The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be playing at least one more game at Raymond James Stadium in the 2021 season, and their ultimate goal of returning to Los Angeles is still alive after a dominating 31-15 Wild Card win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Tom Brady threw touchdown passes to Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans within a two-minute span in the third quarter and the Buccaneers' swarming defense didn't allow a point until there were 12 minutes left in regulation. The Buccaneers also won the turnover battle, 3-0, thanks to interceptions by Mike Edwards and Shaquil Barrett and a fumble recovery by Ross Cockrell on a muffed punt.
"Just the level of intensity that the defense came out with, it was just exceptional," said Gronkowski. "We just had to match them on the offensive side of the ball, and we did at times for sure. Just overall, we played some complementary football – offensive, defensive and special teams. We all contributed. We all played off each other and that's how you win playoff games. You've got to bring it in all three phases at all times."
The Bucs' joy at moving forward in the playoffs with one of their most complete games of the season was most evident in Evans' somersault into the end zone after his 36-yard catch-and-run gave the Bucs a 31-0 lead late in the third quarter. Evans finished the game with nine catches for 117 yards, setting the team's single-season record for receptions and falling just short of his own yardage record of 119 in last year's Wild Card game.
"It was worth the wait," said Evans. "It was an unbelievable experience, an unbelievable atmosphere, the fans did a great job. We answered the call, made plays and got the job done."
The Bucs improved to 14-4 on the season with the win and will continue their 2021 postseason journey next weekend with a home game in the Divisional Round against either Arizona or the Los Angeles Rams. Tampa Bay has won five postseason contests in a row after prevailing in three road contests last January on the way to victory in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. That game was not technically considered a home game so Sunday's victory was the Bucs' first at home in the playoffs since the 2002 Divisional Round against San Francisco. The packed house, waving the red and white flags that have become tradition at Bucs' home playoff games, was in full throat from the beginning.
"I thought the crowd was huge," said Head Coach Bruce Arians. "Guys were feeding off it, they were loud from start to finish and hopefully it will be even better next week."
Barrett and ILB Lavonte David returned after multi-game injury absences to help the Bucs' defense hold strong against the NFL's top-ranked rushing attack. The Eagles, who averaged just under 160 rushing yards per game in the regular season, were held to 95 yards on 17 carries, with 34 of those coming on a Boston Scott touchdown run in the fourth quarter after the game was all but decided. Jalen Hurts had trouble moving the Eagles through the air when the run was taken away, finishing with 258 yards and one touchdown on 23-of-43 passing, with most of the yardage on two long drives in the fourth quarter.
View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Wild Card matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.