Having scored on a trick play earlier in the game, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano pressed his luck on a fake field goal attempt just before halftime against the New Orleans Saints, with punter Michael Koenen rolling to his right, searching helplessly for an open receiver and finding no answers.
Players retreated to the locker room at halftime with no points to show from that final drive. They might as well have boarded a flight back to Tampa then, mustering just three points in the second half against an explosive Saints offense that racked up 468 yards total offense with six touchdowns in a 42-17 divisional route.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 24 of 31 passes for 381 yards, throwing four touchdowns to four different receivers with no interceptions.
The first came on the Saints’ opening possession. After converting on fourth-and-1, Brees found wide receiver Lance Moore, who slipped past cornerback Leonard Johnson on a go-route, for a 44-yard touchdown.
The Bucs responded with a 48-yard touchdown on a flea flicker to wide receiver Tiquan Underwood. On first-and-10 at the New Orleans 48, Glennon took the snap, turned and pitched the ball to Bobby Rainey in the backfield, who pitched it back to Glennon, with Glennon airing it out to a wide-open Underwood and safety Malcolm Jenkins nowhere to be found.
Brees and the Saints answered right back with an 80-yard drive capped by a 10-yard touchdown to Jimmy Graham, who slipped between a pair of Bucs safeties into the end zone. Graham finished the game with five catches for 71 receiving yards and one touchdown shy of tying Rob Gronkowski’s single season record of 17 touchdowns by a tight end.
Robert Meachem and Kenny Stills each were targeted just once by Brees, but each produced touchdown catches. On third-and-10 in the second quarter, Brees found Meachem working against Darrelle Revis in the corner of the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown. On third-and-6 of New Orleans’ next possession, Stills took a deep pass over the middle 76 yards to give the Saints a 28-14 lead.
The destruction of the Bucs defense continued after the half, with an 8-yard touchdown from running back Pierre Thomas on third-and-7. Then came a 9-yard scramble up the middle by Brees on third-and-5, which was set up by an interception from cornerback Keenan Lewis on a pass intended for Vincent Jackson.
Jackson was targeted 12 times by quarterback Mike Glennon but managed only four catches for 35 receiving yards. Underwood led the Bucs with five catches on seven targets for 93 receiving yards and the touchdown on the opening possession.
Tampa Bay’s other touchdown came from tight end Tim Wright, who helped cap off an 80-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown. He finished the game with five catches on 10 targets for 58 receiving yards.
Glennon went 22 of 41 for 219 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Wright and Underwood accounted for 10 and 9-yard pickups respectively on Tampa Bay’s final possession before halftime, with Wright adding a 13-yard reception that brought the Bucs to the New Orleans 25. Glennon then found Underwood deep along the sideline, just inches from the end zone, but he was ruled out of bounds and the catch was incomplete.
Then, rather than attempting a manageable field goal on fourth-and-10, the Bucs attempted the fake, lining up in the ‘swinging gate’ formation. The Saints, who attempted their own unsuccessful fake a week ago against the Carolina Panthers, sniffed it out completely.
Tampa Bay would eventually experience some success in its kicking game, with Rian Lindell hitting a 54-yard field goal in the third quarter.
With Sunday’s win, the Saints (11-5) finished second in the NFC South and secured a wild-card spot, while the Bucs fell to 4-12, finishing last in the division for the third-consecutive year … Since Jon Gruden’s firing after the 2008 season, Tampa Bay has finished last in the division four out of five years … After two seasons, head coach Greg Schiano’s record with the Bucs is now 11-21 (.344) … While multiple reports Sunday suggest that Schiano won’t be fired, Penn State may make a strong push for Schiano if Bill O’Brien leaves, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport … The Bucs were without strongside linebacker Dekoda Watson, whose been battling a groin injury, and starting strong safety Mark Barron, who has been limited by a hamstring injury … For the fourth time in his career, Saints quarterback Drew Brees eclipsed the 5,000-yard passing mark … Sunday’s win for the Saints was their eighth at home this season, making them undefeated at home for just the second time in team history … The Bucs are now slated to pick seventh overall in the upcoming NFL draft.