Tampa Bay Buccaneers are headed to the playoffs

By Michelle Sabin

Sports Talk Florida – Bucs reporter

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Detroit Lions 47-7 and clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2007.  As receiver Mike Evans said just before kickoff, “win and we’re in.”  And win they did.

Improving on last week’s performance, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Quarterback Tom Brady made a statement in their opening drive.  6 plays, 82 yards and a 33-yard touchdown pass to receiver Rob Gronkowski. On an even better second drive, in just over two minutes, the Bucs drove down the field 80 yards in 4 plays and completed a 27-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans.

After a season of being behind games at the half, the team put the focus on being able to play a full 60 minutes of dominate football.

By the start of third quarter, the Bucs were up 34-0 and Tampa Bay was able to rest Tom Brady. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who hasn’t played in a year and a half, stepped in and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski and a 22-yard touchdown to Evans.  

Overall, the Bucs offense completed 588 total yards, 6 passing touchdowns (R. Gronkowski, M. Evans, C. Godwin and A. Brown) and 1 rushing (L. Fournette). Brady targeted multiple receivers throughout the game, as he has done throughout the season, increasing their offensive threat.  

With running back Ronald Jones out due to NFL Covid-19 protocols, backs Leonard Fournette and Ke’Shawn Vaughn were given the opportunity to rush the ball. Vaughn carried 15 times for 62 yards and Fournette 9 times for 34 yards.  

While the Bucs offense showed up and put the points on the board, the defense did their part to keep the Lions off of it.  It was, for all intents and purposes, a defensive shutout.  

The Lions managed a 74-yard punt return for a score, but otherwise the Bucs played four quarters of shutout defense, including four sacks (W. Gholston, J. Ledbetter, A. Nelson, and D. White), an interception (H. Miller) and a forced fumble (L. David). 

Bucs defense held the Lions to only 186 in total yards of offense.  For comparison, Bucs receiver Mike Evans alone had 181 receiving yards.   

Heading into the game Saturday, Evans was looking to make NFL history, as he was only 221 yards away from a 1,000-yard season. He is currently tied with Randy Moss for the most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (6) to start a career. He was certainly the focus of the passing game throughout the whole game, in particular the second half.  

Evans said, “[my teammates] definitely want me to get the record, to be the first in NFL history. It’s a huge accomplishment. I’m just appreciative that they care about me like that and they want me to get it. Hopefully next week I can get it.”  He is now only 40 yards away from breaking the record.

Although it may not be as easy as one would expect. Head Coach Bruce Arians said, “I’m sure Atlanta is not going to want to give it to him, so we’re going to have to find some creative ways to get it for him.” 

After the win, the team got a chance to reflect on finally making the playoffs. It’s the first time since 2007, and it has been the longest no-playoff streak in the NFC. 

As Evans explained, “we’ve been scratching and clawing every single year to try to make the tournament. It’s been seven years for me, nine for Lavonte [David], 8 or 9 for Will Gholtson. It’s been a journey, but we’re happy that we finally accomplished it and that’s just where it starts. We want to go as far as we can.”

Defensive lineman Will Gholston had the unique opportunity of clinching his first career playoffs while in his hometown of Detroit. He said, “when I was warming up today, I was thinking about the first time I had the opportunity to get on Ford field. It was a big thing; I was in little league . . . and just knowing that I wanted to play there as a little kid, I think I was like 11 or 12.  To be able to come here and win, it’s great.  It’s a great feeling for me.”

Arians is proud of what his team has accomplished, saying “it’s just the beginning. Our goal when we started out, especially in this year, was just to get in the dance.”  

For Bucs fans, it has been a long time coming.  They finally have the opportunity to watch an explosive, dominate Buccaneers football team head into the playoffs for a chance at the championship. 

The Bucs close out their regular season with a home game against the Atlanta Falcons on January 3 at 1:00pm.