Welcome to a NEW 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.
I know, I know. You want me to pick a singular moment where the Bucs went from competing with the Raiders to beating them over the head, but I just can’t do it. Not today.
How do you pick one moment from this peak Tom Brady performance as the one that made the greatest impact on the game’s outcome, when the Bucs’ quarterback was forced to make a handful of them throughout the contest due to his defense struggling?
Would you choose Brady’s perfectly placed back shoulder fade for Rob Gronkowski that put the Bucs up for the first time in the game? Or how about the quarterback’s 33-yard seed to Scotty Miller with 25 seconds left in the half to give Tampa Bay a 21-10 halftime lead they would not relinquish? Yes, maybe that’s the one.
But the Raiders roared back with a strong third quarter, cutting the Bucs lead to 24-20 with 12:43 left in the game. With the Bucs offense in desperate need of an answer to 10-straight points by the Raiders, Brady took over again.
First was a 3rd-and-13 checkdown to Leonard Fournette, which may not have seemed like much, but how many times have Bucs fans seen Jameis Winston pass up the smart underneath throw to air out into a Cover 2 defense with linebackers playing 15-20 yards deep? Brady immediately recognized how much space the Raiders had afforded Fournette, and quickly got him the ball for the first down.
On that pivotal touchdown drive alone, Brady had a 15-yard post throw to Evans and an outstanding toss on the move to Chris Godwin in the end zone when the defense lost the Pro Bowl receiver late in the play. On the drive that mattered the most, Brady was 5-7 for 50 yards and was robbed of another big play when Raiders CB Trayvon Mullen grabbed Mike Evans on a double move to prevent a chunk gain. The defensive pass interference kept the Bucs drive alive on 3rd-and-2.
After an Antoine Winfield interception gave the Bucs offense a short field to seal the game, Brady went to work. He laced a 23-yard pass down the seam to Godwin, who was pulled down just short of the goal line. Ronald Jones scored to put the nail in the Raiders’ coffin on the next play.
Then, just for good measure with the game already decided, Brady dropped in an absolutely perfect arcing throw for 22 yards to Mike Evans on an over route, setting up his fourth and final touchdown pass of the game to Tyler Johnson in the back of the end zone.
.@TomBrady takes the all-time lead in passing TDs with this toss to Tyler Johnson! #GoBucs
It was a peak Tom Brady performance, the likes of which Bucs fan have been waiting to see, but haven’t needed very often due to the Bucs defensive dominance. But with the Bucs defense reeling a bit against a good Raiders offense, Brady was at his absolute best in a 33-45, 369-yard, four-touchdown performance that elevated the Bucs to 5-2.
So this turning point, this game-changer moment actually occurred in March, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Tom Brady to a two-year deal and put the fate of their franchise in his hands. That move was made for games like this, when the team ran out of defensive answers, couldn’t run the ball effectively and were on the brink of giving up a big lead by beating themselves, something the Bucs have done all too often over the past, well, 15 years.
But not on Sunday. Because of Brady. Pick your moment, but the GOAT’s presence in Tampa Bay, a move that began all the way back in March, is why the Bucs won today. And he’s why they’ll win a lot more between now and the end of the season.
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