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It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game. Tampa Bay won its fourth straight game since the bye week, beating Atlanta, 44-27, to sweep the Falcons and improve to 11-5. The Bucs clinched the fifth seed in the playoffs behind four touchdown passes from Tom Brady and wide receivers Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin, who each went over 100 yards and caught two touchdown passes.

2 BIG STATEMENTS

STATEMENT 1. Disaster Almost Strikes For Evans After Record-Breaking Catch

Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans made history when he caught a 20-yard pass in the first quarter of Tampa Bay’s 44-27 win over Atlanta to give him 1,006 yards for the season. Evans became the first receiver in NFL history to record seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin his career. He was tied with Hall of Famer Randy Moss, who is Evans’ idol, with six straight seasons coming into the 2020 season.

Then it seemed like disaster struck on the next play as Evans suffered a left knee injury as his knee buckled after sliding on the turf in the end zone while dropping a potential touchdown pass.

Quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Chris Godwin came over to check on Evans, who was barely able to walk off the field as his knee buckled. Evans didn’t return to the game after catching three passes for 46 yards in the first quarter.

“It meant the world for him to get that record and then to have an easy touchdown,” said Bucs head coach Bruce Arians. “The turf was really slick in the end zones and it was just a freaky thing. Knock on wood – we don’t think there’s any serious damage. We’ll know more in the next 24 hours.”

On Sunday night, PewterReport.com learned that the team is cautiously optimistic about Evans’ diagnosis, which is a hyperextension, and that he has not been ruled out for Saturday’s playoff game at Washington.

Brady was disappointed to see Evans get injured right after his milestone catch.

Bucs WR Mike Evans

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“It’s always tough when you see guys go out,” Brady said. “Mike – proud of him for everything he’s gone through this year and what he’s fought through. It’s an incredible record to have. Toughness, dependability, not obviously [only] skill, but attitude plays a big factor into those things. I just love playing with the guy, so when he went out, other guys really stepped up and made a bunch of plays.”

While it was an unfortunate injury, it came in a non-contact situation. It’s for reasons like this as to why Bucs general manager Jason Licht signed free agent Antonio Brown at midseason – in case something happened to Evans or Godwin, who scored Tampa Bay’s first touchdown and finished the game with five catches for 133 yards and two TDs.

“It’s definitely a rollercoaster of emotions,” said Godwin, seeing Evans set the record and then get hurt. “He breaks the record and that’s something that – a guy being here for four years and watching him close in on that – I was so proud of just the man that Mike is and the way he works, so I think that is really awesome. Then, next play he goes down. It hurts – I feel for my brother – but I’m hoping he makes a speedy recovery.”

With Tampa Bay leading 30-27 late in the fourth quarter, Godwin had a huge, 47-yard catch down to the Atlanta 7-yard line on third-12. That set up his 4-yard score two plays later to give the Bucs a 37-27 lead to essentially put the Falcons away.

Brown scored the Bucs’ second touchdown of the day, a 25-yard strike from Brady to help Tampa Bay build a 23-10 lead at halftime and finished with a season-high 11 catches for 138 yards and two scores, including a 30-yard catch-and-run that put the Bucs over the 40-point mark for back-to-back weeks and the fourth time this season.

STATEMENT 2. Brady Leads Best Bucs’ Offense In Franchise History

The 2020 season has been the most prolific year in Tampa Bay history in terms of points, as the team finished the year averaging 30.8 points per game. Last week in Detroit, Brady set a new Bucs’ single-season passing touchdown record with 36, passing Jameis Winston, who had 33 last year. Brady, who passed for 399 yards against the Falcons, added to that record on Sunday against the Falcons, throwing four touchdowns to give him 40 for the year.

“I think he broke Peyton Manning’s record for [touchdown passes] being [in the first season] with a team [by] throwing 40 touchdowns. I think Peyton had 37, so I know he’ll like that [and] Peyton will be pissed. When we first met, that’s really what we talked about – the guys that we have and what he could do with the players that we have. Adding Rob Gronkowski to the mix just helped. I envisioned 40 [touchdowns]. When he first signed I said, ‘Okay, we’ll be a 40 [touchdown] and 10 [interception] team.’ I was expecting practice, I was expecting OTAs and those things. What he’s done with none of that – especially this last half of the season – is incredible.”

