TAMPA- Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, with Tampa Bay almost pulling off what would’ve been one of the most unbelievable comebacks in league history since Super Bowl LI back on February 5th, 2017.
It’s not a hard guess who led that comeback and he quarterbacks the Buccaneers in starter Tom Brady. He almost did it again, possibly for the last time against the Los Angeles Rams. It was just a bridge too far for Tampa Bay to get over, as the Buccaneers fell 30-27 to the Rams in the NFL’s Divisional Round, thus effectively ending any possible repeat efforts.
Tampa Bay (13-5) now finds itself heading into an off-season of intrigue, as rumors and questions are swirling around the possible consideration of retirement by Brady, who just ended a season in which he led the NFL in passing touchdowns (43) and yardage (5,316 yards). Speculation has started up on Brady retiring after finishing up his 22nd season in the league despite having teased the possibility of playing to age 45 and beyond.
The Buccaneers started off slow on offense, as Tampa Bay wasn’t able to get much going in the opening half other than a field goal make from Ryan Succop. Los Angeles was able to build up a 20-3 lead behind the right arm of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who ended up throwing for 366 yards and two touchdowns and wide receiver Cooper Kupp was the biggest thorn in the side for Tampa Bay’s defense.
Kupp caught nine passes for 183 yards, but he also contributed in the near comeback for the Buccaneers as he had a fumble in the second half. Down 27-3 in the third quarter, that’s when Tampa Bay started making the comeback trail happen. Brady (30-of-54, 329 yards) wasn’t having his best game but played well enough to work the team back into things.
Tampa Bay running back Leonard Fournette was a huge help in the ground game and passing attack, as the tailback had 107 total yards on offense. Brady locked in on wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Rob Gronkowski as his go-to-guys throughout the game. Evans ended the game with 119 yards on eight catches and Gronkowski finished with 85 yards on four receptions.
Things got hairy late in the fourth quarter, as a fumble by running back Cam Akers and a bad snap past Stafford gave life to Tampa Bay in the final minutes of the game. Fournette tied up the game at 27-27 on a 9-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds left in the contest. A familiar face would end up ending Tampa Bay’s season, as former Buccaneers’ kicker Matt Gay knocked down a 30-yard field goal with time expiring to send the Rams to the NFC Championship game.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.