On Monday night in Week Eight, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took four of their first six drives against the Giants into New York territory. All four died out at the 18-yard line or worse, and the net result was three field goals. The Bucs fell behind 14-9 and needed a rally to leave MetLife Stadium with a win and sole possession of first place in the NFC South.
Fortunately, Tampa Bay's next two incursions into Giants territory went a little further, with the team earning a first-and-goal both times. And in that situation, the 2020 Buccaneers have been unstoppable.
First, a pass-interference call drawn by Jaydon Mickens against James Bradberry set the Bucs up with a first down at the Giants three-yard line midway through the third quarter. On first down, Tom Brady faked a handoff and threw across the middle to Rob Gronkowski for the go-ahead score. After the Giants had regained the lead with a field goal, the Bucs got another first-and-goal at the eight after a 25-yard catch by Cam Brate that had a personal foul tacked on the end. Brady again used play-action on first down and threw to Mike Evans, who made a diving catch in the end zone to put the Bucs up again with nine minutes to play.
Those were the 21st and 22nd goal-to-go situations the Buccaneers have faced in 2020 and, incredibly, they remain perfect in converting those into touchdowns. Here are the best goal-to-go teams in the NFL this year:
Highest Goal-To-Go Touchdown Rate, NFL Teams, 2020
Radar360, an NFL stat service, has goal-to-go drive data by team dating back to the 2000 season. In the two decades since, no team other than the 2020 Buccaneers has ever gone even 20 goal-to-go drives into a season without failing to score a touchdown. The closest was the 2018 Carolina Panthers, who scored touchdowns on their first 17 goal-to-go drives.
Brady's two touchdown tosses on those drives increased his season total to 20, which is tied for Aaron Rodgers for the third-most in the NFL in 2020. In his last six games, Brady has thrown 17 touchdown passes and been intercepted only once. In the process, Brady once again took the NFL's all-time touchdown pass crown back from the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees. Brady first passed Brees on that list last week with his four-TD performance in Las Vegas, but Brees jumped back on top on Sunday with two touchdowns against Chicago. Here's how the list stands after Monday's game (to be fair, Brady has played one more game than Brees this season):
Most Touchdown Passes, NFL History
Brady's dart over the middle to Rob Gronkowski in the third quarter was a milestone of its own, as it marked the 93rd time those two have hooked up for a touchdown. Including the postseason, that's the second-highest touchdown total by any pair of teammates in NFL history.
Most Touchdown Passes Between Two Teammates, Postseason Included, NFL History
|1. Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison (Colts): 114|
|2. Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski (Patriots/Buccaneers): 93|
|3. Steve Young-Jerry Rice (49ers): 92|
Brady's other touchdown pass went to the player who has emerged as his favorite red zone target in Tampa, Mike Evans. Evans' touchdown catch was his seventh of the season, which has him tied for the NFL lead in that category at the midway point.
Most Touchdown Receptions, NFL, 2020
Evans increased his career total to 55 touchdown receptions, which is a Buccaneer record by a large margin. He also has one score on a fumble recovery and he is closing in on Bucs legend Mike Alstott for the overall franchise TD lead.
Most Touchdowns, Buccaneers History
The Buccaneers fell short of their per-game scoring average coming into Monday night, which had been nearly 32 points per game, but they still set a new franchise record for most points scored by a season's midway point. This is the third straight season that the Buccaneers have set a new standard in that category.
Most Points Scored Through the First Eight Games of a Season, Buccaneers History
Tampa Bay currently ranks second in the NFL with a scoring differential of +82 points. Only the defending-champion Kansas City Chiefs have a better differential, at +101. If the Buccaneers continue at this pace they would set a new franchise single-season record in this category.
Best Single-Season Point Differential, Buccaneers History
Evans' go-ahead touchdown was set up by a diving interception by cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the second half, Carlton Davis also picked off a Daniel Jones pass, setting up a field goal drive. The Buccaneers are now tied for the NFL team lead in interceptions.
Most Team Interceptions, NFL, 2020
|4t. four tied with…9|
Davis recorded his fourth interception of the season, equaling the highest total by a Buccaneer in the last four years (Andrew Adams, 4, 2018). He is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions in 2020.
Most Interceptions, Individual, NFL, 2020
|Carlton Davis||Tampa Bay||4|
|J.C. Jackson||New England||4|
Davis also had another pass-breakup on Monday night and now leads the NFL in that category in 2020 with 13. Since the start of the 2019 campaign, Davis is far and away the league's leader in passes defensed.
Most Passes Defensed, NFL, 2019-20
Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh and Devin White all had sacks in Monday night's game and the Buccaneers as a team are tied for second in the NFL in that category.
Most Team Sacks, NFL, 2020
|2t. Tampa Bay…28|
|4t. L.A. Rams…25|
Pierre-Paul now has 6.5 sacks on the season and 27.5 in 34 games as a Buccaneer. He needs one more sack to pass Ronde Barber (28.0) for the eighth-most in franchise history. Pierre-Paul is among the NFL's sack leaders in 2020.
Most Sacks, Individual, NFL, 2020
Finally, from the "that's odd even if it doesn't mean anything department," the Buccaneers' last two victories against the Giants, including one in Tampa in 2017, have both come by a final score of 25-23. There have only been nine games in the history of the NFL to finish with that specific score. Weirdly, the Buccaneers have been involved in three of them, as they also lost to Miami, 25-23, in 2009.