As Drew Brees walked off the Superdome field, he held his helmet up in celebration of the Saints' fourth playoff berth in five years.
Then he hit the showers and started thinking about the week of practice ahead.
"Our expectation was to come here and play well and win, and we did that," Brees said after New Orleans' 42-17 demolition of struggling Tampa Bay on Sunday. "Now it's kind of very quickly on to the next challenge. ... You immediately are on to the next opponent. Where are we going to go? What's our plan? And let's get to work."
Indeed, it will be a quick turnaround for the Saints (11-5), who open the postseason in Philadelphia (10-6) on Saturday night.
And while New Orleans has a better overall record than the Eagles, the Saints have not been nearly as potent on the road, where they went 3-5, as at home, where they were 8-0 with six victories by 18 points or more.
"That's how we're supposed to play," said receiver Lance Moore, who caught a 44-yard touchdown pass.
Brees passed for 381 yards and four touchdowns, eclipsing 5,000 yards in a season for an unprecedented fourth time. He also ran for a score that gave New Orleans a more than three-TD lead early in the fourth quarter.
Aiming for a fifth win in eight games, the Bucs (4-12) stayed with New Orleans for much of the first half, trailing only 21-14 after rookie Mike Glennon's second scoring pass. But Tampa Bay faded, a result that only cast further doubt on second-year coach Greg Schiano's future.
"I don't think I have to say anything," Schiano said when asked if he expects to keep his job. "That's not being smug. I come in and do my job the best that I can. That's other people's decision."
Here are five things we learned from New Orleans' drubbing of the Buccaneers:
POTENT SAINTS: Although New Orleans lost three of its last five games and Brees was sacked a career-high 37 times this season, the victory over the Buccaneers was a reminder of how productive the Saints' offense can be. New Orleans piled up more yards - 468 - than the Bucs had allowed all season. Meanwhile, three of Brees' TD passes were longer than 40 yards: 76 to Kenny Stills, 44 to Moore and 41 to Robert Meachem.
"We're good enough to do whatever we set out to do and I think today was a great step in the right direction in regards to confidence and getting ready for this playoff run," Brees said.
GLENNON'S POTENTIAL: Glennon is by no means a shoe-in to keep his starting job in 2014, but against New Orleans he continued to show flashes of potential to become a franchise quarterback. He completed 22 passes for 219 yards and two TDs, including a 48-yarder to Tiquan Underwood on a flea-flicker.
"Mike threw a great pass and gave me a chance," Underwood said.
Glennon's other scoring pass was a 1-yard fade to Tim Wright in the corner of the end zone.
SHUT-DOWN CORNER: In a game featuring Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis, it was the Saints' Keenan Lewis who stood out most in pass coverage. While covering top Tampa Bay receiver Vincent Jackson, Lewis made his career-high fourth interception this season. He also helped hold Jackson to only four catches for 35 yards.
STICKING TOGETHER: After a dismal season that started 0-8 and wound down with a three-game skid, the Buccaneers insisted that team chemistry and leadership were not the problem.
"To be honest, when you start like we did, the year is practically over. But as a team we all stuck together," Revis said. "We knew this was our job and we had to keep fighting as a unit and going out there and trying to win games."
BETTER BLOCKING: Saints rookie left tackle Terron Armstead demonstrated considerable progress from his first career start a week ago to his second on Sunday. Unlike a week earlier, Armstead did not allow a sack and avoided pre-snap penalties.
Brees said he spoke to Armstead on the sideline and that the rookie told him "it's night and day in regards to that maturation process and just the experience level with even just one game under his belt.
"He's got a great group around him, so that helps, but yeah, he did great today," Brees added.
Our resident pros and I have come up with some things to keep an eye on in the Saints annual "Black and Gold Scrimmage." Since I'm doing all the typing, I'll shoot my list of things to ya first.
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