"Our whole preparation was to win. There was a point where -- and we discussed this as a staff --if in the second half, that other game was out of whack, then we were going to back off and not get anybody injured. Our focus completely all week was to get our 12th win, just like we would in any game."
The Falcons beat the Panthers 31-10.
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman completed 21 of 26 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He had a quarterback rating of 133. The victory over the Saints was the Bucs' first over a team with a winning record this season.
Marques Colston,the Saints leading receiver, running back Pierre Thomas, tight ends Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas were held out of the game because of injuries. Free safety Malcolm Jenkins was run over by LeGarrette Blount and left the game early in the first quarter with an injured knee. Tight end Jimmy Graham, left with a sprained ankle after catching a four-yard touchdown pass from Brees on their first possession. It was a fade throw, or back-shoulder throw by Brees who tossed it despite two defenders in the area.
Chase Daniel, the Saints backup quarterback, got in the game with the Saints down 20-13. He completed his first NFL pass in the fourth quarter and finished 2-of-3 for 16 yards and a passer rating of 79.6. Brees was 69.6.
Wide receiver Adrian Arrington made his first career reception in the second quarter and finished with a seven catches for 79 yards. He was signed to the 53-man roster this week.
Running back Julius Jones fumbled on the Seahawks one in the second quarter. The Saints had converted on 5-of-5 third downs before the fumble and finished 8-of-16. The Saint lost their momentum with that lost fumble.
The Saints had three turnovers to the Bucs' two.
Garrett Hartley kicked field goals of 45 and 38 yards without a miss.
Bush led the Saints with 70 rushing yards on 9 carries. He also had 5 catches for 55 yards and ran harder than last week. Rookie running back Chris Ivory added 33 yards on 7 carries before suffering a foot injury in the second quarter.
"I feel better," said Bush. "I've been feeling better for three or four weeks now. Today was a situation where I was trying to make the most of my opportunities, but more importantly, we had some mistakes we have to clean up as a team, offense and special teams. If we play like this in the post season, we're going to find ourselves going home pretty early."
Late in the first half, the Saints were driving with a chance to tie or take the lead when Brees threw his career-high 22nd interception on the season.
The Bucs outplayed the Saints the three-and -a-half quarters their starters were in the game.
Freeman threw a 2-yard strike to Dezmon Briscoe in the back of the end zone, and an 18-yard TD to rookie Mike Williams on fourth-and-short. Conner Barth hit efield goals, the third from 48 yards out to give the Bucs a two-score lead with 4:01 to go.
Brees is throwing into tight spots and counting on receivers to make the play.
Payton didn't discuss the Saints' injury list, but most of the players should be healthy for the playoffs.
Saint coach Sean Payton: (On how to have success in the playoffs) "It's playing mistake-free football, situational football, all those things that good teams do. We're going to have to do a better rob of it than we did today."
(On injuries at WR and TE) "We had some guys that had to fill in today because of injuries that -- really, had this been a playoff game -- we would have had to play some of the same guys we did today. Tory Humphrey got a lot of snaps. Adrian Arrington got a lot of snaps. We were nicked up going into the game at tight end. The key is getting those reps and that experience. We weren't going to sit on anybody if we felt they could play. We paled everyone who was healthy enough Io play."
(On momentum) "The term is overused. You would rather have it than not have it. There's momentum in a game. There's momentum in a season. We've got to get ready to play our best football. We've got some work to do."
Quarterback Drew Brees (On if some struggles this week and against Baltimore are like the struggles a the end of 2009) "Last year we lost a tough one to Dallas and then lost a tough one to Tampa Bay in overtime. We had already clinched the one seed and rested some guys and lost one at Carolina. We started 13-0 and lost our last three. We had a plan. We had to get some guys healthy.We had some guys banged up and we had a first-round bye.
"This time around, the scenario's a little different. We don't have a bye and we have to play on Saturday..It's a quick turnaround. We rested some guys today and we had some guys coming back, getting healthy. The big thing that we wanted to accomplish was to have everyone healthy for the playoffs. We came out today to win. We had some guys out. We didn't play our best and didn't have some things going our way either. We did some stupid things that would bite us in the playoffs. Once the playoffs start it's a whole new play. Everything's magnified. All this mistakes are magnified. You have to be able to execute to perfection. We didn't do that today.Today was disappointing."
(On what it will take personally and as a leader on-this team to try to repeat) "We have great leadership this team, great character on this team. There are a lot of guys who were part of it last year and some guys who came in and really helped us this year, some veteran players. It's one game at a time.. It's all about fighting tooth and nail whatever you can do to win a game and move on to the next one."
(On expectations) "Our expectations are the exact same as when we went into the season. There's no reason why we can't go back and do this again. Has it been difficult? Absolutely. It's brought us together. We have the potential to be an even better team than last year. Last year was awesome. It was special, but I feel like this team can accomplish that same thing, but it's going to be hard."
Running back Reggie Bush (On if he feels he can have the impact in the playoffs like he did with the Arizona game last year) "Yes, it's just a matter of my number getting called. This is more about how we can be better as a team. It's not one guy that's going to do it. We have to find a way to get healthy and find a way to clean up these mistakes."
Guard Carl Nicks (On if being Super Bowl champs gives them an edge) "At the end of the day everybody has an opinion. There are power rankings.It's 0-0. It doesn't matter what your rank was or even if you were 16-0. You just go out there and try to win."
(On if the playoffs this year are a situation where you have to put your rings away and move on) "We put our rings away in week one of the preseason. It's not the same year. It's not the same guys. It's not the same team in the playoffs. It's back to work."