Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Bucs Finding Success on Deep Balls | A Next Gen Look at Bucs-Football Team

Tom Brady and his playmaking pass-catchers are putting up big numbers on balls thrown well down the field, a late-season trend that continued in the Wild Card game Saturday

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went up against the NFL's second-ranked pass defense in the Wild Card round, a Washington team that had been allowing just 191.8 net passing yards in 2020, and proved it could move the ball through the air even against an elite opponent. With Tom Brady locked in as he has been for the last month-plus and enjoying good protection from a fierce Washington pass rush, the Buccaneers threw for 381 yards and scored twice through the air.

The only team out of the 12 that took part in the Super Wild Card weekend that threw for more yards than Tampa Bay was Pittsburgh. The Steelers tried to climb out of a 28-0 hole by letting Ben Roethlisberger throw an incredible 68 passes, ending up with 501 yards in a losing effort. No team was more efficient in its passing game than the Buccaneers.

Tom Brady's average of 9.53 yards per pass attempt was the best of all 12 quarterbacks over the weekend, with only Buffalo's Josh Allen (9.26) coming close. Brady got those 381 yards on 22 completed passes, giving him an average of 17.32 yards per completion that was easily the best of the weekend. Seattle's Russell Wilson averaged 15.82 yards per completion but completed half as many passes as Brady did.

The Buccaneers finished with 507 yards overall, and much of that was the result of Brady and his elite pass-catchers continuing with their recent trend of hooking up on longer passes downfield. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, 23 of Brady's 40 passes on Saturday night traveled more than 10 yards downfield in the air. He completed 13 of those 23 longer passes for 283 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, giving him a passer rating of 128.9 on such plays.

Brady's two touchdown passes were a 36-yarder to Antonio Brown and a 27-yarder to Chris Godwin. Brown, who has scored five touchdowns in the last four games, is rediscovering the big play ability that made him one of the most prolific pass-catchers in the league over the past decade. He got 5.1 yards of separation on the target that led to his touchdown, and it was because he showed he still has an incredible initial burst off the line. According to Next Gen Stats, Brown reached a top speed of 11.27 miles per hour within the first second after the snap. This year, he has averaged a top speed of 9.97 miles per hour one second into his routes, second-highest in the NFL to Kansas City's Tyreek Hill.

Though that play was Brown's first postseason score as a Buccaneer it was far from his first deep ball home run. Next Gen stats credits Brown with 24 "deep" receiving touchdowns since 2016, including the playoffs, the second-most by any player in the NFL in that span.

Mike Evans didn't score for the Buccaneers on Saturday night but he did lead all players with 119 yards on six catches. All six of his receptions came on passes that were thrown more than 10 yards downfield in the air. That's the second time this season that Evans has had six or more catches on passes thrown 10-plus yards downfield. Only Calvin Ridley, with three such games, had more, while Corey Davis and Julio Jones also each had two.

The Buccaneers face another stout defense with a strong pass rush this coming Sunday night in New Orleans. If Brady and his big-play receivers can continue to work their deep-passing magic, the Buccaneers could make it out of the bayou still alive in the playoffs.

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