By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
It was dubbed the “Old Man Battle”. Two quarterbacks, both over 40, both first-ballot Hall of Famers. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs the New Orleans Saints game was about more than just aging QBs, it was about two teams with something to prove. A chip on their shoulders. Two teams that had been written off and came back swinging.
I’m not going to go over these men’s careers. As I said, Buccaneers QB Tom Brady and Saints QB Drew Brees are first-ballot Hall of Famers, we all know the impact they have made on the league. However this was more about the impact they could make in this particular game, and Brady came out on top.
During the regular season, it was New Orleans that had the upper hand in this matchup, winning 34-23 and 38-3. However, that was prior to Brees breaking 11 ribs and puncturing his lung. While his return to the field was miraculous and insanely fast, Sunday’s game showed that he wasn’t at full strength. He seemed to struggle during the game, definitely not the Brees we have gotten used to seeing.
Brady was by no means perfect either. Many series during the game, the Tampa Bay offense seemed to stall out or struggle to even get going. But when the Bucs defense gifted the offense fantastic field positions off of turnovers, the offense took full advantage of it. And it was those turnovers that were the story of the game. New Orleans turned the ball over 4 times, completely changing momentum each time, and Brees knew it.
“A couple of them I probably shouldn’t have thrown and maybe forced it,” Brees said. “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.”
Neither QB threw for over 200 yards, neither team had a 100-yard rusher, neither team had a 100-yard receiver. This was a defensive game that held strong against two very good offenses. Special teams were also a big part until Saints wide receiver Deonte Harris was injured.
— NFL (@NFL) January 17, 2021
So where does this leave these teams? Tampa Bay is heading to Green Bay to face the seemingly unstoppable Aaron Rodgers. Once again, two future Hall of Fame QBs going head to head. This is just the fourth time the Bucs has been to the NFC Championship. A win there, which would give Tampa Bay a ticket to the Super Bowl, would cement the GOAT title for Brady, but it would also be just the second time the Bucs have been to the Super Bowl. They won in 2003.
As for New Orleans, the offseason could change everything for the franchise. Most speculate that Drew Brees has played his last game in the NFL and will retire. This will force the Saints to make some hard decisions going into next season. Will back up QB Jameis Winston take the starting job, or will “utility player” Taysom Hill get the nod? Add to that cap issues, and it could be a roller coaster over the next few months for Saints fans.
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG