Just sharp in all regards. Good running the football, good on third down, good in the red zone, just winning football."
The Saints opened the game with a 9-play march that fullback Jed Collins kept alive with a 2-yard surge on 4th-and-1 from the Tampa Bay 46 before Brees hit Moore for a 44-yard score on the next play to make it 7-0 New Orleans.
Tampa Bay countered four plays into its first series, as Bobby Rainey and Glennon used a flea-flicker to freeze the defense before Glennon found Underwood behind the defense for a 48-yard TD to tie the tilt at 7-7.
New Orleans regained control on its next touch, which Graham highlighted with a 33-yard grab to the Tampa Bay 36 before capping the trek shortly after with a 10-yard touchdown grab that made it 14-7 Saints with 3:08 left in the first.
Following an exchange of punts, New Orleans started its next scoring drive at its own 43 and Brees got the team in the end zone five plays later when he found Meachem in the front right corner of the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead with just over eight minutes left before the break.
The Buccaneers responded with an 80-yard scoring sequence, highlighted by Brian Leonard's 24-yard run that saw him leap over a defender before being brought down at the New Orleans 13.
Vincent Jackson's 12-yard grab moved the Buccaneers to the goal line and Wright followed with a 1-yard TD catch to make it 21-14 with 3:28 left.
Brees restored New Orleans' two-score lead just three snaps later, finding Stills behind the defense for a 76-yard touchdown pass that pushed the spread to 28-14 heading into halftime.
Tampa Bay opened the second half with a 13-play drive that produced a 54-yard field goal from Rian Lindell, but the Saints responded with a 92-yard trek that Pierre Thomas capped with an 8-yard TD run to make it 35-17 late in the third quarter.
Kennan Lewis picked off Glennon on the first play of Tampa Bay's ensuing touch and Brees scrambled into the end zone from nine yards out on the second play of the fourth frame to account for the final margin.
Glennon tied the NFL rookie record with his eighth multi-TD pass game of the season ... Brees (5,162) surpassed 5,000 passing yards on the season for the third straight year and fourth time in his career ... The Saints have won five straight against Tampa Bay, including a 16-14 win in Central Florida back on Sept. 15 ... The Saints set an NFL record with their 24th straight home game with 21-plus points ... Underwood racked up a game-high 93 receiving yards on five catches.
12/29 23:34:06 ET