Welcome to my weekly post-game column, where I’ll take a look at the moment(s) the game turned either in favor or against the Buccaneers. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive look at all the reasons the Bucs won or lost, but instead the key moment or two where things went north or south for the team.

The Game-Changer

When the Bucs went up 28-16 with just over nine minutes in the game, it felt like they had finally built the advantage they needed to pull away from Washington’s stingy squad, but the Tampa Bay defense had other ideas. Todd Bowles’ prevent defense allowed the Football Team to march down the field and score in just 4:20, leaving the Bucs with just under five minutes to respond or risk giving the Fighting Taylor Heinickes the ball with a chance to win the game.

Up 28-23 with 4:48 on the clock, the Bucs took over at their own 23 with a chance to seal the game. Leonard Fournette banged over the left side for two yards on first down, putting the Bucs in second-and-8 with the clock running down near four minutes.

Tampa Bay came out in 11 personnel on second down, motioning Cam Brate to the boundary side before the snap, which revealed Washington’s defense playing in man coverage after safety Kamren Curl trailed the veteran tight end across the formation. With banged up wide receiver Mike Evans running a go route against a Cover 1 look, Brady probably knew pre-snap that there was a good chance he would take this shot down the field, but a low snap from Ryan Jensen throws off the typical rhythm from the pocket.

Brady’s eyes dropped to handle the errant snap, and as soon as he righted himself in the pocket, Washington defensive lineman Jonathan Allen was already in his face after immediately beating Bucs left guard Ali Marpet with a nasty club-rip move. Brady could never have expected Marpet, who had surrendered just 10 pressures in 13 games going into Saturday night, to be beaten so quickly, but the quarterback stayed poised and unfurled a beauty of a deep ball to Evans, who was streaking down the left sideline after whipping Kendall Fuller at the line of scrimmage.

Evans never broke stride in hauling in a perfect 35-yard teardrop from Brady, and the result was a huge gain and first down to the Washington 40 with four minutes left in the game. A 13-yard run by Fournette on the next play, who wisely slid down in bounds, put the Bucs in field goal range for a 37-yard Ryan Succop try that split the uprights to give the Bucs a 31-23 lead with under three minutes left in the game.

After surrendering back-to-back first downs to begin Washington’s final drive, the Bucs defense finally rose up and got a critical stop, largely thanks to a massive 11-yard sack from blitzing linebacker Lavonte David on third-and-10. It was a fitting end for Tampa Bay’s first postseason win since the 2002 Super Bowl, as the team’s leaders and most respected veterans – Brady, Evans and David – all made the critical plays down the stretch to seal the victory. The tests will get tougher for the Bucs in the divisional round, where they will face either the New Orleans Saints or the Los Angeles Rams, but on Saturday night, a clutch throw from Brady, who passed for 381 yards and two touchdowns, and a great route by a hampered Evans, who led the team with six catches for 119 yards, was enough to carry the Bucs to victory in the wild card round.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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Captain Sly
15 days ago

Game was a lot closer than expected but There were encouraging signs for this team moving forward. The past we would have lost this game because of turnovers, stupid penalties or blown assignments. It wasn’t perfect nor at times pretty but good football teams find ways to finish when they don’t have their best stuff. Cheers!

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SenileSenior
Reply to  Captain Sly
15 days ago

Amen!
The game actually was “closer than expected” because a decent portion of the professional analysts and knowledgeable amateurs, i.e., football fans were wrong in their pre game predictions.
Most of us are forever forgetting that on a given day any team can rise up and beat any other team in the NFL no matter what their previous record.
If you want perfection, die and go to heaven!
As a true Buc fan I am elated with the results! Any kind of win is all that matters in the playoffs.
_______________
Go Bucs!!! Just Win!

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SenileSenior
Reply to  SenileSenior
15 days ago

P.S. Your new “word processing” software SUCKS.

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SenileSenior
Reply to  SenileSenior
15 days ago

P.S. To Pewter Report: Your new “word processing” software SUCKS.

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drdneast
Reply to  Captain Sly
15 days ago

You must be thinking about last year’s team.

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Spitfire
15 days ago

Washington would have run away with the East if they would have had a decent QB for the entire season. Anything can happen in the playoffs and teams get hungry and upset like the Rams did and like the Colts almost did. It was so great to see our Offense roll on their solid Defense that supposedly wasn’t gonna let us score more than 20 and didn’t give up the deep pass while also supposedly supposed to give Brady a hard time. Our Defense was off but I think it was more a last minute general adjustment to deal with… Read more »

geno711
Reply to  Spitfire
15 days ago

To your point, Washington was 1-5 when Haskins started.

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drdneast
Reply to  geno711
15 days ago

If Alex Smith had played, the score would have been worse for Washington.

