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Last week head coach Bruce Arians said that they would be playing their Week 17 game with the intent to win, placing importance on finishing 11-5 and ensuring that they secure the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs.
Play to win they did, as the Bucs exploded for 44 points in a huge win over the Falcons on Sunday. But in a bittersweet turn, Mike Evans left the game in the first quarter as the playoffs now sit on the horizon for Tampa Bay. Arians spoke to the media about the Bucs’ victory and gave an update on Evans’ injury following the game on Sunday. Read the full transcript below.
On the swing of emotions after Evans’ record to his injury
“It meant the world to him to get that record and then to have an easy touchdown… 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 having Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, possibly playing without Evans in the playoffs
“Scotty [Miller], Tyler [Johnson], we’ve got weapons. Obviously Mike is special and I kind of put Mike in that Vita [Vea] category, it’s going to take two guys to replace him for sure if he’s not there.”
On Tom Brady’s day, the offense not settling for a single punt
“It was going to be one of those games and I just hate it, it pissed me off that they called [Miller’s drop] an interception but [Brady] played fantastic. He’s been on fire since the open date and we scored on every drive except for that one and the kneel down. We kicked too many field goals but that wasn’t him, he’s been fantastic.”
Bucs QB Tom Brady and WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
On 40 touchdown passes from Brady in year one with no offseason
“I think he broke Peyton Manning’s record for [touchdowns in the first year with a team] throwing 40 touchdowns. I think Peyton had 37 so I know he’ll like that, 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, I really did. When he first signed it was like, okay we’ll be a 48 [touchdown] and 10 [interception] team but I was expecting practice. I was expecting OTAs and those things but what he’s done with none of that, especially this last half of the season, is incredible.”
On the mood of the sideline when Evans went down
“He’s a big part of the leadership and it’s just hey, you young guys step up. Scotty, Tyler step up. A.B. go play [X receiver] and let’s go. There’s nothing we can do about it at the time and it sounds cold at times but you have to go on. We’ve done a good job of that all the time and I think we’ll reflect on that when we see him tomorrow.”
On the responsibility of the turf on Evans’ injury
“Total. Totally. It just blew out from underneath him.”
On the defense forcing Atlanta to field goals near the goal line
“It was huge, it was huge. And obviously getting those turnovers was gigantic to ice it but it’s like, we bent way too much. Penalties hurt us, especially in the second half.”
On how guys stepped in for Devin White, Shaq Barrett, Carlton Davis
“I thought each and every one of those guys… Ross Cockrell’s done a great job all year, every time he’s had an opportunity he plays good. Anthony Nelson had good pressure. Cam Gill got a half of a sack, it looked like, I hope they gave him a half sack. Kevin Minter I thought was outstanding and we know Kevin’s a solid player and he’s been one for a long time so that drop off wasn’t as big as the other ones.”
On how the Bucs are playing now compared to the first half of the year
“Way, way more confident, especially offensively. We’ve got a good grasp of what we’re doing offensively. I’m not sure how many times we’ve punted since the second half of the first Atlanta game but I’m going to say Atlanta’s a quality football team. Without those turnovers it would have probably been a six-point game but that’s a talented football team. Minnesota’s a talented football team. We can’t worry about who we played, all football teams can beat your ass on Sunday so you’d better be ready.”
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