Mon Jan 17 4:58pm ET
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians watches play against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half of an NFL wild-card football game Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) waves to the fans after the team defeated the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL wild-card football game Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) pulls in a reception in front of Philadelphia Eagles safety Rodney McLeod (23) during the second half of an NFL wild-card football game Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are running out of superlatives to describe the impact of Tom Brady.
The defending Super Bowl champions improved to 5-0 in postseason games since the 44-year-old quarterback joined the Bucs in 2020, dominating the Philadelphia Eagles 31-15 in a NFC wild-card victory.
Brady didn't have a monster game statistically, but that really wasn't necessary with a re-energized defense benefiting from the return of several key players from injury, and the offense moving the ball effectively on the ground as well as through the air.
Getting linebackers Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul back made a difference in building a 31-0 lead.
Receiver Mike Evans had nine receptions for 117 yards and one touchdown, while Brady continued to get timely contributions from some lesser-known players filling in for injured offensive playmakers Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones and Chris Godwin.
''Just like I told them, I feel proud of all the ones who stepped in and stepped up,'' coach Bruce Arians said.
''When you put a Bucs helmet on, there's a level of expectation,'' Arians added. ''You don't have to be the guy you replaced, you just have to be the best you and just play your best, and everybody that has had an opportunity has done that.''
Brady threw for 271 yards and two TDs without an interception in gusting winds, spreading 29 completions among nine targets.
The Bucs (14-4) won for the fourth straight time and have turned the ball over only once during the winning streak.
''I think everybody touching it - our runners, receivers - everybody's very conscious of ball security,'' Arians said. ''Tom hasn't come close to throwing one. It's hard to beat us when we score points and don't give it to the other team.''
Evans noted the impact of Brady, who extended his NFL record for postseason victories to 35, is immeasurable.
''When he came to this team I knew he was going to change the franchise. He's done that and then some,'' Evans said. ''He makes sure we're always ready to play. He makes sure that we know what we're doing, and he makes sure that we give it our all. That's all you can ask for from a leader.''
Brady threw for the third-most yards in NFL history during the regular season, yet by the time he threw the first of his two TD passes against the Eagles the Bucs were up 17-0. Second-year RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn stepped in during the absence of Fournette and Jones, setting the tone with a 17-yard run on the first play of the game and finishing with 53 yards and one TD rushing. RB Giovanni Bernard returned from a month-long stay on injured reserve, running for 44 yards and one TD and catching five passes for 39 yards.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
With three first-time Pro Bowl selections, the offensive line has been one of the team's most consistent components of success. If All-Pro tackle Tristan Wirfs (ankle) isn't able to play next Sunday, backup Josh Wells- himself dealing with a quad injury - is going to have to play better than he did in relief against the Eagles.
The defense was energized by the return of LBs David, Barrett and Pierre-Paul, even though they only combined for two tackles and Barrett's highlight-reel interception that set up Brady's third-quarter TD pass to Evans.
''I feel like everything is slowly coming back together,'' cornerback Jamel Dean said. ''I feel like the energy was there that we have been missing for the second half of the season. But it is starting to come back.''
No team was better than Tampa Bay protecting the quarterback this season, allowing a league-low 23 sacks in 17 games. With Wirfs hobbled and sidelined most of the day, Brady was sacked four times by the Eagles.
Wirfs, who had played every offensive snap this season, was injured on the fifth play against the Eagles. He returned for three plays in the second quarter, exiting for the remainder of the day after yielding a sack. Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen also limped off at one point, but finished the game. Arians said by Friday he'll have a better idea about their availability for the next game. Fournette (hamstring) remains on injured reserve and will be evaluated as the week progresses.
30 - The Bucs have scored at least 30 points in each of their five postseason games with Brady, joining the New Orleans Saints (six straight, 2010 to 2012) and Kansas City (five in a row, 2019 to 2020) as the only teams that have done so in at least five consecutive games. They've scored 30-plus 11 times this season and are 23-0 in such games since Brady's arrival in 2020.
Tampa Bay will host and NFC divisional playoff game against either the Los Angeles Rams or Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Arizona Cardinals DE J.J. Watt (shoulder) is expected to play in the Wild Card playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams Monday, Jan. 17.
Minnesota Vikings LB Eric Kendricks, TE Chris Herndon, DB Harrison Hand, DB Camryn Bynum and DE Tashawn Bower were activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday, Jan. 14.
Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (knee) revealed to reporters Sunday, Jan. 16, that he played through a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee from Week 4 through the remainder of the season. Elliott also shared that he will not need to undergo surgery in the offseason.
Fantasy Spin: Elliott's effectiveness didn't fall off dramatically until after the Week 7 bye and picked back up a bit once he found a knee brace that gave him some stability in the knee. What makes less sense is why Dallas continued to give him 15 or more touches consistently after the injury, including 19 in a meaningless season finale blowout win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The 26-year-old was looking spry before the injury, so it would not be surprising if he enjoyed a bounce-back campaign in 2022 after averaging a career-low 58.9 rushing yards this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Justin Watson and DB Rashard Robinson were released on Saturday, Jan. 15.
San Francisco 49ers LB Fred Warner (ankle) suffered an ankle injury against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Jan. 16, and did not return. He will undergo additional tests on Monday, Jan. 17, to determine the severity of the injury. Warner still has a chance to play in the NFC Divisional Round matchup against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, Jan. 22, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger completed 29-of-44 passes for 215 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the AFC wild-card round game against the Kansas City Chiefs. RB Najee Harris rushed 12 times for 29 yards while adding a pair of catches, RB Benny Snell Jr. rushed twice for 15 yards while posting two grabs for 16 yards, and RB Kalen Ballage had four runs for 13 yards. WR James Washington ended up with two catches for a team-high 37 yards and a touchdown, WR Diontae Johnson finished with 34 yards and a score on five receptions and 10 targets, while WR JuJu Smith-Schuster posted five receptions for 26 yards. WR Chase Claypool ended up with three catches for 25 yards on seven targets, while TE Pat Freiermuth ended up with four grabs and 25 yards and WR Ray-Ray McCloud rounded things out with two receptions and 20 yards.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes completed 30-of-39 passes for 404 yards, five touchdowns and one interception in the AFC wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Jan. 16. RB Jerick McKinnon led the way with a game-high 61 rushing yards, while adding 81 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. TE Travis Kelce completed five receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown while also throwing a two-yard scoring strike, WR DeMarcus Robinson had four grabs for 76 yards on five targets and WR Tyreek Hill posted five grabs for 57 yards and a touchdown. WR Mecole Hardman also checked in with four receptions for 43 yards and six rushing yards, while WR Byron Pringle added five receptions for 37 yards and two touchdowns. OG Nick Allegretti also had a one-yard touchdown.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was held to one catch for 21 yards during the Wild Card loss to the 49ers. The sophomore was targeted five times on Sunday. However, he couldn't do much with the opportunities afforded to him from Dak Prescott. Nonetheless, while this was arguably one of the worst performances of Lamb's career, he still had a fantastic season and finished as the Cowboys' top receiving option. He has a good chance to retain that crown next year, even though he will continue to battle for targets with Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and others.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott finished with only 12 carries for 31 yards during the Wild Card loss to San Francisco. The veteran couldn't get anything going, as evident by his atrocious 2.6 YPC. With the year behind him, he will look to get back on track next season. While he narrowly rushed for over 1,000 yards during the 2021-22 campaign, his days as a first-round fantasy option moving forward may be over, mainly based on some of his uneventful performances throughout his 17 appearances during the season. Elliott's health has also been an issue, and while it didn't cost him any time this season, it still severely negatively impacted his productivity.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper finished with six grabs for 64 yards and a touchdown during Sunday's loss to the 49ers. Cooper was the most productive Dallas wideout, although he wasn't as potent as tight end Dalton Schultz, who led the team with seven catches for 89 yards. Nonetheless, the 27-year-old capped off another solid year, although he wasn't as effective as he was over his previous two seasons. However, if Cooper can remain healthy, he has plenty of fantasy potential, although the emergence of CeeDee Lamb as the No. 1 receiving option may certainly lower his ceiling for the 2022-23 campaign.
