Tampa Bay locked in their first playoff appearance since 2007 on Saturday with a 47-7 win over the Detroit Lions.
Quarterback Tom Brady only played in the first half but totaled 348 passing yards and four passing touchdowns while receiver Mike Evans had a huge day with 181 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 10 receptions.
Head coach Bruce Arians spoke to the media following the Bucs’ win. Read the full transcript below.
On what this team has accomplished with a playoff berth
“It’s just the beginning. Our goal when we started out, especially this year, was to just get in the dance. Now it’s to win 11 games and see where we stand and where we’re going and who we’re playing. Really, really proud of our guys and our guys did a great job of preparing this week. You could feel that this was a playoff practice week, even with the holidays they handled their business well.”
On what’s clicked over the last two halves of football from the starters
“I think we’ve attacked more and kept a really nice mix of protections, running the ball, taking our shots down the field, completing third downs, making first downs on first and second down. We’re an explosive football team and when we can keep Tom standing, he’s going to deliver it for us.”
On the lack of turnovers from the offense of late
“There’s no doubt. We had the one dumb penalty where we had an audible and we didn’t audible, we had an illegal man downfield and that wiped out a big gain but we’ve had good discipline. I didn’t like the fiasco there after the interception but overall we’ve had good discipline and we’re giving ourselves a chance to win.”
On what a win like this can do for momentum before the playoffs
“It was a good win and it was exactly what we talked about. We wanted to go out and get a good start. We’ve deferred the kickoff most of this year, we decided to put our offense out there and we delivered. It was exactly what we needed. Special teams were a little shaky today. Ryan [Succop] just hates this turf and it showed today. I really wanted that goose egg and we gave up that punt return. Not everything can be perfect but I’m always looking for perfect.”
On how special it was for Brady to perform like that in his 300th game
“It was great. Any time you have a 158 quarterback rating and throw for over 300 yards in a half back-to-back it’s pretty special and he’s a pretty special player.”
On what this playoff appearance means to him personally
“It means the world and this is why you coach, you want to get in to a chance to win a championship and what a great group of guys we have to coach. Very resilient, a fun group of guys and they know their business and they do a great job. Ever since I’ve gotten to Tampa we’ve never had to ask our guys to work hard. We’ve gotten smarter and we’ve gotten more disciplined and it’s starting to show.”
On Derrick Brooks saying that the Bucs need to put a dominant game together
“It always matters. When you play a half like we did last week and a half like we did this week… you start stacking those together and we’re going to be a pretty tough out. I like the way we’re playing football right now in all three phases, although Ryan did struggle today.”
On getting off to that dominant start early
“We like to come out in the second half so we always defer the coin toss, try to score before the half and get the double score. This week we felt like we could attack so we took the football if we won the coin toss and our guys came out and went right down the field. It was something that we needed desperately, obviously, just so people could quit talking about it. We’ve been winning nice but not nice enough but today hopefully it was nice enough.”
On the Bucs’ success on the road
“I think that we finally got used to playing in empty stadiums, it took a while. Today we had a lot of energy and it’s like, OK, we’re learning how to play in these empty stadiums where there’s absolutely no crowd and it’s different than having a partial crowd. We’ve always been a good road team, even in Arizona we were a good road team. This year without the crowd noise it’s so different, every game’s really a home game and it’s just, hey let’s go play ball in the parking lot and let’s go. Any time you go 6-2 on the road you should be in the playoffs, that’s for sure.”
On Mike Evans nearing in on 1,000 yards with a big game
“We knew, especially this team. Tom went against this defense for 20 years in New England, all the calls and everything and was very, very confident that we could get Mike the ball in this ball game and then it was forcing it to him in the second half. Every time Blaine had a chance we were going to try and get Mike that record. I was hoping he’d get it today and we wouldn’t have to play him next week and next week will take care of itself, but I desperately want that to happen. Whatever he needs, 50 or whatever he has left, I’m sure Atlanta’s not going to want to give it to him, so we’ll have to find some creative ways to get it for him.”
On Blaine Gabbert and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, other backups
“Blaine hadn’t played in a year and a half and people don’t know how good Blaine Gabbert is, he can really spin a football. It’s a shame that one got knocked out of his hand because we’d have had another drive going. And Ke’Shawn, we’ve known what Ke’Shawn is, it’s just getting an opportunity. He’s so quick and sudden, a different style runner. Leonard [Fournette’s] a big powerful guy. It just gives us another good change of pace. Herb Miller, a bunch of young guys got out there today. Tyler [Johnson] did a great job. Tanner Hudson. A bunch of good guys got to play this week.”
On the efficiency of the Bucs’ offense
“I think that’s what we’re capable of. If you can get first downs and chunk plays on first and second down you can score faster and score more often. We went with no huddle without fast break, we’ve been working on it for a few weeks just to get it in the game and it was a really nice drive that we handled extremely well so I was really happy to see that because we might use it in the playoffs.”
On how this team has come together over the past two years
“It was putting the secondary together first and letting them get back guys last year and hopefully we’ll get Carlton back out there this week and bring them along. Get a defense. We needed a defense. I knew we’d score points, we’ve always scored points, it’s just a matter of getting a defense, getting those guys re-signed. Hopefully we’ll keep them all here this year and continue to build on defense and just add those pieces offensively. Obviously Tom was huge, Rob [Gronkowsk] was huge and they were more, ‘we know how to win.’ That’s what they brought, we know how to win. And Tom’s done it a couple of times this year where we’ve gotten down and he’s brought us back. I like where we’re at now in the second year and I think we’ll continue to build. Anything can happen. I’ve been a six seed and gone all the way to the Super Bowl and won it, right here in this stadium, so anything’s possible and now that we’re in the dance we have to se what next week brings and where we’re going.”
On Detroit allowing the first drive to continue and taking advantage of it
“There’s no doubt. Their discipline, or lack of, helped us tremendously. It was exactly what we needed and had he not jumped offsides I think we would have had a better play, but they are what they are. We’ve had them go the other way, but I love what our guys did with that opportunity, went straight down and scored.