Tom Brady and Mike Evans had their best games of the season Sunday Afternoon, as the Buccaneers came back from double digit deficits to beat the Carolina Panthers 30-24 in the home season finale at Raymond James Stadium.
With the win, the Buccaneers are now at 8-8 and clinch the NFC South for the second consecutive year, the eighth division title overall for the Buccaneers in franchise history.
Here are some thoughts and scribbles from watching the Buccaneers clinch the NFC South on Sunday.
Tough Start For The Buccaneers Defense
It did not start great for the Buccaneers as Carolina took the opening kickoff and went straight down the field to open up a 7-0 lead. The defense looked like they wanted to be anywhere else but on the football field.
Fortunately, the defense settled in and made some critical stops later in the game that were crucial in the Buccaneer’s win.
Carolina relied more on the pass this game than the previous game in Charlotte. Sam Darnold passed for 341 yards and three touchdowns as Carolina built an 11-point second half lead.
The Panthers could only run for 74 yards, a far cry from the 173 yards they put up in their first meeting in Charlotte.
The Buccaneers also trouble running the ball against the Panther’s defense, gaining just 67 yards, led by 22 yards from Leonard Fournette.
In my preview article, One of the keys to victory for the Buccaneers was slowing down the run game of Carolina. If the Buccaneers could keep the Panther’s run game in check, that would get a victory. They did that and came away with a 30-24 win.
The Chemistry With Mike Evans Returns
Tom Brady had his best game this season, completing 34/45 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns. All three to Mike Evans.
This is the first 400-yard passing game for Tom Brady this season.
The chemistry between Mike Evans and Tom Brady suddenly reappeared Sunday as Mike Evans had one of the best games of his career and his best game this season as he led the Buccaneers with ten catches for 207 yards and three touchdown passes.
This connection has been missing all season, and it is a proven fact that when the Brady-Evans connection is clicking, it usually means a Bucs win.
With 207 yards receiving, Evans goes over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the ninth consecutive season.
Chris Godwin also had a monster game, catching nine passes for 120 yards. His best game of the season.
Buccaneers Defense Made Big Plays When It Counted
We would not be doing our due diligence if we didn’t talk about the defense. The defense harassed Sam Darnold into two fumbles and a Sean-Murphy-Bunting interception while Anthony Nelson and Antoine Winfield Jr. sacked the Carolina quarterback twice.
Carolina generated 400 yards of offense against the Buccaneer defense, but the defense stepped up and made plays when it mattered most.
Ryan Succop had His Worst Day
It was not a good day for Ryan Succop. Succop, missed a 53-yard field goal in the first half, had a chip shot field goal blocked and had an extra point blocked in the second half. Lucky for the Bucs, it didn’t affect the outcome, but Succop needs to be much better and more consistent with the playoffs approaching.
Buccaneers Are In The Playoffs For The Third Straight Year
With the win and the Bucs winning the NFC South, the Buccaneers will host a playoff game wildcard weekend. If the season ended, that game would be against the Dallas Cowboys today.
The Buccaneers will play in Atlanta next weekend against the Falcons to wrap up the regular season.
The good news today was that there were no apparent injuries against the Panthers. Todd Bowles will now decide if he will rest any starters next week.
The offense has been out of sync and inconsistent all season. I would hope that Bowles doesn’t sit any of the starters. They still have a ways to go to get back to playing championship football.
As Sean Murphy Bunting said after the game, The playoffs are a new season. Everyone starts 0-0, and anything can happen. Its best man wins.