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott completed 23 of 43 attempts for 254 yards, one touchdown and an interception vs. the San Francisco 49ers in Wild Card Weekend on Sunday, Jan. 16. He ran four times for 27 yards and a score and was sacked five times. RB Ezekiel Elliott rushed 12 times for 31 yards and caught one of four targets of no gain. RB Tony Pollard ran four 14 yards on four carries and chipped in 12 yards, catching his only two targets. WR Amari Cooper hauled in six of 10 looks for 64 yards and a touchdown, while WR CeeDee Lamb's five targets resulted in a 21-yard reception. He rushed once for five yards. TE Dalton Schultz paced the offense with seven catches for 89 yards on eight targets. WR Cedrick Wilson contributed five grabs for 62 yards and was thrown to 10 times. LB Leighton Vander Esch led all players with 13 total tackles, including five solos. LB Micah Parsons finished with three solo stops, seven assists, and a tackle for loss.
San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 172 yards with no touchdowns and an interception on 16-for-25 passing at the Dallas Cowboys in Wild Card Weekend on Sunday, Jan. 16. He ran once for a yard. RB Elijah Mitchell rushed 27 times for 96 yards and a touchdown. He caught one of two targets for -11 yards. WR Deebo Samuel caught three passes for 38 yards on a trio of looks and added 10 carries for 72 yards and a score on the ground. WR Brandon Aiyuk landed five of six targets for 66 yards, while TE George Kittle was held to an 18-yard catch on three targets. CB Emmanuel Moseley led the team with 12 tackles, including 10 solo stops. DE Nick Bosa (head) tallied two solo tackles, an assist, a half-sack, and a quarterback hit.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 254 yards and a touchdown off 23-for-43 passing during the loss to the 49ers on Sunday. He also had an interception while adding 27 yards off four carries, with one of them resulting in a trip to the end zone. The signal-caller had a decent outing, but it would be safe to assume that DFS managers were hoping for a little more. Nonetheless, with another season in the books, Prescott will have some time to recover from any residual injuries sustained during the year. Overall, he was a reliable option for fantasy managers, and if he can stay healthy, he should at least be a top-10 quarterback during the 2022-23 campaign, with the potential for higher.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert finished with a team-high six catches for 92 yards during the Wild Card loss to Tampa Bay. Overall, Goedert had a solid outing on Sunday, and it capped off what was an efficient year for the 27-year-old, who ended the regular season by totaling 830 yards and four touchdowns off 56 catches. While he began the season battling Zach Ertz for looks, he should have a much clearer path for production in September now that Ertz is in Arizona.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder) is active at the Kansas City Chiefs in Wild Card Weekend on Sunday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: He's a fringe flier for a cheap TD vs. a defense that has been overall strong but also has shown some weakness of late.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders finished with only seven carries for 16 yards during the loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon. Sanders made his return during the Wild Card round after missing time because of a hand injury. However, the 24-year-old didn't do much and even ceded an end zone opportunity to Boston Scott. Overall, the former Penn State Nittany Lion had another underwhelming year, and he ended the regular season by rushing for a career-low 754 yards and no touchdowns. Health has also been an issue over the years, and unless Sanders proves he can turn things around, he shouldn't warrant much consideration for fantasy drafts heading into the 2022-23 campaign.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams (toe) is officially active for Sunday Night Football versus Pittsburgh. The 26-year-old was limited during practice throughout the week, although he appeared to be in line to play all along. Nonetheless, with Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) absent, Williams may benefit. He could have a productive outing, primarily since the Chiefs are projected to score a lot of points against an unreliable Steelers defense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski finished with five catches for 31 yards and a touchdown during Sunday's postseason victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Although Mike Evans surpassed all of the other Bucs' pass-catchers, Gronk still was involved. His end zone trip marked his 15th playoff touchdown grab from Tom Brady, the most of any duo in NFL history. The veteran certainly has had his unproductive performances this season. However, he should remain one of Brady's favorite weapons in the Divisional round, regardless of whether Leonard Fournette (hamstring) can return.
The Kansas City Chiefs have declared OT Prince Tega Wanogho, RB Darwin Thompson, CB Rashad Fenton, QB Shane Buechele, WR Josh Gordon, DE Joshua Kaindoh and RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire inactive for Wild Card Weekend.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (concussion) won't return to Sunday's Wild Card matchup versus Dallas. The 24-year-old came down hard on his head in the first half but appeared to have a chance to make it back. However, he was eventually downgraded after failing to pass subsequent concussion testing. Bosa would go on to finish with three total tackles, and if the Niners make it past the Cowboys, he should be considered questionable for the Divisional round.