MEADOWLANDS, New Jersey- Already without the services of wide receiver Chris Godwin because of a season-ending ACL injury, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had to start digging deep into the toolbox of receivers.
One player that has made a difference lately, Cyril Grayson, made his presence known as a dependable target for quarterback Tom Brady in the clutch. Grayson caught the game’s go-ahead touchdown with 15 seconds left to go and Brady led the Buccaneers on yet again another game-winning drive in Tampa Bay’s 28-24 victory over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
With the win, Tampa Bay improves to 12-4 on the season with one game left against the Carolina Panthers (5-11) before heading into the playoffs. The Buccaneers just defeated the Panthers 32-6 in Charlotte and now have a chance to reach 13 wins and currently remain as the No. 3 in the NFC Conference.
What ended up being a bigger headline than the game itself was the bizarre and abrupt departure of wide receiver Antonio Brown, who removed his equipment and threw his shirt and gloves into the stands. After the game, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians announced that Brown was no longer with the team and quickly moved on from the topic. With Brown now gone, the Buccaneers will need players like Grayson, Breshard Perriman, and Tyler Johnson to step up.
Stepping up in the game was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had himself one of his best performances of the season. Gronkowski caught seven passes for 115 yards, falling just eight yards of a season-high he set against the Indianapolis Colts. Playing in a limited role coming back from a hamstring injury was wide receiver Mike Evans, who had a touchdown catch in the win. Down 24-10 late in the third quarter, Brady went to work on engineering the comeback.
The Buccaneers got the first touchdown they needed on a short strike to tight end Cameron Brate on a crucial 4th and 2 play to cut the deficit to 24-17. The second to last drive of the game ended with a Ryan Succop field goal to narrow the margin to 24-20. The Jets (4-12) looked like they were poised to end the game with a clock-eating drive and faced with their own 4th and 2, New York attempted a quarterback sneak with Zach Wilson and was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
With about two minutes left, no timeouts, and 1st and 10 at their own 7-yard line, Brady and the offense immediately went to work. Key first downs to Evans, Johnson, Gronkowski led to what would add another chapter of Brady tormenting a Jets’ team he was in the same division with for 20 years. Brady with 15 seconds to go connected with Grayson on a 33-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds to go, capping the epic comeback win. Brady finished the game throwing for 410 yards and three touchdowns, sitting 10 yards short of throwing for 5,000 yards for the season.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.