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Dave
Reply to  drdneast
15 days ago

100% true. Everyone is acting like it was a detriment for the WFT to have Heinicke at QB instead of Smith. The Bucs DLine would have had a field day with Smith behind Center

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toucan
15 days ago

Cappa out with a possible season ender. J. Haeg blocked the wrong man on the first PAT leading to a blocked kick.. Larsen may get let go after the season. He gave up 2 Brady sacks. It is hard to envision beating the Saints this year. Odds are better against the Rams.

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geno711
Reply to  toucan
15 days ago

The Saints are the hardest team for me as well to envision winning against. I just cannot ignore that recent history of how bad we looked the last three games against them.
Yet, we have players on this team that are clearly capable of being difference makers and not just guys. I will go in with that our quarterback is better than their quarterback and that is the most important position on the field.

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drdneast
Reply to  toucan
15 days ago

Larsen just got signed a couple of weeks ago so manybe we should cut him some slack. I’d love to play the banged up Rams but I think it will probably be the Saints who I think we can beat too. We didn’t get outplayed against the Saints, we got outcoached and out game planned. Our talent level is just as good if not better as the Saints on the offensive side of the ball with out new revised offense where we aren’t going yard on every play. Our defense can hold it’s own if Bowles would loosen up and… Read more »

compewterpirate
15 days ago

A good call on the ‘game-changing’ play Jon. I chose the exact same play, so I have to say that!

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fredster
15 days ago

Bucs will need some more stellar offense to advance. This D has scares me all year. They really have to revamp some in off season imo. Go Bucs!

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Dave
Reply to  fredster
15 days ago

They’ll need more stellar offense to advance? They scored 31 points( should have been 37) and rolled up over 500 yards of offense with no TO’s by Brady, against this supposed elite defense. I’d call that pretty good if you ask me. The problems on this team are 100% on defense

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drdneast
Reply to  Dave
15 days ago

True except I make it 39 points since we dropped two TDs in the end zone so with the extra points I make it 39.

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drdneast
Reply to  fredster
15 days ago

Let’s remember Vita Vea is out and the refs aren’t calling offensive holding like they did last year which has cut down on Shaq Barrett’s effectiveness. Still, we need a couple of more DL, one in the middle and an edge rusher. We also lost Devin White for this game.
If Bowles cab figure out a way fir White to rush more against the Saints and not cover as much, it would make a huge difference.

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Dave
Reply to  drdneast
14 days ago

Very true. Vea was a HUGE loss. I don’t think people realized at the time just how big a loss he was. And his loss has been apparent ever since. But I think Shaq’s “down year” has been a little overblown. Not saying it wasn’t mildly disappointing. But I wouldn’t call his season bad by any means. Just not as good as last year. He was obviously going to see much more attention from OC’s based off last year. He was never going to repeat last years performance. But he’s been effective, and very close to more sacks, every game.… Read more »

76Buc
15 days ago

Fans seem to forget that the Redskins are the #2 defense in the league. I’m surprised our 967 year old QB put up 30+ on them. Amazing job Tom! I am worried about our D. They pressured all night, but the DB can’t cover. Maybe it’s coaching?

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drdneast
Reply to  76Buc
15 days ago

The DBs weren’t doing that bad, it was the QBs scrambling that got Washington out of trouble. The dropped INT and the failure to make the correct call on the fumble didn’t help matters either. The non fumble call was so wrong.

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TBChucky
15 days ago

Scary to think our offense didn’t even have their best game! I say that largely due to Godwin having a rare off night. I was tired of hearing how WFT’s defense was going to shut us down. I expect a better showing from both sides of the ball next week. Losing Cappa really scares me.. But on the plus side, our whole team has playoff experience now! If we had Devin White those QB scrambles that kept killing us would’ve ended up with WFT playing their third string QB!

GO BUCS!! GO BEARS!! Lol

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drdneast
Reply to  TBChucky
15 days ago

How much Demerol do you think they pumped into Heineke when he went to the locker room?

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drdneast
15 days ago

The real game changer should have been when the Bucs forced Washington’s QB to fumble near the end of the second quarter. Instead of rewarding the clear fumble and recovery and the Cadillac El Dorado rightfully to the Bucs, we got the steak knives.
Leave it to the zebras.

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Madman
Reply to  drdneast
15 days ago

Yeah, how was that not a fumble exactly?

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TBChucky
Reply to  Madman
15 days ago

Agreed. Fumble all day.

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drdneast
Reply to  TBChucky
15 days ago

Homer and ratings call. The Bucs score a TD after the fumble and half the TVs go off in the metropolitan Washington market.

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Horse
14 days ago

Good analysis Jon. I personally had no idea how we are going to beat the Saints with Vowels calling the same type of defensive scheme that he has done this whole season. He needs to change his thoughts because the Saints will once again destroy us, unless he makes a change of the scheme. Our DB’s can’t line up as deep as they have before. DB’s have to play much tighter, and prevent Brees from not just completing the 5-10 yard pass, but also stop the YAC. We will not win in a shootout because they have a better defense… Read more »