Tampa, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defeated by a double digit deficit Carolina Panthers 30-24 Sunday, the NFC South clinching and punching for the second year in a row Tom Brady14th straight season ticket to the playoffs and first coach Todd Bowles as head coach of the Buccaneers.
On the verge of losing his voice and eager to praise his teammates, Brady said, “I think I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
Players wore red shirts that read “The South Conquered.” Except for the wide receiver Mike Evans. He had one of the best games of his career with 10 catches for 207 receiving yards and three touchdowns and rocked a Carolina blue vintage. Michael Jordan A North Carolina Tar Heels jersey, gifted to him by a teammate Chris Godwin The team exchanged Secret Santas last week.
And Bowles, who joked, “I don’t have much heart left” after all these comebacks, said he planned to not celebrate like his predecessor Bruce Arians did with a bottle of Crown Royal (Arians was inducted into the Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor Sunday). But with a glass of 1% milk and a cookie.
“They didn’t get down and they didn’t get upset,” Bowles said of his team. “We’ve been through a lot this year, so we have a lot of resilience and strength, so we don’t get down when we get down score-wise. They got down, they stayed together as a team and they came through.”
The Bucs never came back from deficits of 14 points or more in a season marred by a slow start and a lackluster vertical passing game. And Brady and Mike Evans’ streak of games without a touchdown extended to 11 — the longest in the career of the Bucs’ franchise receiving leader.
But after falling behind 14-0 Sunday, three touchdown passes from Brady to Evans and three turnovers forced by the defense made the difference.
“Tom was just dropping dimes,” said Evans, who rarely sees single coverage but did Sunday, when the offensive line had one of its best games all season protecting Brady, giving him more time to throw and Evans more time to get downfield. “That was some really, really good ball. It was one of the best games I’ve seen since Tom got here.
“They were just like falling into my…bread basket every time. He had an incredible game.”
Brady said of Evans, “I love playing with him out there and he’s an amazing player — I’ve missed him a lot this year, so it was nice to connect with him and hopefully we can continue that. I think we’re willing.” .”
The first touchdown was a 63-yarder airmailed to Evans. The score gave Evans his ninth consecutive season with 1,000 receiving yards, tied for second most in NFL history with Tim Brown and behind only Jerry Rice. That touchdown completely changed the momentum with 2:18 to go in the first half.
“I told him throughout the game — he’s the guy,” Godwin said of Evans. “He doesn’t get nearly the respect he deserves, so any chance I get, I’m going to speak up for him because I know he won’t do it. Mike’s a dog, man. Every time he goes out there, he’s capable of doing something like that. Next to someone like that. It’s an honor for me to play.”
cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting Darnold was intercepted at the Tampa Bay 2 on the Panthers’ first drive of the second half, but on the Bucs’ next drive, Sukop’s 26-yard field goal attempt was blocked. CJ Henderson.
The Bucs fell into a 21-10 deficit after Darnold threw a touchdown strike. Shea Smith To open the fourth quarter. But Brady immediately responded with a 57-yard heave to Evans — marking the first time since 2016 that the 45-year-old QB has thrown two 50-yard touchdowns in the same game. The score was followed by a failed 2-point conversion, cutting the Panthers’ lead to 21-16 with 13:49 to go.
Brady still didn’t find his top receiver, as he connected with Evans for 30 yards on their third touchdown to give the Bucs the lead with 6:47 left. A successful 2-point conversion pass to Chris Godwin gave Tampa Bay a 24-21 lead.
A sack by the outside linebacker Anthony Nelson Recovered by defensive tackle Vita ViaBy setting up what would be a touchdown Leonard Fournette, although it was taken off the board as he was ruled to be a yard short. That’s when Brady punched a quarterback sneak from the goal line with two minutes left and shouted “Brady! Brady! Brady!” chants from the crowd.
“It’s almost like a sick joke because you’re just sitting on the sideline 14-0 and you’re saying, ‘(No. 12 is going to do something. He’s going to figure it out,'” Nelson said. “And finally, maybe it’s not that quarter, it’s a quarter later — he starts making some plays, it’s tied, it’s a close game again, and it really motivates us as a defense because we know, even when it 14- 0, if we can hold them, (No.) 12 and the offense will get back into our game.”
Carolina added a field goal with 59 seconds left to make it 30-24, and the Bucs narrowly avoided what could have been a disaster had it not been for the rookie punter’s quick thinking. Jake Camardawho recovered a low snap that hit the ground, scooped it up and ran with it and punted 41 yards only to fall on it, giving the Panthers prime field position at the Bucs’ 40. Instead, the Bucs were flagged for an ineligible downfield kick and Camarda fielded a 41-yard punt on the next play.
“I’ve never seen a punter play as athletic,” Bowles said. “He did a job there.”
Sunday marked the first win for the Bucs in eight games this season in which they surrendered 20 or more points to an opponent.
Brady and the Bucs still have one game left Atlanta Falcons next week, but their playoff position will be solid regardless. They will host whoever wins the division in the first round of the playoffs Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys.
No decision has yet been made on whether or not Brady will play next week to avoid unnecessary risk, but Brady indicated he would like to.
“It always depends on the coach, but yeah, (not playing) will bother me. I haven’t missed a game other than my ACL (injury) … and then in 2016, I missed the first four games. Other than that, I Played them all,” Brady said, referring to his four-game suspension following an NFL investigation that he was “at least generally aware of.” New England Patriots Deflating football in previous seasons.
After a long pause, he smiled and said, “I was being polite there,” as the room of reporters erupted in laughter. “It takes a lot for me to be polite.”