Despite a comeback attempt from Atlanta, the Bucs were able to hold on and defeat the Falcons 44-27, moving to 11-5 on the season as Tampa Bay now heads to their first playoff appearance since 2007. The victory comes as a bittersweet moment though, as the win was overshadowed by an injury to star wide receiver Mike Evans.
Entering the day Evans needed just 40 yards to become the first player in NFL history to total seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin a career, a record previously held by the legendary pass-catcher Randy Moss. Evans hit the mark on a 20-yard reception from Tom Brady in the first quarter, but the celebration was short-lived in Raymond James Stadium. On the very next play following Evans’ historic moment, Brady fired for Evans in the end zone but the veteran receiver dropped the pass and remained on the ground holding his left leg. After what appeared to be a hyperextended knee, Evans was assisted off the field and left with a visible limp before being carted to the locker room and taken for an MRI to gauge any damage, and the extent of it.
Even with the injury to Evans, Tampa Bay put together yet another phenomenal offensive performance led by 388 passing yards and four touchdowns from Brady, 138 receiving yards and two touchdowns from Antonio Brown, 133 receiving yards and two touchdowns from Chris Godwin and 78 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground from Ronald Jones II. Brady’s four touchdowns on Sunday also extended his single-season franchise record to 40 total in 2020. Defensively the Bucs got to Matt Ryan for just one sack, but were able to collect two fumble recoveries from defensive backs Antoine Winfield Jr. and Sean Murphy-Bunting.
The win on Sunday ensures that Tampa Bay will sit as the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs but the Bucs won’t know exactly who their first-round opponent will be until after Sunday Night Football. As the fifth seed, the Bucs will play the winner of the NFC East. If Washington beats the Eagles on Sunday night then Tampa Bay will face the Washington Football team in the first round of the playoffs, but if Washington loses however, the Bucs will face the New York Giants.