Aaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s probably going to do it.
Saints 24 – Bucs 17
The two main takeaways from yesterday’s game: Saints quarterback Drew Brees throwing like a boss, and the Bucs likely sticking a fork in their post-season hopes.
Tampa came into the game with a simple yet shaky recipe for Wild Card success: win their remaining four games and hope a few chips elsewhere around the league fell their way. Easier said than done, of course, but that’s why football players get paid big bucks (sorry), and all that.
Brees didn’t waste a lot of time going to work. He moved past Miami legend Dan Marino for most TD passes scored during the month of December (who keeps track of these stats?) and tied Peyton Manning by notching his 93rd 300+ passing game. #ProTip about Brees: that dude never quits. Ever. As long as he’s upright, he’s a threat. Hell, he can probably throw a TD bullet lying flat on his back.
A Tampa defense that couldn’t put a net on Brees and New Orleans running back Tim Hightower and couldn’t force the Saints offense to give up the ball, coupled with (again) far too many stupid and costly penalties doomed the Bucs. Meanwhile, Tampa’s offense sputtered while facing off against the league’s lowest-ranked defense. Blargle.
One of the few bright spots on the day was Bucs running back Doug Martin, who has become one of the team’s premiere offensive weapons. He collected 81 yards on 11 rushing attempts, but the Tampa scheme was to start throwing once they found themselves in the hole. Grr. Argh.
The loss drops the Bucs to 6-7 on the year, but they’re still in second place in the NFC South. Elsewhere, the Carolina Panthers annihilated the Atlanta Falcons, improving to 13-0 and securing for themselves a first-round playoff bye to go with the division title they locked up last week.
NFL voodoo math says the Bucs are technically not eliminated from the Wild Card hunt just yet, but the road to get there just got a lot harder to travel. They’re two games behind the current NFC Wild Card best bets, Minnesota and Seattle, so I’m not ready to start making party plans.
Next up for Tampa? They’ve got a short week, traveling to St. Louis to take on the equally beleaguered Rams on Thursday night for the NFL Network.
Maybe I’ll go to the movies instead. I hear a couple of good ones are opening up.