By Dr. Valerie Wardlaw – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4) ended their final week of regular season play with a win over the Carolina Panthers, 41-17. The win over Carolina coupled with the Los Angeles Rams losing to the San Francisco 49ers in overtime gave the Bucs the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC.
The Bucs trailed 7-3 in the first half but managed to end the half with a 10-7 lead. Bucs kicker Ryan Succop nailed a 39-yard field goal and quarterback Tom Brady would hit running back Le’Veon Bell for a 1-yard touchdown with 15 seconds to go before halftime. The second half was all Bucs with Brady finding tight-end Rob Gronkwoski on back-to-back plays netting Gronk $500,000 in season incentives. Ke’Shawn Vaughn would find the end zone for a two-yard touchdown run as the offense moved the ball in seven plays for 77 yards.
In the fourth quarter, Brady would find one of his favorite targets wide receiver Mike Evans for two touchdown passes of three-yards and 20-yards giving the Bucs a 31-17 lead. Evans breaking his own franchise record for touchdown receptions became the first player in NFL history to have eight consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards. Evans, the team’s all-time leader in every major receiving category finished the day with six receptions for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In his post-game interview, Evans was asked about his breaking performance, “I’m happy to be in the NFL. And to break my own records, it’s a true blessing. I don’t take it for granted. I come in each year and work my tail off to become the best that I can be”.
Brady would also make history with 5,000 passing yards for the second time in his career. He joins Drew Brees as the only players in NFL history with multiple 5,000-yard seasons. Scotty Miller would add to the Bucs score with a 33-yard touchdown run. Brady would finish his day with 326 yards, three touchdown passes and no interceptions.
The Bucs will host the Philadelphia Eagles at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. The Bucs have not announced if fans will see the return of Lavonte Davis, Shaq Barrett and Leonard Fournette.