NEW ORLEANS (AP) — While Drew Brees won't be part of the playoffs for a third straight season, the record-setting quarterback took considerable satisfaction from a milestone that signifies how much winning he has done in his 11 seasons operating the offense that coach Sean Payton designed.
Payton took over first place on the Saints' career victory list for coaches with a 31-24 triumph over Tampa Bay on Saturday that put a considerable dent in the Buccaneers' playoff hopes. Payton has 94 regular season victories with New Orleans, the only place he has been a head coach.
"I'm lucky to have been part of every one of those," said Brees, who also has won six playoff games under Payton, including the Super Bowl to close the 2009 season. "It speaks to the program that he has built here and the amount of trust and confidence that everyone has in him.
"We've got a formula here that works and we've had some great seasons, great moments. We've had some tough times, some tough circumstances as well, but I always feel like we have the ability to overcome because of the program, the system, that Sean Payton has put in place," Brees added. "We know each and every week, he's going to put us in the best position to succeed, and we love him for that."
Payton was an offensive assistant under Bill Parcells in Dallas before getting his first head coaching job in New Orleans in 2006. He is currently in his 10th season on the sideline because he was suspended for 2012 in connection with the NFL's bounty probe.
The Saints celebrated Payton's victory as his 100th, choosing to include his playoff wins. Saints owner Tom Benson briefly entered the interview next to the Saints' locker room in the Superdome to offer a couple congratulatory words.
"It's exciting," Payton said. "A lot of work, a lot of coaches and players over the years that have been part of that."
Here are some other emerging story lines from the Saints' victory over the Bucs:
Payton hit the milestone at the expense of first-year Tampa Bay coach Doug Koetter, who is now experiencing how hard it can be to secure a playoff spot in the NFL.
The Bucs, who held the inside track to a playoff spot after beating the Saints on Dec. 11, have dropped two straight and now must win their finale against Carolina next week while also hoping for Washington and Green Bay to lose. If all that happens, the Bucs then have to hope they win a tiebreaker with the Packers based on strength of victory.
"However that works out, it works out," Koetter said. "We knew all week our job was to win today, and we didn't. Whatever happens after that is for the math professors to figure out."
The fortunes of Brees and Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston changed considerably between two games New Orleans and Tampa Bay played against one another in the span of 13 days.
In the first meeting in Tampa Bay, Winston was unspectacular but sound and did not turn the ball over in a 16-11 victory, while Brees was intercepted three times and held without a touchdown pass.
On Saturday, Brees passed for 299 yards and a touchdown without an interception, completing passed to nine different receivers. Brandin Cooks and rookie Michael Thomas each had receptions longer than 40 yards.
Winston was intercepted twice by safety Jairus Byrd, giving him five interceptions in his past two games. But Winston also had a few highlights , including touchdown passes to tight end Cameron Brate and receiver Mike Evans. The second-year QB now needs one more touchdown pass to set a franchise single-season record with 28.
STILL GOT IT
Byrd's interceptions were both critical to the outcome. One set up a Saints TD and the other came just inside the New Orleans 20 . Byrd also had a tackle for a loss in what was really the first game he came up with the types of game changing plays that were expected of him when he was signed away from Buffalo as a free agent in 2014. He missed much of his first season with a knee injury and hadn't been the same since — until recently.
"It's been a long time coming," Byrd said. "It took a lot longer than I wanted, but I feel good."
Both defenses registered a pair of sacks, and the Saints were credited with four QB hits, while the Bucs had three. Bucs linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald each sacked Brees, while Saints rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and defensive end Cam Jordan each sacked Winston.
"We were able to get a lot of pressure," Jordan said.
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Posted on Mon, December 26, 2016
by By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer