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
4 months 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!

SenileSenior
Reply to  Captain Sly
4 months 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!

SenileSenior
Reply to  SenileSenior
4 months ago

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

SenileSenior
Reply to  SenileSenior
4 months ago

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

drdneast
Reply to  Captain Sly
4 months ago

You must be thinking about last year’s team.

Spitfire
4 months 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
4 months ago

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