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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Top Three Takeaways from Panthers vs. Buccaneers

The regular season finale was an eventful one.


1. Records on records on records.

If there was ever any doubt that the 17th game would change things, let this below list of all the team and individual records set in Sunday's game dispel it. That being said, records belonging to Mike Evans and Tom Brady might have been a few more years in the making.

But here's a rundown of how eventful a day it was, thanks in no small part to the Bucs communications staff:

First, team stuff:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers set a new franchise record with their 13th win of the season, surpassing the 2002 Buccaneers for the most wins in a single season in team history while also setting the team record for the highest win percentage in a single season (.765). The team's seven home wins in 2021 tied the 1999 Buccaneers for the most home wins in a season in franchise history. 

It earned them the No. 2 seed in the NFC Playoffs, matching the 1979 and 2002 Buccaneers for the highest playoff seed in team history. 

The Buccaneers scored 511 points this season, the most in a single season in team history. Tampa Bay's 6,901 net yards, 5,229 passing yards and 404 first downs are each the most in a single season in Buccaneers history.

And now onto individual records…

Evans made six receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns, surpassing the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the eighth consecutive season – the most consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to begin a career in NFL history. Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss is second with six such seasons to begin his career. The eight consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards receiving also matched the third-longest streak overall of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons at any point in a player's career. Evans is tied at eight with Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison along with Torry Holt. Evans also broke his own franchise record for the most touchdown receptions in a single season (14) and total touchdowns in a single season (14). 

His quarterback completed 29-of-37 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns, earning a 130.4 passer rating. Brady joined Drew Brees as the only players in NFL history with 5,000-or-more passing yards in multiple seasons.

His total of 5,316 passing yards in 2021 are the third-most in a single season in NFL history and also marked a new career high. Brady now has two of the top five seasons for passing yards in league history. 

Whittle that down to the Buccaneers and Brady has now set new single season franchise records for both passing yards (5,316) and passing touchdowns (43), while posting the second-highest passer rating in team history.

Brady leads the NFL in passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing completions and passing attempts. At 44 years old. Only Drew Brees (2008) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (2013) have led the league in all four categories since 1991.

But oh no, he's not done. Brady's 66 games with three-or-more touchdowns and zero interceptions are the most-such games in NFL history. He now has 108 career games with at least 300 passing yards – the second-most such games in NFL history. 

And there are more records to go around. Tight end Rob Gronkowski contributed seven receptions for 137 yards. Sunday marked the 32nd game in which Gronkowski recorded 100-or-more receiving yards, surpassing Tony Gonzalez for the most-such games by a tight end in NFL history. Gronkowski has three 100-yard receiving games this season, tying Jimmie Giles (3 in 1985) for the most such games by a tight end in a single season in franchise history.

Gronkowski wasn't the only one in on the action and though he may be the player that Brady has thrown the most touchdowns to on the current roster, Brady hasn't stopped adding to the list. The first touchdown of the game for Tampa Bay came on a one-yard pass from Brady to RB Le'Veon Bell, marking the first receiving touchdown of the season for Bell. It was the 90th different touchdown recipient for Brady – the most different touchdown targets for any quarterback in NFL history.

2. The offense continues to figure out ways to win.

It didn't start easy but any time you put up over 40 points, your chances of winning are pretty, pretty, pretty good. The adjustments made in the five minutes before and five minutes after halftime propelled the Bucs to their third-highest point total of the season and that's with key injuries. You no longer have two of your top three receivers (and won't), you didn't have your number-one back, though hopefully you will going into Wildcard Weekend, yet you still found a way to get it done.

That should scare some people, honestly. Adversity is part of the game and the teams that can weather the storm are obviously the ones who get through it and this ship seems ready to sail.

As Bruce Arians said this week about the offense, "We have Tom [Brady], [and] when we have the O-line, we have a chance."

3. Slow starts can't happen going forward.

All that said prior, both sides of the ball will need to get off to faster starts entering the postseason. The Bucs' offense that's averaging over 30 points a game, took until the final 15 seconds of the first half to find the end zone. They had ran just 23 offensive plays and had just six first downs in the first half. They converted just one third down in that span. That isn't going to make things easy on your defense and is probably going to get you behind by a lot more than a score against teams in the postseason.

The defense had also surrendered 80 yards on the ground in the first half with a unit that was missing it's captain in Lavonte David and both outside backers in Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett. We tend to think of the latter two as pass rushers but what they're able to do against the run clearly can't be overstated. The good news is that there's hope for all three of those aforementioned players to return this weekend against Philadelphia.

View some of the most crucial moments from the Week 18 Panthers-Buccaneers matchup.

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