First place in the NFC South is on the line when the New Orleans Saints play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on "Sunday Night Football." These two franchises experienced years of futility, but have had their greatest success since being placed in the NFC South in 2002. This year's meetings also feature a blockbuster quarterback matchup in Drew Brees versus Tom Brady, who are battling each other for the title of career touchdown pass leader. The Saints drew first blood, beating the Buccaneers 34-23 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Week 1.
While that game won't make this list, the two teams have had some great contests over the years and in this series, that may not always be reflected in the final score. Here are the five greatest, two blowouts, and three that went down to the wire.
5. New Orleans Saints 42, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14
Oct. 14, 1979 — Tampa
After getting embarrassed by the Buccaneers two years earlier, Saints quarterback Archie Manning got a bit of revenge, amassing 397 yards of offense and scoring 42 points in the second half. The beating was the worst of a Buccaneers season that included a run to the NFC Championship. As head coach John McKay put it, "We stunk."
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48, New Orleans Saints 40
Sept. 9, 2018 — New Orleans
In this good, old-fashioned shootout, Tampa Bay took a commanding 48-24 fourth-quarter lead, but Alvin Kamara scored two touchdowns, and the Saints converted two-point conversions on both scores to close the lead to 48-40. New Orleans then kicked off with 3:31 left in the game, and the Buccaneers were able to run out the clock.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20, New Orleans Saints 17
Dec. 27, 2009 — New Orleans
The Saints entered the game at 13-1, trying to secure home-field advantage for the playoffs, and jumped out to a 17-0 second-quarter lead. Then the Buccaneers scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 77-yard kick return by Michael Spurlock, to tie the game at 17-17. New Orleans missed a 37-yard field goal as time expired, sending the game into overtime. Tampa Bay won the toss and kicked a game-winning field goal on the first possession. Fortunately for the Saints, the Vikings also lost, allowing them to clinch home-field advantage for their Super Bowl run.
2. New Orleans Saints 26, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
Sept. 8, 2002 — Tampa
The Jon Gruden era in Tampa Bay got off to a bumpy start in the season opener as New Orleans held the Buccaneers to 161 yards in the first three quarters and led 20-10 going into the final period. However, Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson led two scoring drives in the final three minutes to tie the game and send it to overtime. The teams traded possessions and the Saints forced the Buccaneers to punt from their own five-yard line. Punter Tom Tupa took the snap, but Saints defender Fred McAfee came through unblocked. Tupa attempted a shovel pass that was intercepted by James Allen in the end zone for the win (at 1:40 in the below ESPN highlights). Things got better soon though and the Bucs went on to win the Super Bowl.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33, New Orleans Saints 14
Dec. 11, 1977 — New Orleans
The Bucs franchise famously started by going 0-26 and as it prepared to play the Saints in their 27th game, quarterback Archie Manning said it would be disgraceful to lose to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers responded by intercepting passes and returning three of them for touchdowns in their first win in franchise history. Tampa Bay's defense yelled, "It's disgraceful! It's disgraceful!" to Manning in the game's final seconds.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Top photo courtesy of buccaneers.com)