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Tom Brady or Cyril Grayson? | Week 17 Game Ball

The two architects of the Bucs' biggest play of the season both deserve recognition for different reasons...Carmen Vitali and Scott Smith make their suggestions for this week's Game Ball vote

Game Ball 2

Who deserves the Game Ball for the Bucs' incredible comeback win over the Jets in Week 17? Vote now!

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played a game on Sunday in which they led on the scoreboard for exactly 15 seconds. Fortunately, it was the last 15 seconds.

The Buccaneers' 28-24 escape from New York against the Jets was a thriller, with Tom Brady directing a 93-yard touchdown drive in the game's final two minutes, without the benefit of a timeout. The drive ended with Brady's stunning 33-yard touchdown pass to Cyril Grayson, who has spent the last two weeks blossoming from relative anonymity into full-bloom star. Grayson, amazingly, isn't even on the team's regular 53-man roster yet (that will probably change shortly) but he's made a huge difference two weeks in a row after being elevated from the practice squad.

If you think all of that makes Brady and Grayson two very strong candidates for the Week 17 Game Ball…well, I ain't here to argue with you, and I don't think Carmen is, either. As we have all season, Carmen and I will be offering our suggestions for the Game Ball after this most recent victory. You then get to vote – with four total choices, actually – and you'll even qualify to win some cool prizes if you do. See the bottom of this article for all of that. Since we are not allowed to pick the same player, the order of selection sometimes matters and it's my turn to go first.

There are some other very worthy candidates, too, and I could see Carmen going in a number of different directions after my first pick. Rob Gronkowski dominated the middle of the field and finished with a game-high 115 yards. The offensive line helped Brady threw for 410 yards while being sacked just once. Anthony Nelson stepped up in the absence of Shaq Barrett and had the Bucs' only sack, plus a number of other significant plays. Mike Evans scored a touchdown, as did Cam Brate. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka gave Brady a chance to launch the game-winning drive with the game's most important defensive play on fourth down.

So, who should get this week's Game Ball. Here are our suggestions.

Scott Smith: QB Tom Brady

Let me ask you this: When the Buccaneers got the ball back at their own seven-yard line with 2:11 left and no timeouts, needing a touchdown to stave off defeat, did you think they had a chance? Would you have felt the same if the quarterback was anyone but Tom Brady?

You simply cannot overstate how difficult and incredible it is to lead a team on a 93-yard touchdown drive when you have about 131 seconds and no timeouts and you're facing a defense that above all else doesn't want to give up big plays. Brady started the drive with a number of underneath passes because that was all that was available, but as Head Coach Bruce Arians said after the game the Bucs knew they had to get a "chunk" play somewhere along the line. Brady actually got two.

The first was a 27-yard strike to Tyler Johnson that got the ball into Jets territory. Two plays later, Brady stood in the pocket for a long beat, made a violent shoulder fake to pull the deep safety towards the middle of the field, and then delivered the fateful 33-yard pass to Grayson. The second-year receiver caught the pass just before the Jets safety got there and then backed into the end zone for the touchdown.

It was the 53rd game-winning drive of Brady's career and his 42nd fourth-quarter comeback. It was his sixth of each against the Jets. The poor Jets. He threw for 410 yards and three touchdowns and joined Drew Brees as the only two players in NFL history to have consecutive seasons with 40-plus touchdown passes.

Brady finished the game with 410 passing yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a 104.6 passer rating. That was his third 400-yard game and the 13th of his career, which ties him for third all-time with Dan Marino, behind only Drew Brees (16) and Peyton Manning (14). That final pass to Grayson was far more important for what it meant in the "W" column than any inflation of his stats, but it did happen to be his 40th touchdown toss of the season. Brady and Aaron Rodgers are the only quarterbacks in NFL history with three seasons of 40-plus touchdown passes, and Brady and Brees are the only ones to do that two seasons in a row.

There's more stats I could throw in here, and they're fun, but I'm going to stop because this really isn't about his final line of numbers. Tom Brady should get the game ball because there's no one else you'd want to get the actual ball in that dire end-game situation. And he delivered.

Carmen Vitali: WR Cyril Grayson

I thought for sure that Scott was going to go with Grayson here but now that he delivered a walk-off line of his own just now, I see why he didn't. That was well done.

That being said, Grayson does deserve a lot of praise here – especially given his story. This game in particular seems to be a microcosm of his NFL journey as a whole: a practice squad player that ends up playing the hero. That's about as unlikely as making it in the NFL after only running track in college, which is exactly what Grayson has done. Consider that Grayson's pro football journey began in 2017 when he was signed by the Seattle Seahawks and then proceeded to spend time on practice squads for SIX different teams before ultimately landing on Tampa Bay's. And in the two-plus seasons he's been here, he's been on and off the practice squad, riding the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it.

Through it all though, Grayson has continued to improve his skill set as an NFL receiver. Arians said after Sunday's game in New York that he had asked Brady about Grayson a couple weeks ago. Brady's reply? "I trust him. I really trust him, put him in there."

Brady doesn't go to Grayson to cap off that game-winning drive if he doesn't.

Grayson got the most work of his NFL career against the Jets, thanks in no small part to injuries and otherwise in the wide receiver room. The offense's backs were essentially against the wall and they needed guys to deliver. Grayson did just that – to the tune of six catches for 81 yards on the day. This also came the game after also having 81 yards in Carolina, though he did that on just three catches. The clutch gene exists in Grayson and there's no better example of that than when his team needed him most, down four points with the clock ticking down and no timeouts left, he methodically went down the field with his quarterback and was, after all, on the receiving end of the walk-off score.

Who deserves the Game Ball for the Bucs' incredible comeback win over the Jets in Week 17? Vote now!

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