By: Garrett Ballard
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Carolina Panthers 30-24 on Sunday afternoon, clinching a playoff spot in the process. After an arduous season, the Buccaneers find themselves in the position they expected; NFC South Champions.
The game started as the same old story, the Bucs are not able to get anything going offensively and are shooting themselves in the foot. However, the tides turned, specifically in the fourth quarter. Down 21-10 early in the fourth quarter, the Bucs had to dig deep to overcome their second double-digit deficit of the game.
Tom Brady was able to connect twice with Mike Evans for deep touchdowns on back-to-back drives that propelled the Bucs from 11 points down, to three points up. A few minutes later came another touchdown from a QB sneak, giving the Bucs to 30-20 lead, which was just enough to keep the Panthers out of reach.
“We’ve been through a lot this year,” head coach Todd Bowles said. “We have a lot of resiliency and strength so we don’t get down.”
Not getting down when times were tough was how to Buccaneers operated against the Panthers, including Evans. Early in the game, Brady hit Evans in the chest with a deep ball that was dropped. After that, Evans would catch 10 passes for a whopping 207 yards and three touchdowns.
“That one warmed me up a bit,” Evans said. “I got to see the ball better and Tom kept dropping dimes.”
Coming into this game, Evans needed 83 yards to reach 1000 yards for the ninth consecutive season since he entered the NFL. Evans is the only player in NFL history to hold that record and is one of three with nine consecutive 1000-yard seasons.
“Hopefully I can keep extending it every year I play,” Evans said.
One big factor in the team’s improvement against the Panthers was none other than Brady himself. After struggling this season, Brady completed 35 passes for a total of 432 yards and four total touchdowns.
“Statistically, we haven’t done a lot of great things this year,” Brady said. “I just got to keep putting the ball out there for those guys to go make plays.”
Brady, Evans and the rest of the Buccaneers team rallied together to make the playoffs for the third straight year. As the fourth seed, the Bucs will play the second-place NFC East team in Tampa in two weeks.