Well, that was a little closer than the Bucs probably would have liked against a team with a former XFL backup as their QB, but Tampa Bay took the dub, defeating the Washington Football team 31-23 and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
The defense looked absolutely horrendous at times, allowing Taylor Heinicke, who played for the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks, to pick apart their secondary and run wild, as he threw and ran for a touchdown. Still, Washington’s traditional running game struggled against the Bucs’ stout run defense, only gaining 40 yards on the ground from everyone not without a Heinicke nameplate on the back of his jersey.
And offensively the Bucs—especially Tampa Bay’s receivers—did their thing. Leonard Fournette had his best game in a Buccaneer uniform, gaining 93 yards on the ground, a rushing TD, and 39 yards receiving. Mike Evans played through that rough knee injury and had a monster of a game, racking up 119 yards receiving on six catches—a truly gutsy performance from one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Cameron Brate had an outstanding performance himself, with four catches for 80 yards, while Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin had the two touchdown catches from Tom Brady.
Speaking of TB12, the old G.O.A.T held up pretty well against Washington’s pass rush, all things considered, only getting sacked three times and not throwing any picks, while racking up 381 through the air. Not bad for a 43-year-old. Credit to the Bucs’ offensive line, which did an admirable job despite losing starting right guard Alex Cappa to an ankle injury (if he’s out for next week’s game… yeesh).
But the real MVP? My man, Ryan Succop. He went 4-4 on his kicks and hit two of three extra point attempts (his first was blocked). We all know how important kicking is, especially in the playoffs, and even though the kicks he made were routine, as Bay area fans are quite familiar with, nothing is given in the kicking game. Especially if the guy is wearing a Bucs uniform.
Overall, a win’s a win. Especially in the playoffs. Washington has a ridiculously good defense, but the Bucs managed to produce some big plays through the air, despite defensive end Chase Young’s “desire” for Brady.
The Bucs will have to wait until tonight to find out if they play the New Orleans Saints or St. Louis Rams, as the Saints take on the Bears at 4:40 p.m. To break it down in simple terms; if the Bears somehow beat the Saints, the Bucs will be the highest seed coming out of the Wild Card round (and the road team will have won every Wild Card matchup in the NFC, which is a bit odd) and will get the home game against the Rams. If the Saints win, the Rams will travel to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers since St. Louis would be the lowest seed remaining, leaving the Bucs traveling to the Big Easy for their third game against the Saints who’ve already beaten their division rival twice this season.
Honestly, the Bucs struggled so mightily defensively against Washington that I’m not confident they can beat either team. But, who knows, the Rams have Jared Goff and his broken thumb at QB, and the Saints are cursed in the playoffs, so it certainly could be worse.
At least they don’t have to face Rodgers in Green Bay. The Bucs may have defeated the Packers earlier this season at home, but playing at Lambeau in January is a different animal.
Still, the Bucs won their first playoff game since Super Bowl 37. Time to fire the cannons.
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