LANDOVER, Maryland – New team, same playoff success for Tom Brady.
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 2002.
In his 42nd playoff start and first step into the New England Patriots uniform, Brady took advantage of the lack of pressure to carve out the NFL’s second defense on 22 of 40 assists.
He had to outsmart Taylor Heinicke of Washington, who had a breakout performance in his second pro start and first in the playoffs in place of 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.
But that wasn’t enough to overcome Brady’s brilliance.
As Bill Belichick and the Patriots watch from home with their playoff streak snapped at age 11 after a 7-9 season, Brady has the opportunity to play in another Super Bowl – in his new home stadium.
The Buccaneers are awaiting the result from Chicago to New Orleans on Sunday to see if they will 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.
There’s not a lot of slowing down from 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 in the playoffs since 2011.
Brady was methodical in the first half with 12 completed passes for 209 yards and wasn’t 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 reigning Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes, who tweeted, “Bro what!?!?! “
The series after Heinicke hit his left shoulder, Brady devised a 69-yard drive topped off by a 3-yard Leonard Fournette TD run. It was 28-16, which was enough to resist Heinicke’s attempt to be the unlikely hero.