Tampa Bay BuccaneersFollowing Tom Brady's retirement, a nostalgic look back at his top five plays in a Buccaneer uniform Brianna Dix
The retirement of Tom Brady on Wednesday morning ushered in reflection around the league. Brady, touted as the greatest player of all time (GOAT), achieved both longevity and consistency over his 23-year illustrious career. Over that span, Brady became a seven-time Super Bowl Champion, five-time Super Bowl MVP, three-time NFL MVP, the first player to hit 89,214 regular season passing yards, the first player to hit 649 regular season touchdowns, 13,400 playoff passing yards (first all time) and 88 playoff touchdowns (first all time). He achieved a Hall of Fame-worthy career in three different decades. Brady's impact on the game of football can best be described as poetry personified on the gridiron. For 23 years, football fans witnessed history as No. 12 took the field. The age-defying player finished as the most accomplished player in league history, setting an unprecedented legacy.
As a Buccaneer, Brady needed three seasons to ascend to second on the team's all-time touchdown pass list and third on the passing yardage list. His arrival in 2020 as an unrestricted free agent led to the most successful three-year period in franchise history, including a Super Bowl LVI victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium and the first back-to-back division titles in the team's history. Over the previous three years in Tampa Bay, Brady has made countless highlight-worthy plays. In a tour down memory lane, here is a brief sample of five memorable moments during Brady's stint in Tampa Bay:
52-Yard NFC Championship Lob
The Buccaneers traveled to the Frozen Tundra following the 2020 season and came away with a victory over the NFC's No. 1 seeded Green Bay Packers, earning the right to play in their home stadium for Super Bowl LV. Chris Godwin spearheaded the offensive attack, finishing with five catches for 110 yards. Three of those came on critical third downs, including a 52-yard circus catch that set up a touchdown. From third-and-nine in the second quarter, Brady dropped back and ripped a deep ball to Godwin. With a safety over the top, Godwin cut inside, and Brady trusted him to make the play against single coverage. Godwin hauled in an insane self-tipped 52-yard catch, providing the offense with momentum. His 110 receiving yards in the matchup were the second-most in a playoff game in team history behind only Mike Evans' 119 in Washington.
Buzzer-Beater in the Frozen Tundra
In the aforementioned NFC Championship game, another play deserves recognition. This one centered around Scotty Miller. In the matchup, vintage Tom Brady stunned with a buzzer-beater touchdown to Miller, ending the first half. With eight seconds left in the second quarter, Brady threw a 39-yard dagger to Miller for the score. With lethal speed off the line of scrimmage, Miller quickly got north, and the Packers' defense fell behind. The Packers were in single high coverage with four defenders guarding the intermediate area, leaving Miller one-on-one with Kevin King on the outside. Brady used his eyes to deceive the deep safety and then delivered a precise throw before Miller had even passed the defender. That play signaled the turning point of the game.
In Super Bowl 55, Tom Brady was a technician from the pocket. His connection with Rob Gronkowski conjured up memories of past Super Bowls in New England. