In thrilling fashion, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated their bitter division rival, 17-16, on Monday Night Football. The Bucs improve to 6-6 and now have a 1.5-game cushion in the NFC South, following their victory over the New Orleans Saints. Tom Brady's six-yard touchdown pass to rookie running back Rachaad White with three seconds remaining on the clock sealed the victory at Raymond James Stadium – marking the 44th fourth-quarter comeback win of Brady's prolific tenure in the NFL. It was certainly not a pretty win for the home team encased by a national spotlight, however, "grit" and "fight" were the words used to describe team's resilience by Head Coach Todd Bowles following the upset.
Brady led two masterful scoring drives in the final four minutes of the Week 13 matchup, culminating in a pair of touchdowns by both Rachaad White and Cade Otton.
"Great job, great execution," said Bowles. "Tom did a great job of seeing where they were doubling and going to the open guy, and everybody was executing well, putting the ball back down, getting lined up, executing and getting out of bounds and understanding what we needed to do."
For much of the ballgame, the sensational outcome did not seem plausible for the embattled Buccaneers, as the offense failed to find a rhythm through three and a half quarters. Midway through the fourth, the Bucs went into hurry-up mode and a flip switched. Urgency spurred the Bucs to a win, as Brady spread out the ball to a myriad of targets to put Tampa Bay in prime position. Julio Jones made a stellar catch on the final drive, adjusting to the ball in flight. Chris Godwin led the team with eight receptions for 63 yards, taking advantage of soft spots in zones and both White and Leonard Fournette utilized vision and tempo to move the chains.
Tampa Bay's defense kept the Buccaneers' hopes alive by allowing only one touchdown to the Saints, transitioning three red zone trips into field goals. The Bucs' unit forced two timely punts in the final five minutes of the game to put Brady and co. back on the field for a shot to trim the deficit. Outside linebacker Carl Nassib made two critical stops in the fourth quarter that shifted the tide and Lavonte David looked every-bit of the vintage dominant force fans have grown accustomed to viewing over the past decade. He led the team with 12 tackles and threw in a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hit for good measure. David showcased his sideline range, summarized by a key play in the third quarter. He appeared to shadow Alvin Kamara, but immediately read the quarterback, changed direction and outpaced Mark Ingram to the sideline, killing the Saints' drive.
Tom Brady may very well not have been able to pull off another Tampa miracle without the pass-rushing prowess of Carl Nassib. With Shaq Barrett sidelined due to injury, Nassib has taken advantage of an increased role. He made many game-shifting plays on Monday night, including a sack on Andy Dalton under the three-minute warning that sparked hope, guiding the team to victory. The comeback bid began with a 91-yard touchdown drive following Nassib's pass deflection, as he blew up a screen to Alvin Kamara which forced a subsequent Wil Lutz field goal. A Cade Otton touchdown culminated and, on the defense's next possession, Nassib struck again. He quickly disengaged from the blocker and burst around the edge for a 10-yard sack on Dalton which made it third-and-17 at the Saints' 18-yard line. Keanu Neal and Jamel Dean then jarred the ball loose from Taysom Hill on a third-down pass, providing the Bucs' offense one last chance to ice the win. Brady then spearheaded an 11-play, 63-yard drive, resulting in a Rachaad White touchdown in the final three seconds.
Nassib became a bright spot in Week 13, tallying a sack, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit, a pass deflection and two tackles. He solidified the Bucs' defense and made a sizeable impact.
The Bucs were forced to punt with seven minutes left in regulation, with the Saints holding a 13-point advantage over the home Buccaneers. The odds were certainly not in Tampa Bay's favor, but that is why Tom Brady is revered as the greatest of all time – he is able to accomplish the unplausible. Monday night was no exception.
Under pressure, Brady thrives. On the last two drives, he completed 12 of 17 throws for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Despite having just three points off a Ryan Succop field goal through 57 minutes, the Bucs were able to pull it off against their division nemesis. The Week 13 stunner may prove to the be the turning point of the Bucs' season, as they strengthened their grip on the NFC South.
With 3:03 left on the clock, Brady rolled out and hit Cade Otton in the back corner of the end zone, capping off a 10-play, 91-yard drive set up by a Paulson Adebo pass interference penalty. A sideline catch by Mike Evans and a connection to Leonard Fournette over the middle of the field against Cover Two moved the chains. The Bucs' defense then forced a three-and-out that lasted 31 seconds, giving the ball back to Brady with 2:29 left in the Week 13 showdown. A third-down conversion by Scotty Miller and a sensational catch by Julio Jones brought the Bucs to first-and-goal. The initial Chris Godwin touchdown was nullified by a holding penalty but two plays later, Brady hit Rachaad White underneath on an angle route for a stunning one-point victory.