Bucs WR Scotty Miller

Bucs WR Scotty Miller – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Brady, who threw his first interception since the Chiefs game before the bye week, had his third straight 300-yard game and the seventh 300-yard game of the season. Since the bye week, Brady has been on fire, completing 94-of-136 passes (69.1 percent) for 1,333 yards with 12 TDs and one interception, which came on a fluky play in which the ball squirted out of Scotty Miller’s hands and into the arms of opportunistic Falcons safety Ricardo Allen.

“It’s [bothering me] that [Brady] got an interception, but he played fantastic,” Arians said. “He’s been on fire since the [bye] and we scored on every possession except that one and the kneel down. We kicked too many field goals, but that wasn’t him. He’s been fantastic.”

Brady smiled when informed he broke Manning’s record for passing touchdowns in the first year on a new team, but he shrugged off his record-setting 40-touchdown season and gave his teammates the credit for helping him get that mark.

“Whatever happens for me as a quarterback is reflective of what our group does on offense,” Brady said. “I love playing with the guys I play with. We’ve got a great group of receivers, great group of tight ends – very selfless – the backs have done an incredible job. The way the offensive line is playing and protecting gives any quarterback a great opportunity. It’s a team sport – those are great team accomplishments. Just proud of all the guys [for] what they put in this year. Now we’re moving into the playoffs. We have a great opportunity ahead of us and we’ve got to go try and take advantage of it.”

Prior to recording his NFL-record seventh straight 1,000-yard season, Evans set a new franchise single-season record for receiving touchdowns last week in Detroit with two scores, which gave him 13 for the season, breaking his previous record of 12, which was set in 2014 and tied in 2016. Tampa Bay’s offense wasn’t done breaking records on Sunday.

The Bucs scored 458 points last year in the first season under Arians, and entered Sunday’s game with 448 points. Tampa Bay set a new franchise record by halftime with 471 points due to the team’s 23-10 lead. The Bucs finished the 2020 season with 492 points – the most ever in franchise history – in addition to a team-record 59 touchdowns.

Bucs QB Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs kicker Ryan Succop has accounted for a good deal of those points, breaking Matt Bryant’s franchise record of 131 points (set in 2008) in a single season with 136 points. Succop rebounded from a rough outing in Detroit in which he missed two extra points and a field goal by connecting on all of his kicks on Sunday against Atlanta. The 34-year old Succop, who is in his first season in Tampa Bay, has made 28-of-31 field goals (90.3) and 52-of-57 (91.2) extra points this season.

Between record seasons for Brady, Evans and Succop, Arians’ offense was on fire in Tampa Bay in 2020.

2 PROBING QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: Is Tampa Bay’s Defense Good Enough To Win In The Playoffs?

No. The Bucs defense we saw against the Falcons isn’t aggressive enough in coverage or good enough rushing the passer to win in the postseason. Thankfully for Tampa Bay, its offense is good enough to prevail, as the offense is averaging 37 points per game since the bye week – nearly a touchdown over its season average of 30.8 points per game, which ranks third in the NFL in scoring.

The Bucs defense should receive a boost in the first round of the playoffs at Washington when top cover cornerback Carlton Davis III returns from a groin injury. Davis has missed the last two games. Tampa Bay is also expecting outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett to return from the COVID-19 list in time for next Saturday night’s playoff game. Barrett, who is the team’s third-leading sacker with eight QB captures, missed Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

Bucs LB Devin White

Bucs LB Devin White – Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay was hoping that inside linebacker Devin White could return for the first round of the playoffs after testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, but since the game at Washington will be on Saturday night he will be ineligible to return per the mandatory 10-day quarantine period. Had the NFL scheduled the Tampa Bay vs. Washington game on Sunday night White, who is second on the team with a career-high nine sacks, could have played had he tested negative this week.

Kevin Minter is expected to start in place of White for a second straight game. Minter, the Bucs’ special teams captain, had a team-high nine tackles against the Falcons on Sunday, and while he’s not the flashy splash play guy that White is, he is a steady veteran.

With or without White in Washington, Tampa Bay will go as far as Brady and the Bucs’ high-powered offense will take it.

