There’s plenty to talk about after Tampa Bay’s big win over Atlanta, but let’s dive in and see what the coaches and players had to say themselves after the game and on Victory Monday.
Bruce Arians on Mike Evans’ getting the 1,000 yard record and his subsequent injury:
“It meant the world for him to get that record and then to have an easy touchdown. The turf was really slick in the end zones and it was just a freaky thing. Knock on wood – we don’t think there’s any serious damage. We’ll know more in the next 24 hours.”
Thoughts: This was arguably the most up-and-down sequence I’ve ever experienced as a Bucs fan and I’m sure many others feel the same way. Pure joy immediately turned to pure horror from one play to the next. The good thing is that there is no structural damage and the team is hopeful that he will play this week.
Arians gives a more concrete update on Evans’ injury Monday after practice:
“The MRI showed no structural damage. It was a hyperextension. I saw him in the training room a little while ago – there’s very, very little swelling and he’ll be day-to-day. Hopefully he can practice on Thursday.”
Thoughts: If Evans is truly in fact “day-to-day”, then it’s a borderline miracle because that means he has an actual chance to play this weekend. This will obviously be something to monitor as the week continues.
Arians on the field’s responsibility for Evans’ injury:
“Totally. It just [gave] out from underneath him.
Thoughts: Now the Bucs get to go to FedEx Field, which is notorious for being the dumpster juice of NFL fields. Fingers crossed nothing bad happens up there.
Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting on his forced fumble and recovery in the second half:
“It’s been a while for me since I’ve had a big, impactful play, I would say. But, honestly, I’m just blessed for the coaches to still believe in me and trust in me throughout the year. Obviously, this year, I’ve had my ups and my lows. It just means a lot to me. Each and every game [and] each and every day coach is telling me, ‘Let’s go, let’s be that player you are. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be.’ [He’s] always keeping that confidence there and keeping my morale high. I’m very blessed for that.”
Thoughts: It was great to see SMB make this play and hopefully it provides a confidence boost and a turning point for a down season. Tampa Bay’s going to need him this week against Terry McLaurin.
Tom Brady on if he imagined throwing 40 touchdown passes this year:
“Whatever happens for me as a quarterback is reflective of what our group does on offense. I love playing with the guys I play with. We’ve got a great group of receivers, great group of tight ends – very selfless – the backs have done an incredible job. The way the offensive line is playing and protecting gives any quarterback a great opportunity. It’s a team sport – those are great team accomplishments. Just proud of all the guys [for] what they put in this year. Now we’re moving into the playoffs. We have a great opportunity ahead of us and we’ve got to go try and take advantage of it.”
Thoughts: Of course, Brady takes the humble road. 40 touchdown passes at his age in this offense —with just 12 interceptions— is unreal. He’s been worth every penny so far.
Linebacker Kevin Minter on the Bucs’ “next man up” attitude:
“It’s just kind of what we do, right? Coach always talks about ‘Next man Up’ and that’s something we live by in this locker room. Regardless of who is down, no excuses. We are all Bucs and we all have a goal in mind, we all trying to get that championship. So regardless of who playing, you need to strap the helmet on and go. I’ll be damned if I [am] the one to let my team down.”
Thoughts: That last line is what makes Minter a reliable veteran backup. You have to love that type of mentality in a player.
Minter on the Bucs not punting once during the Atlanta game:
“It definitely puts a smile on my face, I will tell you that. I was starting on punt too, so I was thinking, ‘Please.’ After the -play drive and the 15-play drive, ‘Y’all keep it going.’ I was definitely happy but starting to see them click is dope. Everybody is having fun on their side. AB [Antonio Brown] you couldn’t keep a smile off his damn face, all game. He was trying to get it. RoJo [Ronald Jones] was running like he had nothing to lose, he was running through peoples’ faces. [Leonard] Fournette is Fournette, he was coming downhill. It’s exciting. I had to do some extra stretching – I was getting cold on the sideline. I love that problem.”
Thoughts: Gotta love the honesty. I bet he was tired as hell. We need more Kevin Minter interviews in our lives.
Arians on Devin White being unavailable due to the game kicking off on Saturday:
“It looks that way right now. I was not overly excited about that – it could potentially cost us a couple players that [could] play on Sunday that we’re still hoping [for].”
Thoughts: This was pretty much expected when the Wild Card Weekend schedule came out, but you’ve gotta wonder who Arians is referring to when he says it could “potentially cost us a couple players” to miss the game.
Arians on the availability of Carlton Davis III, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Shaquil Barrett, and Steve McClendon:
“I think Carlton should be up and going. Ledbetter will be very iffy. Shaq [Barrett] will be back, not sure about Stevie [McLendon] yet.”
Thoughts: Well, this crosses a few potential names off the list from above. The Bucs will need all four guys back, but they’ll need Barrett and CDIII back in a big way.
Arians on White’s absence in blitz packages and if other players aren’t getting to the quarterback because of said absence:
“I think not having Shaq [Barrett] and Devin was critical in this past ballgame. Devin gets a lot of free shots up the middle when you have Shaq and JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) coming off the edge and [Ndamukong] Suh on the other side. It’s a conglomeration of all the guys working together that frees Devin up. Getting Shaq back out there and getting Jason going this week – and [getting] Suh going. Lavonte [David] and Devin are capable of getting up the middle and giving some pressure, too. It’s going to be hard to sack Alex [Smith] – he throws the ball so quickly – but we’ve got to have our hands up and maybe bat some balls down.”
Thoughts: There was a noticeable difference in Tampa Bay’s pass rush in the season finale. Todd Bowles will have his hands full dialing up ways to create pressure this week.