Brady threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers past Washington 31-23 in their NFC wild card game on Saturday night for their first playoff win since the 2002 season.
“If you could win 100-0, it will be the same result at the end,” Brady said. “It’s good to win and move on.”
In his 42nd postseason start and first step into the New England Patriots uniform, Brady took advantage of a lack of pressure to carve out the NFL’s second defense on 22 of 40 assists.
“He’s a fighter, he plays hard, works hard and studies hard, and he’s the man for the job,” Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette he told me.
Brady had to top Washington’s Taylor Heinicke, who had a breakout performance in his second pro start and first in the playoffs in place of the injured starter Alex Smith. Heinicke – signed in early December on the practice squad – ran for 46 yards and a touchdown and pitched for 306 yards and a score.
“He almost beat us with his legs,” Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said. “He was very elusive. We knew he was going to scramble, that there would be bootlegs and scrambles. We were really hoping for Alex because we knew part of the game was not going to be in there.
But Heinicke wasn’t enough to overcome Brady’s brilliance. As Bill Belichick and the Patriots watch from home with their playoff streak cut short at age 11 after a 7-9 season, Brady has the opportunity to play in another Super Bowl – in his new home stadium.
Buccaneers await Chicago result in New Orleans on Sunday to see if they visit Drew Brees and the Saints or host the Los Angeles Rams next weekend. They would need an upset bear to play at home in the divisional round.
“It doesn’t matter,” Arians said. ” Were playing. It’s all that matters. ”
Age doesn’t seem to matter much to Brady, who at 43 years and 159 days passed George Blanda as the oldest player to throw a TD pass in a playoff game. A 36 yard connection with Antonio Brown was Brady’s longest playoff run since 2011.
Brady was methodical in the first period with 12 completed passes for 209 yards and was not sacked until the last minute of the second quarter.
Heinicke made things interesting in the third, including looking for an 8-yard TD by diving to the pylon in the corner of the end zone. The piece even caught the attention of the reigning Super Bowl champion. Patrick mahomes, who tweeted: “Bro what!?!?! ”
The series after Heinicke hit his left shoulder, Brady designed a 69-yard drive topped off by a 3-yard TD led by Fournette. It was 28-16, which was enough to resist Heinicke’s attempt to be the unlikely hero.
“We are delighted with the victory”, receiver of the Buccaneers Cameron Brate said. “I hate to say we’re relieved, but at this point we’re just excited to have won. No matter how ugly it was, no matter how many mistakes we made, a win is a win this time of year.
With Smith due to a strained right calf, Heinicke made a name for himself in prime time, setting the franchise record in a single game for the quarterfinals and raising the question of whether he should be considered the Washington QB of the future.
“It was brave,” said coach Ron Rivera. “It’s one of those things that a guy like him who works hard at what he does, he created an opportunity for himself and we’ll see what happens.
Heinicke had only appeared in eight games and started one in the NFL before Saturday and was taking math lessons online at Old Dominion when Washington called him up to be his “quarantine quarterback.”
Brown has a TD hold in four straight games dating back to the regular season, tying the second longest streak in franchise history. Mike Evans holds the six-game record and was Tampa Bay’s leading receiver against Washington with six catches for 199 yards.
Maybe there’s something playing at FedEx Field that brings out the best in Brown. In his only other game in Washington in 2016 with Pittsburgh, he had eight catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
Evans played thanks to a knee injury suffered in the regular season finale. The Arians said Evans was 85-90% healthy.
Boucaniers: RG Alex Cappa left at the end of the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. The Arians said it looked like a broken bone and expected more x-rays, but added that “it doesn’t look right” for Cappa to play next weekend.
Washington: RB Antonio Gibson limped after a play in the first quarter, but stayed. He has struggled with a lingering toe injury that caused him to miss two recent games.
Washington: Lost in the wild card round, just like his last playoff appearance five years ago.
Buccaneers: In the divisional round next weekend and will visit Drew Brees and the Saints if New Orleans beats Chicago or host the Los Angeles Rams if the Bears are upset on Sunday.
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