Tom Brady only played two quarters in Detroit on Sunday but that was enough time to put up a statistic line that would make any quarterback proud for an entire game: 22 completions in 27 attempts (81.5%) for 348 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians let Brady cool his heels during the second half of Saturday's 47-7 win over the Lions; otherwise the final numbers could have been historic. In fact, they were in a way. Six days earlier, Brady had led the Bucs to a dramatic 31-27 comeback win in Atlanta with one of the most prolific halves by a quarterback in franchise history. Most of his 390 passing yards against the Falcons came after halftime. Over his last four quarters of play, Brady has thrown for 668 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
Apparently, that's kind of a big deal.
Focusing solely on the Detroit game, Brady wasn't just good. He was perfect, at least as far as passer rating is concerned. That statistic combines point totals created by a quarterback's numbers in four rate categories: completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage and interception percentage. Brady's performance in those categories – 81.5%, 12.9%, 14.8%, 0.0% – were all good enough to earn top marks, which resulted in a passer rating of 158.3. That's as high as that stat goes.
Games with perfect passer ratings are not common, even for a quarterback who has played 21 seasons, accomplished essentially everything a quarterback could hope to accomplish and earned the nickname, "The G.O.A.T." Through all of that, Saturday was just the third time, and the first time in a decade, that Brady has compiled that mythic 158.3. Incredibly, two of those three games have occurred at Detroit.
Tom Brady Perfect Passer Rating Games, Career
|1. at Miami, Oct. 21, 2007: 21-of-25, 354 yards, 6 touchdowns, 0 interceptions|
|2. at Detroit, Nov. 25, 2010: 21-of-27, 341 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions|
|3. at Detroit, Dec. 26, 2020: 22 of 27, 348 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions|
Obviously, Brady tied a Buccaneers single-game record with that passer rating, as it was only the second perfect game in franchise history.
Highest Passer Rating, Single Game (min. 20 attempts)
|Tom Brady||at Detroit||12/26/20||158.3|
|Ryan Fitzpatrick||at New Orleans||9/9/18||156.2|
|Trent Dilfer||at New Orleans||11/7/99||151.5|
If it seems surprising that Brady "only" has three perfect passer rating games in his career, be advised that these things are not common for any quarterback. In fact, that total of three such games is actually tied for the most by any player in NFL history.
Most Career Games with Perfect Passer Ratings, NFL History (min. 14 pass attempts)
Brady's four touchdown passes on Sunday marked the 32nd time in his career that he has reached that mark in a game. Only Drew Brees (37) and Peyton Manning (35) have done that more often. In the process, Brady completed his inexorable hunt of the Buccaneers single-season touchdown pass record. Jameis Winston set a new record in that category just last year but Brady blew by the mark in Week 16 with one game to play.
Most Touchdown Passes, Single Season, Franchise History
Brady also has the second-most passing yards in a season by a Buccaneer quarterback. It's not yet clear how much Brady will be asked to play in Week 17 against the Falcons, with the playoffs now clinched, but he didn't have a shot at the top spot anyway.
Most Passing Yards, Single Season, Franchise History
Brady did all of this while playing in his 300th regular-season NFL games, the 10th-most in league history and the third-most among players who never worked as a kicker. (George Blanda was a quarterback and a kicker who played 27 seasons in the league.) Assuming he continues his career after 2020, Brady will soon be at the top of the list among non-kickers, as he only trails Jerry Rice (303) and Brett Favre (302). It was also Brady's 298th regular-season start, tying him for the most in league history.
Most Regular Season Games Started, NFL History
|Brett Favre||QB||4 teams*||1991-2010||298|
Brady and his second-half replacement, Blaine Gabbert, spread the ball around to 11 different pass-catchers, four of whom caught at least one touchdown pass. Wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Rob Gronkowski each scored twice and Evans was the clear favored target on the day. He had 12 passes thrown in his direction, resulting in 10 catches for 181 yards. That's the fourth-highest yardage total in Evans' career and the eighth by any player in team history. Evans is now responsible for six of the 10 most prolific receiving games in franchise annals.
|Vincent Jackson||New Orleans||10/21/12||216|
|Mark Carrier||New Orleans||12/6/87||212|
|Mike Evans||N.Y. Giants||9/22/19||190|
In addition to those six games above, Evans has reached 150 receiving yards in a game four other times. He has the fourth-most 150-yard games in the NFL since he entered the league in 2014.
