The third time was the charm.
After losing to the Saints twice during the regular season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers put together an impressive performance as they came from behind for a thrilling 30-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Tom Brady passed for two touchdowns to Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette and also ran in for a score. With the win, Brady continues to set records as he heads into his 14th conference championship game.
That game will take place in Green Bay next week, where the 43-year-old Brady will try to advance to his 10th Super Bowl in a showdown with Packers All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers.
“We worked hard to get to this point. Two road playoff wins is pretty sweet,” Brady said. “We’ve got to go beat a great football team we know pretty well. Aaron’s playing incredible.”
Meanwhile, the Brees era in New Orleans could be over after 15 seasons.
While just 3,750 tickets were distributed in the 73,000-seat Superdome to comply with local COVID-19 restrictions, the fans made themselves heard with an eruption of cheers when the 42-year-old Brees first took the field for New Orleans (13-5), seemingly sensing this could be their last chance to see him play at home.
Brees, under contract for one more year, declined to say whether he’s retiring. After he’d changed in the locker room, he walked back onto the field and watched his four children play, at one point sharing a long embrace with his wife, Brittany.
“I appreciate all that this game has given to me,” Brees said. “There are obviously so many incredible memories.”
If it was his last game, it won’t be one he’ll want to remember. The NFL’s all-time leader in completions and yards finished the game completing 19-of-34 passes for just 134 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
“A couple of them I probably shouldn’t have thrown and maybe forced it,” Brees said after the game. “That’s what this game came down to is those turnovers because all of those gave them the ball deep in our territory, and you can’t do that with (Tampa Bay’s) offense. They’re too good and they’re going to capitalize on that, which they did.”
Although he threw for two touchdowns, Brady finished the game with just 199 passing yards in what often resembled more of a defensive struggle. Unlike his previous two meetings with the Saints — both losses — he was not intercepted and largely avoided pressure, taking just one sack.