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Bucs deny tanking for top overall pick

TAMPA, Fla. -- With a fourth-quarter collapse, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earned the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft.

The Bucs lost to the New Orleans Saints, 23-20, despite carrying a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter. The collapse happened with the Bucs (2-14) playing a lot of backups, and it led to questions about whether the team "tanked" to get the No. 1 pick. Coach Lovie Smith strongly denied that.

"It had nothing to do with substitutions," Smith said. "You look at how we played. To me, I'm going to go back, we're moving the ball fairly well even in the second half. They played a lot better. We played a lot of guys the first half also. Vincent Jackson only played a few reps. That happened in the first half also, and the team we put on the football field had a chance to win right up until (the end).

"Yeah, we didn't have some of our best players there right in the end. But the guys we had in there we felt like we could move the ball and be able to win."

The Bucs played the fourth quarter with three young offensive lineman that aren't starters, lots of changes on defense and without their starting wide receivers. Quarterback Josh McCown said the Bucs were playing to win.

"It's unfortunate, I don't think anybody tanked it," McCown said. "We played the guys we played to rotate guys in to give them a look. As far as players are concerned, the draft and that stuff isn't relevant to us as far as how we're playing. We play and execute the plays that are called. That's our job. All that other stuff is for people to try to speculate about all those things. We competed hard and that's the main thing."

"I don't think anybody tanked it. We played the guys we played to rotate guys in to give them a look. As far as players are concerned, the draft and that stuff isn't relevant to us."

Bucs QB Josh McCown, on whether Tampa Bay tanked against New Orleans to secure the top overall pick in 2015

Having the No. 1 pick could end McCown's days as the Bucs' starting quarterback. There already is lots of speculation that the Bucs will draft Oregon's Marcus Mariota or Florida State's Jameis Winston.

Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said on the team's pregame radio broadcast that he plans to attend the Rose Bowl, which will feature Mariota and Winston. Licht said Smith also may make the trip to California.

The Bucs haven't had the No. 1 overall pick since 1987, when they selected Vinny Testaverde.

Tampa Bay had won its previous 24 regular-season games in which it led by at least 13 at the start of fourth quarter, with their last loss in such a situation coming against the Indianapolis Colts in 2003, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Buccaneers entered the day 72-2 in regular-season games when leading by at least 13 points to start the fourth quarter.

The Tennessee Titans, who lost 27-10 to the Colts, also finished 2-14 but will pick No. 2 in the draft due to tiebreakers with the Buccaneers.