Tom Brady turns back the clock, leads Bucs to playoffs with dominant win over Lions
Can a 43-year-old quarterback still be in his prime? Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady put in a vintage performance on Saturday, leading the Bucs to a 47-7 win over the Detroit Lions.
Brady threw for 348 yards and four points ... and did it all in the first half. With the victory, the buccaneers officially go into the postseason. It will be the first time since 2007 that the franchise has made the playoffs. This was the longest post-season drought in the NFC.
Brady proved he was instantly in his game, connecting with Rob Gronkowski via a perfectly placed touchdown pass on the Buc's first run. Bucs kicker Ryan Succop missed the extra point and gave Tampa Bay an early 6-0 lead.
The second Bucs drive brought more of it. It only took Brady four games to find Mike Evans for a 27-yard touchdown. With 7:39 in the first quarter, the Bucs already had a 13-0 lead.
With this pass, Brady broke the Bucs franchise record for the most touchdown passes in a season set by Jameis Winston a year ago.
The Lions defense held on to the Bucs' third voyage temporarily but gave up another touchdown the next. This time it was Leonard Fournette who finished the journey with a score.
Brady then led the Bucs on a 93-yard touchdown drive, with Chris Godwin diving one-hand in the end zone.
Brady added one more touchdown before the end of the second quarter - this one to Antonio Brown. At halftime, the Bucs were leading 34-0.
And that was Brady's day. Blaine Gabbert came into play early in the third quarter. On his first game, Gabbert linked up with Gronkowski for a touchdown. It was Gabbert's first touchdown pass since December 2018.
He would add another touchdown pass a few drives later and meet up with Evans for another score. Gabbert finished the competition with 133 yards and two touchdowns.
Lions fight in all facets without a quarterback, coach
Any hope of a Lions comeback was dashed almost immediately when quarterback Matthew Stafford left the game with an ankle injury in the first quarter. Stafford went into the locker room and did not return to the game. Chase Daniel was relieved and was eventually replaced by David Blough in the fourth quarter.
The only Lions touchdown of the day was a return of Jamal Agnew in the third quarter.
Even if Daniel and Blough had played like Peyton Manning in his prime, it would have been difficult for the Lions to stay in the game. The Lions defense played Saturday's game without a bunch of coaches and it showed. Defensive Coach Bo Davis, Defensive Coach Steve Gregory, Linebacker Coach Ty McKenzie, and Defensive Coordinator Cory Undlin missed the competition due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
Without them, the Lions defense, which had been struggling all season, looked miserable. There was little that could do to stop Brady or even Gabbert from marching field drive after field drive.
With the loss, Lions drop to 5-10 in the season. After Matt Patricia was laid off in November, the team will look for a new head coach during the off-season. Given the team's poor performance on Saturday, it's unclear how many available coaches actually want the Lions' job. The defense is a mess and the offensive looked hopeless without Stafford.
Tom Brady was in command of the Lions on Saturday. (Photo by Leon Halip / Getty Images)
Buccaneers move forward at the right time
It might just be the Lions, but the Buccaneers picked a good time to do a dominant performance. Brady told reporters on Wednesday that he hoped the Bucs would "play at a much higher level this Saturday." He more than fulfilled that promise.
Even though the team is 10-5, the Bucs can't win the NFC South. The 11-4 New Orleans Saints have already won the division. As a result, the Bucs will be one of the sub-seeds in the NFC. To get past the favorites, Brady and the Bucs had to show that the offense can work at the elite level.
They proved it on Saturday and will try to carry that dynamic with them as soon as the postseason starts.
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