Saints pickup win in finale

Published 12:01 am Monday, December 29, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Drew Brees sent both Saints and Buccaneers fans home happy.

The New Orleans quarterback did his part to ensure Tampa Bay picks first in next spring’s NFL draft, shrugging off mistake after mistake to lead a second-half comeback to beat the Bucs 23-20 on Sunday.

An announced crowd of 59,952 was a mixture of Saints fans who had hoped their team would still have something to play for in the regular-season finale, along with Bucs faithful who watched the home team surprisingly build a 13-point halftime lead that held through the third quarter.

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By the end, New Orleans fans were cheering, while Tampa Bay backers hoping the Bucs will use the No. 1 overall pick on a potential franchise quarterback were relieved.

“Any time we play, our DNA needs to be we’re playing to win,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. “You just can’t turn it on, turn it off some of the time. Obviously, the season hasn’t been anything like we had hoped for, or our fans had hoped for, and yet I think it was important that we found a way to finish it on a good note.”

As promised, Bucs coach Lovie Smith gave more playing time than usual to some of his younger players, particularly in the second half.