- Associated Press - Sunday, December 13, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Moments after a costly loss to New Orleans, Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith wanted to get right back on the field as soon as possible.

Sure enough, the Buccaneers visit St. Louis on Thursday.

“We got our wish with the Thursday night game, but it’s about us playing to where we have an opportunity to win a football game,” Smith said. “Today that was not the case.”

Doug Martin had a touchdown run and Jameis Winston threw for a score, but Tampa Bay managed just 291 yards of offense in a 24-17 loss to New Orleans.

The Buccaneers (6-7) lost for the second time in three weeks, damaging their hopes of recovering from a slow start to a run for an NFC wild card.

“The good news is we’ve got a game Thursday so it’s a quick turnaround,” Winston said. “But when you’re playing against one of the best quarterbacks in the game, you can’t make it hard on yourself. The defense held them to 24 points, and those guys can put up points like nobody else. This was one of the games where the offense had to come through, and we started off slow.”

Drew Brees threw a pair of touchdown passes to Marques Colston, and the Saints (5-8) stopped a four-game losing streak by winning for the eighth time in nine meetings between the NFC South rivals. Brees completed 31 of 41 passes for 312 yards without an interception.

Winston threw a fourth-quarter TD pass to Adam Humphries to trim a 14-point deficit to 24-17. The Bucs got the ball back with just over five minutes remaining, punted four plays later, and then watched New Orleans grind out three first downs to end the game.

The Bucs managed just one first down against the NFL’s‘ 32nd-ranked defense until a pair of personal fouls on cornerback Kyle Wilson for hits on receivers following incomplete passes helped spark Tampa Bay early in the second quarter. A defensive holding call against cornerback Brandon Browner on third down extended an 80-yard drive that was capped by Martin’s 14-yard TD run.

Winston was 18 of 32 for 182 yards, including his 11-yard TD to Humphries midway through the fourth. Martin, the NFL’s second-leading rusher, finished with 81 yards on 11 attempts.

But the Bucs sputtered for much of the day against a Saints defense that had been giving up 425 yards per game.

“We knew as an offense we’ve got to show up,” Winston said. “Drew Brees just outplayed me. This was a game for me to have a breakout game and put some points on the board, and he played better.”

The loss stopped the Bucs, who had won four of six to climb into playoff contention, from climbing over .500 for the first time in three years.

“Normally you play your best ball when this much is on the line, but it’s amazing we lost by (only) seven points,” Smith said. “The things we did, you just can’t win a football game. … No takeaways on the defensive side, and on offense you’ve got to score more points. Dropped balls, we missed a field goal, things that cause you to lose football games, we did it all.”

NOTES: Brees and Colston have teamed for 71 touchdowns over 10 seasons, fifth most by a quarterback-receiver combination in NFL history behind Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison, Steve Young-Jerry Rice, Dan Marino-Mark Clayton and Philip Rivers-Antonio Gates.

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