Bucs dismantle the Eagles in the playoff

by Gary Shelton on January 17, 2022

in general

Evans came up big against Philadelphia./JEFFREY S. KING

Monday, 4 a.m.

You didn't need the incessant advertising to tell you. You didn't need to look at the standings.

All you needed to remind you that this was the playoffs was the look in the eyes of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Who are now in the final eight.

The Bucs played one of their most convincing games of the season Sunday, rolling to a 31-0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles before setting for a 31-15 victory. The win advances the Bucs to next week's divisional game.

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The Bucs pointed out why the Eagles were the lowest seed in the NFC bracket, corralling the Eagles' offense for three quarters. Philadelphia scored a couple of late touchdowns to make the final score prettier, but really, the game was never in doubt.

The Bucs' defense played one of its finest games of the year, holding the Eagles' league-leading rushing attack to 95 yards. And the secondary played well, as four of the Bucs' top five tacklers were defensive backs.

As far as the Bucs' offense, they played without a lot of their stars. Receivers Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown were out, and backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II were hurt. Offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs left the game with an ankle injury.

Overall, the Bucs looked smart, poised and in control. They looked, frankly, like the defending world champions.

"We had one or two plays that weren’t (smart), but for the most part – offensively especially – we’re playing really good football for the last month and defensively" said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "Other than the fourth quarter, I thought we played outstanding (defensively).”

Arians would have liked to have seen his team finish stronger.

"I think they’re all disappointed in that little relaxation," Arians said. "When you have the chance to shut somebody out, you don’t relax and I think we learned a lesson there. For three quarters, they were fantastic.”

The defense was bolstered by the return of outside linebackers Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul and linebacker Lavonte David. On the other hand, neither Barrett nor Pierre-Paul made a tackle, and David had just two. (Barrett did have an interception to set up a touchdown).

“I wasn’t really happy about a couple of the injuries, but hopefully they’re not super serious," Arians said. "It looked like [Ryan] Jensen came back in and Tristan tried it, but I think other than that, we came out pretty clean. It was a good game offensively and defensively. I think our special teams really played the best game of the year.”

Quarterback Tom Brady won his 35th career postseason game, throwing or 271 yards and recording a rating of 115.

"It’s like once Tom figures you out man, you’re in trouble," Arians said. "The wind didn’t even affect him at all and he was extremely accurate on the right guys. That was a dime that he threw to Mike [Evans] for that long touchdown. He’s a surgeon. Once he figures you out and we can put him in a position to protect him, he’s going to eat you up.”

Receiver Mike Evans caught nine passes for 117 yards.

"He played great," Brady said. "Just a great effort by him. Always can count on him. Dependable, tough, made some huge catches for us. He’s just an amazing player, and he’s just doing great stuff for us. Always comes through, great red-area target, great on third down. Used him a lot of different ways today, so I’m glad he had such a productive day. He’s an amazing player.”

Said Evans: “I did decent. There’s a couple of other plays I could have been better at. Perimeter blocking, that [expletive] touchdown I could have had in the first half. But, I did a solid job. I was waiting for this moment. Whenever the ball comes my way, I try to make a play.”

Tight end Rob Gronkowski praised Evans, even if Evans wouldn't.

"What makes him so impressive is his consistency," Gronk said. "Obviously, you can tell from eight 1,000 yards seasons in a row, a record that he holds, just the way that he plays is consistent week in and week out. Through practice, through games, it’s just unbelievable. He is super selfless and just wants to win.

"Even if he doesn’t get the ball but we win, he is a happy guy. He just wants to win. That’s all he says, ‘Let’s just win, whatever it takes.’ And he steps up in the biggest moments. He is one of the best teammates out there, steps up to the plate when his number is called. It is an honor to be his teammate. He is a Buccaneers legend. It is great to be on his side.”

Gronkowski said the Bucs' intelligence played a role.

“’Football IQ’ is huge," Gronk said. "We have so many veterans on our team from the defensive side of the ball all the way to the offensive side of the ball, and the coaching staff too. We have all been around a long time, many guys in this organization that have been around a long time. Just knowing where to be and understanding the game of football helps out big time. You get the win and just knowing the extra step ahead of your opponent in a [pivotal] moment could just save the game.”

The Bucs are home next weekend against the winner of the Rams-Cardinals game.


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