Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians hopes his team’s sweating at the NFL’s big dance will require extra T-shirts and hats.
“It’s just the beginning,” Arians said in the postgame press conference on Saturday after a playoff-clinching win over the Detroit Lions. “Our goal when we started out, especially in this year, was just get in the dance, and, now, it’s win 11 games.”
The Bucs, which ended a 13-year playoff drought on Saturday, last won 11 or more games in 2005 when Jon Gruden coached the team. Tampa will need to beat the Atlanta Falcons (4-11) in Week 17 for the second time in three weeks to earn the 11th win. The Bucs can also lock up the No. 5 seed for the playoffs with a win.
For now, the Bucs can enjoy the hats and T-shirts earned by clinching a playoff spot as Arians alluded to earlier in the week. The Bucs justified submitting an order for the new swag early on in throttling the Lions 47-7. Tampa switched a season-long trend of slow starts and jumped out to a 13-0 first quarter lead and buried the Lions in the second quarter with another 21 points.
“Our guys did a great job of preparing,” Arians said on Saturday. “You could feel this was a playoff practice week even with the holidays.”
Bucs players gifted a long-suffering fan base with no doubt about clinching a playoff spot, posting its largest margin of victory this season. Quarterback Tom Brady erupted for 348 yards passing and four touchdown passes — in the first half. Backup Blaine Gabbert then made the most of his reps with 143 yards and two touchdowns.
Tampa set multiple records with its performance per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
No Slowing Down
Brady and the starting offense picked up right where they left off in Atlanta.
He led the Bucs to five scoring drives in the second half, rallying to a 31-27 victory in Week 15. That means the Brady-led Bucs outscored opponents 65-10 in their last two halves of play.
“We’ve attacked more and kept a really nice mix of protections, running the ball, taking our shots down the field, and making first downs on first and second down,” Arians said in Saturday’s press conference. “We’re an explosive football team. When we can keep Tom standing, he’s going to deliver for us.”
Recipe for Fifth Seed
Tampa’s path to keeping the No. 5 seed in the NFC Playoffs became easier on Sunday with the Los Angeles Rams falling to the Seattle Seahawks per ESPN’s Jenna Laine on Twitter.
The Bucs edged the Falcons a week ago in their first meeting of the season. Tampa has some urgency in going for the win since the Rams hold the head-to-head tie-breaker with the Bucs. The Rams beat the Bucs 27-24 on Monday Night Football in November.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff’s status may play a role in that game per Adam Schefter of ESPN via Twitter.
Tampa, of course, can simply take care of business against the Falcons and not worry about any scoreboard watching in Week 17.