Hungry Buccaneers Aim To Keep Building Momentum For Playoffs

Hungry Buccaneers Aim To Keep Building Momentum For Playoffs

TAMPA, Fla.: Making the playoffs for the first time in 13 years is just a start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Were 10-5 and I know that gets us a spot, but I think theres still a big week ahead of us for preparation and improving as a team, quarterback Tom Brady said.

Were playing better, were playing more consistently, and its been great to see, the six-time Super Bowl champion added. Theres a lot of guys who have worked hard to get to this point.

Brady and coach Bruce Arians stress, though, the final week of the regular season is no time to rest on achieving a goal of ending the NFLs second-longest playoff drought.

The Bucs are in for the first time since 2007. A win over the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday would clinch the No. 5 seed in the NFC, setting up a first-round road playoff matchup against whoever winds up being the NFC East champion. And that team will have a losing record.

Theres going to be a bunch of teams that make it this year, and theres only going to be one team that ends up happy, Brady said. The more time we can spend improving as a team … the better it is for us.

Arians reiterated the Bucs will practice and play to win this week, noting theres a significant difference between finishing 11-5 rather than 10-6.

A chance to clinch a higher seed is a bonus.

Eleven and five, thats very rare. To have a chance to get to 11-5, keep that seeding we want that seeding just for pride. We dont care who we play, its more for pride,” Arians said Monday.

Id probably have to beat some guys in the head with a stick to try and get them not to play anyway, the coach added. “I talked to them about it before and (they said), Im playing. Were going to practice and play like everything depends on it. Its not going to be an easy game, either.

WHATS WORKING

The offense seems to be coming together at the right time. Over his past four quarters, Brady has thrown for 668 yards and six touchdowns without a turnover. The Bucs have scored 65 points in wiping out a 17-point second-half deficit in a win at Atlanta and rolled to a 34-0 halftime lead in a 47-7 rout of Detroit. The Bucs gained 410 yards in the first half against the Lions compared to 60 before halftime against the Falcons the previous week.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

There was little to find fault with during the 40-point blowout of struggling Detroit. Arians, however, wasnt happy with the teams performance on special teams. Kicker Ryan Succop missed two extra points and a field goal, and the Lions avoided being shut out by returning a punt 74 yards for a touchdown.

STOCK UP

After failing to get into the end zone in his first five games after joining the Bucs at midseason, wide receiver Antonio Brown has a TD catch in each of the past two games.

STOCK DOWN

Despite the shortcomings on special teams against Detroit, Arians feels good about where the teams overall performance as it heads toward the playoffs.

Were going to be a pretty tough out, the coach said. I just like the way were playing football right now in all three phases.

INJURED

Arians said it was too soon Monday to speculate whether running back Ronald Jones (finger, COVID list), cornerback Carlton Davis (groin) or safety Mike Edwards (hip) will be ready to play in next Sundays home finale against Atlanta.

KEY NUMBER

8,220 as in career receiving yards for wide receiver Mike Evans, who had a 10-catch, 181-yard, two-TD day against Detroit. Hes one of seven receivers in NFL history with 8,000-plus yards receiving as well as 60-plus TD receptions in the first seven seasons of a career. The others are Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Sterling Sharpe, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Marvin Harrison. Nice company.

NEXT STEPS

With a win over Atlanta, the Bucs would finish with a 5-3 home record. The last time they won at least 11 games overall was 2005.

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