Is it possible for a 43-year-old quarterback to still be in his prime? Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady turned in a vintage performance Saturday, leading the Bucs to a 47-7 win over the Detroit Lions.
Brady threw for 348 yards and four scores in the win ... and did it all in the first half. With the victory, the Buccaneers are officially going to the postseason. It will be the first time the franchise has appeared in the playoffs since 2007, which was the longest postseason drought in the NFC.
Brady proved he was on his game immediately, connecting with Rob Gronkowski on a perfectly placed touchdown pass on the Bucs’ first drive of the game. Bucs kicker Ryan Succop missed the extra point, giving Tampa Bay an early 6-0 lead.
The second Bucs drive brought more of the same. It took Brady just four plays to find Mike Evans for a 27-yard touchdown. With 7:39 left in the first quarter, the Bucs already had a 13-0 lead.
With that pass, Brady broke the Bucs’ franchise record for most touchdown passes in a season, which was set a year ago by Jameis Winston.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 26, 2020
The Lions’ defense temporarily held firm on the Bucs’ third drive, but surrendered yet another touchdown on the next one. This time, it was running back Leonard Fournette who capped the drive with a score.
Brady followed up by leading the Bucs on a 93-yard drive touchdown drive, with Chris Godwin making a diving, one-handed catch in the end zone.
— NFL (@NFL) December 26, 2020
Brady added one more passing touchdown — this one to Antonio Brown — before the end of the second quarter. At halftime, the Bucs led 34-0.
And with that, Brady’s day was over. Blaine Gabbert entered the game at the start of the third quarter. On his first play, Gabbert connected with Gronkowski for a touchdown. It was Gabbert’s first touchdown pass since December 2018.
He would add another touchdown pass a few drives later, hooking up with Evans for another score. Gabbert finished the contest with 133 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Lions struggle in all facets without quarterback, coaches
Any hope for a Lions comeback was dashed almost immediately, as quarterback Matthew Stafford left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Stafford went to the locker room, and did not return for the game. Chase Daniel came on in relief, and was eventually replaced by David Blough in the fourth quarter.
The Lions’ only touchdown of the day came on a punt return by Jamal Agnew in the third quarter.
Even if Daniel and Blough played like Peyton Manning in his prime, it would have been tough for the Lions to remain in the game. The Lions’ defense played Saturday’s game without a number of coaches and it showed. Defensive line coach Bo Davis, defensive backs coach Steve Gregory, linebacker coach Ty McKenzie and defensive coordinator Cory Undlin all missed the contest due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
Without them, the Lions’ defense — which has struggled all season — looked miserable. There was little it could do to stop Brady, or even Gabbert, from marching down the field drive after drive.
With the loss, the Lions drop to 5-10 on the season. After firing Matt Patricia in November, the team will be looking for a new head coach in the offseason. Given how poorly the team performed Saturday, it’s unclear how many available coaches will actually want the Lions’ job. The defense is a mess and the offense looked hopeless without Stafford.
Buccaneers hit stride at the right time
It may have only been the Lions, but the Buccaneers picked a good time to turn in a dominant performance. On Wednesday, Brady told reporters he hoped the Bucs would “play at a much higher level this Saturday.” He more than delivered on that promise.
Though the team is 10-5, the Bucs cannot win the NFC South. The 11-4 New Orleans Saints already clinched the division. As a result, the Bucs will be one of the lower-ranked seeds in the NFC. In order to advance past the favorites, Brady and the Bucs needed to show the offense could operate at an elite level.
They proved as much Saturday, and will look to carry that momentum with them once the postseason begins.
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