Most 150-Yard Receiving Games, NFL, 2014-20
1. Julio Jones (Falcons)…15
2. Antonio Brown (Steelers/Patriots/Buccaneers)…12
3. T.Y. Hilton (Colts)…11
4. Mike Evans (Buccaneers)…10
5. DeAndre Hopkins (Texans/Cardinals)…9
Speaking of lists heavy with Evans' name, the seventh-year receiver now has the three highest single-season touchdown reception totals in team history. His two against the Lions broke his own record of 12 from 2014 and 2016. With 13 total touchdowns – all receiving in his case – Evans has also tied James Wilder's 36-year-old record in that category.
Most Touchdowns, Single Season, Franchise History
|Player||Season||Rush TDs||Rec. TDs||Total TDs|
Gronkowski caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Brady to finish the first drive of the game, then snared a 25-yard scoring pass from Gabbert on Tampa Bay's first play of the second half. He now has seven touchdowns on the season to rank second on the team to Evans. It was Gronkowski's first multi-touchdown game as a Buccaneer but far from the first of his career. In fact, only two tight ends have more of those than Gronkowski in league history.
Most Multi-Touchdown Games, Tight Ends, NFL History
1. Antonio Gates (Chargers)…21
2. Tony Gonzalez (Chiefs/Falcons)…18
3. Rob Gronkowski (Patriots/Buccaneers)…17
4. Jimmy Graham (Saints/Seahawks/Packers/Bears)…16
5. Five players tied with…9
Gronkowski now has 86 touchdown catches in the regular season in his career. When you add in his excellent playoff production, he has 98 scoring grabs, the 12th-most in league history.
With Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin also catching touchdown passes, the Buccaneers recorded six TD completions in a single game for the first time in team history. The Bucs' seven total touchdowns tied a team single-game record. It had been accomplished twice before, including last year in the 55-40 win over the Los Angeles Rams, but that contest included a defensive touchdown. The only other time that Tampa Bay has scored seven offensive touchdowns in one game was Sept. 13, 1987 in a 48-10 win over Atlanta.
That touchdown mark was just one of many ways that Saturday's game ranked among the most prolific offensively in team annals. For instance, the team's 588 net yards of offense are the most it has ever recorded.
Most Net Yards of Offense, Single Game, Franchise History
|at Detroit||12/26/20||588||W, 47-7|
|at Cincinnati||10/28/18||576||L, 42-28|
|at Minnesota||11/16/80||573||L, 38-30|
|at Carolina||11/15/20||544||W, 46-23|
That's not all. The Buccaneers scored touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions and seven of their first nine drives overall. That led to a number of single-half and full-game milestones. Such as:
· 34 first-half points, second-most ever
· 34-point halftime lead, biggest ever
· 47 total points, fifth-most ever
· 40-point scoring margin, second-biggest ever
· 477 net passing yards, second-most ever
· 410 first-half net yards, most ever
· 348 first-half passing yards, most ever
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's defense was just as dominant in Detroit, allowing only 186 net yards of offense. That's the lowest total the Buccaneers have allowed in a game this season and their lowest against any opponent since they surrendered just 174 yards to Seattle on Dec. 26, 2010. That yardage total allowed combined with the offensive explosion led to a yardage differential of +402 on the day for Tampa Bay. That is easily the largest differential they've ever had in a game.
Highest Net Yardage Differential, Single Game, Franchise History
|at Detroit||12/26/20||588||186||+402||W, 47-7|
|at Carolina||11/15/20||544||187||+357||W, 46-23|
Individually, the Buccaneers got sacks from four different players on Saturday, pushing their season total to 47 sacks. That ties the total put up by Tampa Bay's defense just last year, the second-most in team history.
Most Team Sacks, Single Season, Buccaneers History
1. 2000: 55
2t. 2020: 47
2t. 2019: 47
4. 2004: 45
5. 2002: 43
The four players who contributed sacks were inside linebacker Devin White, outside linebacker Anthony Nelson and defensive linemen Will Gholston and Jeremiah Ledbetter. Nelson recorded the first sack of his two-year career and Ledbetter got his first career full sack after recording half of one as a rookie with Detroit in 2017.
White, meanwhile, pushed his season sack total to 9.0, second on the team only to Jason Pierre-Paul's 9.5. He also has a team-high 140 tackles and is the only player in the NFL with at least 100 tackles and at least eight sacks. Of all the players in the NFL with at least five sacks, White has the most tackles. With just one more sack, White would join Broderick Thomas as the only players in franchise history to hit triple digits in tackles and double digits in sacks in the same season. Thomas was credited with 174 tackles and 11.0 sacks in 1991.