There were too many drops, too many missed red zone opportunities, and too many mistakes on defense to make anyone comfortable for another playoff game next week, but we’ve seen the Bucs squeak out games like this then play lights out the following week - so there certainly isn’t reason to panic, even if there are reasons to be concerned.
Let’s dive into the first playoff edition of Pick Six that I’ve ever done.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Brady was Brady. Tom Brady had another solid performance and stayed cool under pressure. In spite of some uncharacteristic drops by Chris Godwin and some miscues in the red zone, Brady finished with a Bucs postseason record 381 yards and tied another postseason record with two touchdown passes. Even when Washington closed the gap to two, there was no panic by Brady and he continued to target Godwin even with the drops he had in the second half. Again, this is why you brought him in here. This experience, the successes, it was all on full display Saturday night with a team that had the majority of its players participating in their first postseason game of their NFL careers. Plenty to build on for next week.
2.) Shout out to Donovan Smith. “I want Tom! I want Tom! Tom Brady, I’m comin!” Those were the words of the likely Defensive Rookie of the Year winner Chase Young after Washington defeated Philadelphia last week to clinch the NFC East. Young, without a doubt, is an up and coming superstar pass rusher in the NFL and the Washington defensive line is one of the best in the league thanks to his arrival. When Bucs fans figured out that Young would line up opposite Smith, there was concern. Smith is still a player Bucs fans love to hate, despite his solid season keeping Brady upright. On Saturday, Young didn’t get close enough to Brady to even smell his shampoo let alone hit him. Young finished with three total tackles - only one solo - as well as zero sacks and zero quarterback hits, all thanks to the stellar play of Donovan Smith. Smith took care of business all night long and you have to hope that it continues into next week.
3.) Some bad news, though. Starting right guard Alex Cappa is likely done for the playoffs. He left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury, then when head coach Bruce Arians spoke to the media after the game he said that it’s believed Cappa fractured the ankle and that things “don’t look good” for him. Cappa’s replacement - Ted Larson - was the victim of Daron Payne’s swim move that allowed him to sack Brady twice in the second half. Without Cappa, the interior of the line is far weaker and will certainly make the pocket collpase a little faster than usual. Something to monitor heading into next week.
4.) It had to be him. With just over two minutes to play, Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke dropped back on third-and-ten from the Bucs’ side of midfield. Linebacker Lavonte David - playing in his first playoff game and yet again snubbed for the All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams - made the play of the game when he sacked Heinicke for an eleven yard loss and forcing fourth-and-twenty one. Until that point, David was having a very quiet postseason debut, but he made the biggest play in the biggest moment. No one else would have been more fitting.
5.) Get it straightened out, Godwin. Chris Godwin had a decent game from a stat standpoint; five receptions, 79 yards, and a touchdown. However, he also had four drops including one in the end zone. Yes, four drops in a playoff game. Godwin had just four drops in his career entering last night. I don’t know if the surgically repaired finger was bothering him or if it was playoff jitters, but this can’t continue. Brady has looked to Godwin in key moments time and time again this season. If he can’t get the job done when it matters most, Brady won’t continue to feed him the ball. You’re better than what you showed on Saturday, Chris - make up for it with a career game next week.
6.) Thank you, Leonard. Ronald Jones had his quad injury flare up during pre-game warmups and he never set foot on the field Saturday. Instead, Leonard Fournette took the majority of snaps and did a fantastic job for the Bucs. He finished with 93 yards and a touchdown on nineteen carries (4.9 ypc) as well as four receptions for 39 yards. Fournette proved to be a big part of the game plan once RoJo was out and he delivered. I’ve been critical of Fournette in recent weeks but his talent was on full display against Washington. Spinning out of tackles, lowering his shoulder, staying in bounds late in the game. Without his performance, we may be talking about the biggest upset of the postseason rather than the Bucs heading to the Divisional Round.
Six Numbers To Consider
119 - Receiving yards by Mike Evans in his playoff debut - a new record for most receiving yards in a playoff game for the Buccaneers
31 - Different players to catch a touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the postseason
6,193 - Days in between the Bucs’ last two playoff wins
17 - Different teams Tom Brady has beaten in the postseason
365 - Bucs’ net passing yards, the most in a postseason game since Super Bowl LII
4 - Field goals made by Ryan Succop, a Buccaneers’ record for most made in a single playoff game
Six Best Tweets
"I want Tom! I want Tom! Tell Tom Brady I'm comin!" pic.twitter.com/GTwk9eoQoj— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) January 10, 2021
We have activated Devin White from that crazy covic 19 list !!!! I’m ready to practice man ! LETS WORK— DEVIN WHITE (@DevinWhite__40) January 10, 2021
I can’t believe Mike Evans is flying around.. his knee looked broken last week after that slip in the endzone.— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) January 10, 2021
Bruce Arians on Lavonte David's third-down sack in the fourth QTR: "It was great. We weren't tackling worth a sh-- the entire game. We finally got 'em when it mattered. I don't think that's the best our defense has played in a long time. It was terrible. Up until the last 8 min."— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) January 10, 2021
I think I just exhaled for the first time in three hours.— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) January 10, 2021
Ok, so this isn’t a list, but I feel it’s important to have this in here so everyone knows what’s going on and who could be where next week. With the Rams’ win over the Seahawks, we know the Bucs are guaranteed to not travel to Lambeau, Outside of that, it’s all up in the air at the moment.
Saints beat the Bears - the Buccaneers will travel to New Orleans to take on their division rival for a third time this year.
Bears beat the Saints - The Buccaneers will host the Los Angeles Rams. Another rematch from earlier in the year, but the Bucs have adjusted quite a bit since then.
The Bucs Can...
Host a playoff game in the divisional round with a Bears win over the Saints. In fact, the Bucs could host the NFC Championship if the Bears or Rams are able to upset the Green Bay Packers and if the Bucs are able to win their Divisional Round match-up.
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Kansas City Chiefs - Bye week plus defending champs gets you to number one
2.) Green Bay Packers - Only other bye week gets you number two on the list
3.) Buffalo Bills - Josh Allen can hang with anyone in the league
4.) New Orleans Saints - Tough team, tough out. Is this Brees’ “ride off into the sunset a champ” playoff run?
5.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - There isn’t a team in the postseason that the Bucs can’t beat if they’re playing up to their talent level.
6.) Tennessee Titans - Derrick Henry. 2K yards. Absolute monster
Six Final Words
Survive and advance - divisional game next