Saints defeat Bucs; will meet Philadelphia in playoffs

The season continues.

Playing at home after two consecutive tough losses, the Saints rediscovered the formula that led them to a 9-2 record and won their way into the postseason on Sunday.

The Saints will play in the wild-card round on Saturday at 7 p.m. (NBC) as the No. 6 seed and will travel to Philadelphia to begin postseason play. The Eagles defeated Cowboys 24-22 Sunday night, earning the right to host the Saints.

If the Saints win their first game, they would travel again to play the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks, who have a bye next week, on Jan. 11.

Drew Brees completed 24 of 31 pass attempts for 381 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for a score to lead New Orleans to a 42-17 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Earlier Sunday, the Carolina Panthers wrapped up the NFC South title and No. 2 seed in the playoffs which start next weekend, relegating the Saints to a wild-card spot if they could beat the Bucs — which they did.

The Saints (11-5) wrapped up a playoff spot with the easy victory, then had to wait for the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals to finish before finding out where they would be seeded.

The 49ers (12-4) won 23-20 to clinch the No. 5 seed, which will send them to Green Bay for a wild-card game. The Packers (8-7-1) earned the No. 4 seed by beating the Chicago Bears 33-28 for the NFC North title.

Brees completed 17 of 21 passes for 321 yards and four touchdowns in the first half to lead the Saints to a 28-14 advantage. He completed his first 11 passes of the game for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

The Saints and Buccaneers alternated touchdowns in the first quarter.

The Saints scored first when Brees threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to receiver Lance Moore to make the score 7-0.

But Tampa Bay tied the game on the ensuing possession when quarterback Mike Glennon threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tiquan Underwood, who ran past the Saints' secondary on a flea-flicker play.

Brees then threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham on the ensuing poossession to give the Saints a 14-7 lead in the first quarter.

Brees threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to receiver Robert Meachem to make the score 21-7 with 8:04 left in the second quarter. He threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Kenny Stills to make the score 28-14 with 2:40 left in the half.

Saints running back Pierre Thomas ran for an 8-yard touchdown to make the score 35-17 in the third quarter.

Brees rushed for a 9-yard touchdown to make the score 42-17 with 14:08 remaining in the game.