QUESTION 2: Why Didn’t The Bucs Get Jones 1,000 Yards Rushing?

The Bucs decided to feed Brown down the stretch instead. With time winding down in the fourth quarter it looked as if Bucs running back Ronald Jones II might be in position to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the season, as he entered the game with 900 yards. Needing 100 yards against Atlanta to reach the century mark, Jones had 78 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, but his last carry – an 8-yard run – came with 3:09 left in the game. On the next play, Brady his Brown with a short pass that he took 30 yards for a touchdown to increase Tampa Bay’s lead to 44-27.

After the Bucs stopped the Falcons on fourth down at the Atlanta 29, the Bucs ran six more plays to run out the clock but didn’t give Jones the ball despite him falling 22 yards shy of 1,000 yards. Instead, Brady completed three passes to Brown for 11 yards before kneeling the ball three times to end the game.

Bucs WR Antonio Brown

Bucs WR Antonio Brown – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Why did Brady feed the ball to Brown rather than RoJo? Brown needed just three more catches to reach a $250,000 bonus if he finished the season with 45 receptions and Tampa Bay made the playoffs. He entered the game with 34 catches and finished with 11 receptions for 138 yards. Brown had eight catches prior to that final drive and Brady got him the final three receptions so Brown could cash in.

Brown had two other $250,000 performance bonuses that he didn’t reach. Brown would have gotten additional $250,000 bonuses had he reached 600 receiving yards or scored six touchdowns. Brown finished the year with 483 yards and four TD catches. While it came at Jones’ expense, the Bucs’ decision to get Brown his pay day on Sunday was justified as the mercurial Brown has stayed out of trouble and not been a problem since joining the team in November.

BOLD PREDICTIONS

PREDICTION 1: Evans Won’t Play At Washington

The Bucs are holding out hope that Evans can play in the first round of the playoffs against Washington, believing he’s going to be day-to-day with a hyper-extended left knee. The team hasn’t ruled him out and Evans will undergo further testing this week to determine the severity of his injury.

Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin

Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Evans is as tough as they come and battled through a hamstring injury to play at New Orleans in Week 1, and fought through a nasty ankle sprain in Week 4 to play on a short week on Thursday Night Football in Chicago. But Evans’ knee injury is more severe than either of his previous injuries. Evans has missed a significant amount of practice this year due to those previous injuries, and could play even if he doesn’t practice this week – as long as he is cleared medically by the team’s trainers.

However, with the Buccaneers’ playoff game scheduled for Saturday instead Sunday, so that gives Evans one less to recover. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tampa Bay’s training staff keeps Evans out of the first round of the playoffs so he could be healthier for the second round of the postseason, assuming that the Bucs advance to the divisional playoff round.

PREDICTION 2: Tampa Bay Beats Washington On Saturday Night

The good news for the Bucs is that they are 10-0 against teams with losing records this season, and despite finishing as the NFC East division winner, Washington posted a 7-9 record in 2020. Saturday night’s wild card playoff game will feature Washington’s stingy defense versus Tampa Bay’s high-powered offense, as Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard pointed out on Twitter.

Something’s got to give. As long as Tampa Bay’s offensive tackles Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs can keep Washington’s defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat off Brady and give him time to throw the Bucs should be able to outscore Washington as Tampa Bay has much more firepower on offense.

Look for Brady and the Bucs to make it 11-0 against teams with losing records with a big postseason win on Saturday night. Tampa Bay finished the season with a 5-3 record at home and a 6-2 mark on the road, which should help come Saturday night.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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fredster
8 months ago

I was texting a friend that isn’t a Bucs fan about the game and I said after Mike got the 1006 yards I would pull him out of game he’s bad hamstring issues. Soon as I texted that he dropped the TD and hurt his knee. I hate being right sometimes. I hope he’s ok for his sake never playing on a playoff game and he helps the Bucs although they still have lot firepower without him. Go Bucs!

Hockey Duckie
Reply to  fredster
8 months ago

Evans got injured without contact. Reynolds provided the receipt with the tweet video above.
What you should be concerned about is why is the field so bad at RayJay? Apparently the money spent to keep the field dry was a failure. You saw Brate stumble for what should have been an easy TD. Terrible field conditions from our home team.

