Out of the gate, Tampa Bay certainly looked like it was missing all of its injured guys on both sides of the ball, with Brady only managing an abysmal 5 yards passing through the first quarter and only a touchdown through the first half.
But that touchdown came on one of those beautiful two-minute drills with Tom Brady at the helm, ending with a dump off pass to recently signed running back Le’Veon Bell, the first tuddy for Bell in a Bucs uniform.
From there, the Bucs looked more like themselves. Mike Evans hit the 1,000-yard mark for an eighth consecutive season to begin his career, extending his NFL record. He also hauled in a pair of touchdowns, breaking his own single-season career record of 13 by hitting 14 on the fourth quarter touchdown reception.
TB12 reminded us all just who he is, picking apart the Panthers no. 2 ranked defense with ease on his way to breaking the 5,000-yard mark for the second time in his historic career. Brady had himself a surgical 326-yard, three-touchdown game where he looked like he was playing chess while the opposing defense was playing Candy Land.
The Bucs defense managed to do a decent enough job of slowing down quarterback Sam Darnold and this rough Panthers offense, and while there were times that looked like the Panthers might get back in it (like that ridiculous touchdown catch from Robby Anderson), the Bucs never lost control of the game.
And now to the rest of the chaotic Week 18 of the NFL.
The Rams-49ers game—which had major implications for the Bucs’ seeding—went into overtime. Because the Rams lost 27-24 following a Matthew Stafford interception, the Bucs secured the second seed and now face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round. And what might be an even bigger deal is that Tampa Bay will play at home for any divisional game it advances to in the postseason.
So overall? Things really couldn’t have gone better for the Bucs. They might get Leonard Fournette back off IR, maybe Lavonte David and Shaq Barrett next week. But even if they don’t, this Bucs team looks solid enough to manage a win against a very young Eagles side at home. The Bucs already faced the Eagles in Week 6, getting the W in a 28-22 game that was closer on paper than it actually was. I think the Bucs should be more than capable of taking care of business.
With Tom Brady under center, that’s all you can really ask for.
Fire those cannons.
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