The Buccaneers showed that they are what their record says they are.
But maybe that's giving 6-7 Tampa Bay too much credit after its 24-17 loss to New Orleans on Sunday.
The Saints came into town allowing 425 yards per game, and the Bucs got 291. The Saints were allowing a league worst 31.7 points per game, were last in run defense and next to last in pass defense.
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Bucs head coach Lovie Smith couldn't have drawn up an easier season-ending schedule with three straight games against teams with losing records untl the team faces Carolina, which already clinched a first-round bye with a victory over Atlanta.
But Tampa showed mediocrity is too high a standard for this football team.
New Orleans' penalty-happy defense gift wrapped 10 points. If somehow Tampa won this game, the Bucs would have
been obligated to give the game MVP award to the Saints defensive back Kyle Wilson and a plaque to maligned cornerback Brandon Browner.
We learned something about the Bucs on this day, and it's not good.
Maybe they can't handle prosperity -- or are afraid of success -- because the Saints defense gave them every chance to win.
"These things happen, and I can't give you a reason why," Smith said.
I have answer for Lovie.
This is what sub-.500 teams do. They're inconsistent and can't win games they're supposed to win.
Oh by the way -- they also usually sit home during the postseason.
The loss virtually knocks the Bucs out of the playoff race, though mathematically they still have a slim chance with three games remaining.
It's the only 'maybe' Lovie can grasp onto as he refuses to concede that the Bucs won't be able to grab one of the two wild-card playoff spots.
"No, not out. There's three games left to go, and we're two out of it. We didn't put a good product on the field today," Smith said.
What he could've said, is that the Bucs didn't put anything on the field. The Saints had more energy, though their defense tried to give the game away with 12 penalties for 95 yards.
Most disturbing is that the Bucs floundered with so much at stake against a made-for-order opponent. They came in only one game back for the last wild-card spot.
The Bucs did everything losing teams do, with dropped passes and allowing New Orleans to convert 71 percent of its third-down opportunities.
The Saints' penchant for committing penalties also seemed to rub off on the Bucs, particularly Mike Evans, who was flagged for pass interference and unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter.
"Things we did, you just can't win football games," Smith said. "Defensively, third downs killed us, big plays really hurt us an awful lot. No takeaways on the defensive side."
The Saints came into town wrapped up in a torn-and-tattered 4-8 record with a defense that opposing quarterbacks were using for target practice.
Doug Martin ran for 81 yards on only 11 carries, but only had five carries -- albeit for 51 yards -- in the second half. Smith said he made mistakes in his play calling, but didn't say it was related to Martin.
New Orleans showed it still has a magician in quarterback Drew Brees, who passed Dan Marino for fourth place on the NFL's career touchdown list. He will thank the Bucs when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame someday.
"You live and learn and any time you have a young team, sometimes you have to go through those growing pains," Brees said about the Saints' struggles.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.