TAMPA, Fla.--Tampa Bay QB Chris Simms threw a pair of touchdown passes to WR Joey Galloway and the Bucs held off a determined effort by New Orleans as they defeated the Saints, 27-13 in Raymond James Stadium as the Saints closed out the 2005 season.
The Bucs (11-5) clinched the NFC South with the victory; their first in four tries over the Saints (3-13) at home since the clubs became division rivals in 2002.
New Orleans trailed just 17-13 with just over 12 minutes remaining, but the Buccaneers got a Matt Bryant 26-yard field goal with 7:16 to play for a 20-13 margin and a 34-yard fumble return for a score by DE Dewayne White with 1:43 to go as the Saints attempted to get a potential game-tying score.
Saints QB Todd Bouman completed 25-of-37 passes for 265 yards, one TD and two interceptions on the day. Simms was 12-of-25 passing for 143 yards and two TDs for the Buccaneers.
After a Tampa Bay punt, the Saints took over, down 20-13, with no timeouts and 2:11 remaining. Bouman hit TE Zachary Hilton for a 21-yard gain to the Saints' 46 at the two-minute warning. After an incomplete pass to WR Az-Zahir Hakim on first down, Bouman was chased from the pocket and stripped of the ball by White at the New Orleans 38. White tracked down the loose ball at the 34 and rumbled in for the clinching score.
The Saints had the game's first possession and the New Orleans offense mixed runs by RB Antowain Smith and passes by Bouman for a pair of first downs. Bouman led the Saints to the Bucs' 34, but his third down pass to WR Joe Horn was incomplete. New Orleans went for it on fourth-and-two. Bouman's pass, intended for Hilton, was intercepted at the Bucs' 12 by S Will Allen with 10:52 left in the opening quarter.
Tampa Bay then went on an extended drive after the takeaway as they took 15 plays and eight minutes off the clock for 88 yards and a 7-0 lead. Simms completed back-to-back passes to WR Ike Hilliard for 14 yards and 24 to FB Mike Alstott out to the Saints 42. A six-yard completion to Hilliard and later, a two-yard sneak by Simms, converted a pair of third downs for the Bucs to the New Orleans 9. Three plays later, Simms hit Galloway for a seven-yard TD with 2:52 to play in the first quarter for the lead.
New Orleans cut the lead to 7-3 on the ensuing possession. Bouman found Hilton for a 29-yard catch that gave the Saints a first down at the Bucs' 11. Four yards by Smith on the ground preceded a pair of incomplete passes and K John Carney made a 25-yard field goal with 13:22 left in the second quarter which capped a 10-play, 77-yard drive for New Orleans.
The Bucs came right back as RB Michael Pittman took a handoff from Simms at the Bucs' 35 and raced 64 yards before he was knocked out at the Saints' 1 by CB Fred Thomas. After an illegal formation call on Tampa Bay and a five-yard penalty back to the Saints' 6, Alstott dove over the top for two yards and then Simms threw a four-yard TD strike to Galloway with 11:25 to play and a 14-3 Bucs lead. The TD catch was the 10th of the season for Galloway, which set a club season record.
Bouman pulled the Saints to 14-10 with 3:36 to go before halftime. On third-and-eight at the Saints' 14, he threw a 14-yard bullet to WR Donte' Stallworth to the 28. After a two-yard run by Smith, Bouman threw a 13-yard completion to Hakim to the 43. Smith picked up six yards to the 49 and Bouman followed with a long pass attempt to WR Devery Henderson, who was interfered with on the pattern. The 27-yard penalty gave the Saints a first down at the Bucs' 24 and three plays later, Bouman threw down the middle to Henderson, who hung on for the touchdown.
Tampa Bay used their second takeaway of the game to extend their margin just before halftime. Bouman's pass from the Saints' 22, intended for Hakim, was intercepted by CB Juran Bolden at the New Orleans 46 and he covered 18 yards to the 28 with 1:08 to play.
Simms threw incomplete on three straight attempts and Bryant made a 46-yard field goal with 45 seconds to play for a 17-10 lead.
Neither team had a scoring chance in the third quarter as the Bucs held on to their seven-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
New Orleans drove to the Bucs' 6 early in the final quarter, but an incomplete pass from Bouman to Hakim set up a 24-yard field goal by Carney, his second of the game, with 12:06 to go as the Saints pulled to 17-13.
Bryant's second field goal of the game, a 26-yarder with 7:16 to play, pushed the Buccaneers advantage to 20-13 after a 10-play, 66-yard drive.
The Saints out-gained the Bucs, 306-285 and held a 33:45-26:15 advantage in time of possession.
Smith led all Saints rushers with 16 carries for 55 yards while Bucs RB Cadillac Williams had 22 rushes for 81 yards.
Hakim was the Saints' leading receiver with six receptions for 71 yards while Stallworth added six for 61 yards. Galloway paced the Bucs with four catches for 38 yards.