Brady's amazing half lifts Tampa Bay into NFL playoffs

2020-12-27 12:06:41

WASHINGTON - Tom Brady threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the first half Saturday to power Tampa Bay to a 47-7 win over Detroit and lift the Buccaneers into the NFL playoffs.   Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers speaks with Adrian Peterson #28 of the Detroit Lions following a game at Ford Field on December 26, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. [Photo/Agencies] The 43-year-old quarterback, who joined the Bucs this year after 20 campaigns and six Super Bowl crowns with New England, delivered one of his greatest one-half efforts before being benched to put Tampa Bay into the post-season for the first time since 2007. "We played pretty good in the first half," Brady said. "Good execution. Guys were making plays for me all over the field. It was just a great effort by the whole team." The Buccaneers led 34-0 at half-time on the way to improving to 10-5, securing an NFL wildcard berth while the already-eliminated Lions slid to 5-10. "It's just the beginning," said Bucs coach Bruce Arians. "Our goal when this all started was to get into the dance. Now it's to win 11 games and see who we play next." Brady, who completed 22 of 27 throws, set a first-half career best and club record in passing yardage and the four touchdown passes were his most in a first half since 2014. Brady's 36 passing touchdowns this season are a Bucs record and enabled his new club to reach the playoffs -- a feat his old team, the Patriots, failed to manage this year. The Buccaneers set a team record with 410 total yards in the first half, the most by any NFL club in a decade. In his 300th career NFL game, Brady threw touchdown strikes of 33 yards to former New England teammate Rob Gronkowski, 27 yards to Mike Evans, 12 yards to Antonio Brown and 7 yards to Chris Godwin. Leonard Fournette added a four-yard touchdown run in the first half and Brady's back-up Blaine Gabbert added third-quarter touchdown passes of 25 yards to Gronkowski and 22 yards to Evans in the rout. "When we do play the way we're capable of playing, we're tough to beat," Brady said. "We have to learn to do it more consistently." Evans, who had 10 catches for 181 yards, broke his own one-season touchdown reception record with 13 on his second-half scoring catch. Arians said he could sense a great performance coming while watching workouts during the week. "You could feel this was a playoff practice week," Arians said. "Even with the holidays, they handled their business well." The Lions avoided a shutout when Jamal Agnew returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Detroit was hampered by a right ankle injury to quarterback Matthew Stafford in the first quarter. The Lions were already starting with five coaches sidelined by Covid-19 and contact tracing, with wide receivers coach Robert Prince serving as acting head coach. The Bucs became the seventh NFL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining Green Bay, New Orleans and Seattle in the NFC plus Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Buffalo in the AFC. The San Francisco 49ers delivered a setback to Arizona's hopes for a first post-season berth since 2015 by defeating the host Cardinals 20-12. C.J. Beathard threw three touchdown passes for the 49ers (6-9), who have been eliminated from the playoff hunt. Chicago (7-7) can deny Arizona (8-7) a playoff spot by beating Jacksonville (1-13) on Sunday and Green Bay (11-3) next week.