3 Takeaways from Buccaneers' Week 17 WinJanuary 3, 2022
3 Takeaways from Buccaneers' Week 17 Win
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers left MetLife Stadium on Sunday with a come-from-behind 28-24 victory over the New York Jets. But they also departed East Rutherford, New Jersey, with one less wide receiver on the team plane.
Before the Bucs' comeback, Antonio Brown garnered national attention when he took off his jersey and pads on the sideline, threw his gloves into the crowd and left shirtless in the middle of the third quarter. Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians said after the game that Brown is no longer a member of the team.
Still, the Buccaneers rallied for a win. They erased a 14-point deficit by scoring the game's final 18 points, with quarterback Tom Brady throwing a game-winning 33-yard touchdown pass to Cyril Grayson with 15 seconds remaining.
Here are three takeaways from Tampa Bay's Week 17 victory.
Brown Leaves Receiving Corps More Short-Handed
Sunday's game was only Brown's second outing after he missed time because of an ankle injury before serving a three-game suspension for using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. His presence provided a much-needed boost in Week 16, and he was expected to have a big role again Sunday.
Instead, Brown had three catches for 26 yards before he left the team for good. According to The Athletic's Greg Auman, Brown told Arians during the third quarter that his ankle was sore and that he couldn't go into the game. Arians told Brown he wouldn't play the rest of the day if he didn't go in then, which sparked the incident that led to Brown's departure.
The Buccaneers receiving corps was already without Chris Godwin, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 15. Now, they unit will be without Brown.
Mike Evans returned from a hamstring injury and had a touchdown catch against the Jets. Others stepped up as well, including Grayson, who had six catches for 81 yards and the game-winning touchdown. And tight end Rob Gronkowski (seven receptions for 115 yards) will surely be relied on to serve in a big role.
Brown won't be coming back, so Tampa Bay needs other receivers to fill that void moving forward. It will also help if Evans can stay healthy and play at the elite level he's shown in the past.
Brady Still Capable of Powering Team to Success
It may not matter who surrounds Brady on the Buccaneers offense. When the 44-year-old quarterback has an opportunity to put the team on his back, he can deliver. That's what he did over the final two quarters against the Jets, who had unexpectedly controlled the game to that point.
After New York stretched its lead to 24-10 with 6:56 to go in the third quarter, Brady led a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Brate. The veteran led two more scoring drives in the fourth, including the remarkable effort that won the game.
Tampa Bay went 93 yards in nine plays in a touch under two minutes, with Brady's third TD pass of the day (and his 40th of the season) capping the game-winning possession.
"We've been in some crazy situations before, but this was a very special one to come back and win that game," Arians said, per Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press.
And as long as Brady is under center, the Buccaneers are going to have a chance to win more games like this in the future.
Bucs Keep Momentum Going as Playoffs Get Closer
Tampa Bay clinched the NFC South title in Week 16, and it was a long shot to end up with the conference's No. 1 seed. So there wasn't a ton on the line Sunday for the Buccaneers, who are just looking to end up with the best possible seeding for the postseason.
Still, a loss to the Jets could have halted the Bucs' momentum, which they have been trying to reestablish since a surprise shutout loss against the New Orleans Saints in Week 15. They beat the Carolina Panthers in Week 16 and then began a winning streak with Sunday's victory.
Again, there won't be much on the line in Week 18, when Tampa Bay will host Carolina in its regular-season finale, especially now that the Green Bay Packers have clinched the No. 1 seed. But the Buccaneers could enter the playoffs on a three-game winning streak, and that momentum could be invaluable.
That was the case last season, when Tampa Bay won its final four regular-season games before going on a run to the Super Bowl title.
The Bucs are the No. 3 seed in the NFC, and they could still move up to No. 2. However, it's a lock that they can't fall to No. 4, which may be vital given it means they won't have to go to Green Bay until a potential NFC Championship Game matchup.