Whether or not Tampa Bay Buccaneers stars Tom Brady and Mike Evans resolved to rekindle their on-field connection for the new year, they’re off to a big start.
Evans, who had three touchdowns all season, ended his 11-game streak of no touchdowns with three grabs from Brady in a 30-24 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, January 1, and win the NFC South Division title. Evans also snapped a seven-game streak of no 100-yard receiving games as he piled up 207 yards on 10 catches.
“It felt great,” Brady told reporters afterward. “I’m really proud of our guys, and everyone on the team, coaches. We’ve battled through a lot of tough things this year and [we’re] happy to win the division. It’s always tough to do it. NFL games are tough to win.”
“We always figure out a way to keep them somehow exciting, but I wish they wouldn’t be as exciting as we’ve made them,” Brady added. “Happy we got the win, and so many guys contributed.”
Brady and Evans turned around a game that looked sunk for the Bucs early on with a 14-0 deficit. Tampa Bay couldn’t get anything going on the first four possessions of the game except for a missed 53-yard field goal by Ryan Succop. Then, Brady found Evans on a 63-yard touchdown in the second quarterback, and the Bucs took off from there.
“Mike played awesome like he always does,” Brady said. “I love playing out there with him, and he’s an amazing player. Missed him too many times this year, so it’s nice to connect with him. Hopefully, we can keep that going. I think we will.”
Bucs Take Control With Brady-Evans Connection
Tampa Bay outscored the Panthers 23-10 the rest of the way as Brady threw for 432 yards on 34-45 passing. Brady and Evans didn’t connect again until the fourth quarter with their team down 21-16, but they struck twice in seven minutes to take a 24-21 lead on touchdowns of 57 and 30 yards.
It amounted to the Bucs’ third double-digit comeback win this season. The Bucs previously rallied from 10 or more points behind against the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals in the past month.
“My teammates and my coaches, you know, putting us in a great position to succeed,” Brady said about those wins. “And even all the way back then, it was always about the team.”
Jake Camarda Saves Day for Bucs
While the Bucs made it 30-24 after a Panthers turnover and Brady’s 1-yard touchdown run, things nearly imploded. The Bucs botched punt in the final minute, but rookie punter Jake Camarda recovered to kick the ball down field.
“Jake made a great play there at the end, and defense came up big for us,” Brady said. “Mike came up big for us. Chris [Godwin] did. It’s nice to qualify [for the playoffs]. We still have one tough game to go and try and finish strong.”
“We know that we’ve got a few extra, at least one extra bonus game,” Brady added. “You know, prepare as hard as we can this week and see how things go.”