Naplesfan
8 months ago

With all the focus on offensive skill players, we all ought to make sure we give more credit to the offensive line this season. Tom Brady has been sacked only 21 times this year. In particular, our rookie RT Tristan Wirfs has given up only 1 sack in 16 games, which is incredible for any full time 16 game veteran starter. Donavan Smith, much maligned, has also played well for the most part this season. But we are in fact facing a very strong defensive line and pass rush in the Washington Football Team on Saturday. That will be our… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Naplesfan
Hockey Duckie
Reply to  Naplesfan
8 months ago

I credit a huge factor to Brady for being only sacked 21 times. His MO is to get rid of the ball faster via an open receiver or by throwing it away. Last year, we gave up 47 sacks in the same offensive scheme with the swapping of Wirfs with Dotson.
Brady knows what the defense can give. Winston never saw a defense alter his way of playing the game.

Naplesfan
Reply to  Hockey Duckie
8 months ago

The quarterback is a factor, but you can’t ignore the offensive line either. Last season Brady was sacked 27 times, and this season only 21 time. That’s a significant reduction, and you cannot argue that Brady somehow got quicker in his reads. If anything, learning a brand new offense, with brand new coaches, and a totally new team around him but for Gronk, Brady still got sacked 22% less often. That has to be credited to the offensive line, and other blockers too.

RW
RW
Reply to  Naplesfan
8 months ago

One thing to take into account was that the Pats O-line last year was missing some key players. The centre, Andrews, missed the whole year. the LT Wynn missed 8 games.

Dave
Reply to  Hockey Duckie
8 months ago

100% agree dude. This is more because of Brady and not the line. The elite HOF pocket QB’s(Manning, Brady, Montana, Brees, Marino) always had a reputation of being so quick to get rid of the ball. Year after year, regardless of who their OLine was. Is it more sensible to think that the Colts, Saints, Pats, 49ers, and Dolphins have been hitting on their OLineman at a near perfect rate for 2 decades…or is it more sensible to think that their HOF QB’s just don’t take sacks. It’s in their DNA to get rid of the ball. Outside of Wirfs,… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Dave
fredster
8 months ago

I had something similar to Evans Injury about 8 years ago. I hyper extended my knee. It was so painful I almost blacked out. I must have stretched ligaments close to breaking but don’t think they did. I never had it checked. Anyways it’s ok, but not as good as before. Sometimes I get shooting pain if I extend it too hard. Of course I’m 52 and not in NFL, but I work out and in good shape. Anyways just hope it was worse than it looked.

Captain Sly
8 months ago

Here’s to Big Mike’s speedy recovery but Mike is “a piece” not “the piece” to this team’s success. As ridiculous as this sounds besides Brady D Smith is the player we least can afford to lose and For that matter we cannot lose any starters along the oline because there’s zero depth off the bench for this team. So as exciting as it’s been watching these records fall for these players we all need to send Thank You cards to this Oline. Cheers!

Alan Collingwood
8 months ago

Rest Mike against Washington. He’s too valuable to risk in a game the Bucs should win!

Spitfire
8 months ago

To say flat out that our Defense isn’t food enough to win in the playoffs is short sided. We know, just like the Offense, what this Defense is capable of. They completely took Aaron Rodgers out of the game after the first quarter, held the Chiefs and Falcons to 10 second half points after falling from behind. The key is which version of our Defense will we see. If both the Offense and Defense come out firing on all cylinders then we are unstoppable. It all depends on how bad they want it. Our Defense is capable of giving up… Read more »

76Buc
8 months ago

Let me see. Tampa Bay is going to play a featured game in the cold North, against a tough coach and a very good QB, and a strong defense, on a Saturday night, on national TV. I smell an upset of mega proportions.

RW
RW
Reply to  76Buc
8 months ago

Brady played for 20 years in Boston and that is a lot colder than Washington!

Dave
Reply to  76Buc
8 months ago

Tough coach and a great QB? Lol. Last time I checked, Brady is the best bad weather QB of all time. He played in Boston for 20 years. Tom Brady in the cold, in the playoffs…or Alex Smith? I’ll take Brady thanks lol. You can have Smith

Last edited 8 months ago by Dave
Horse
8 months ago

Good Article Scott.

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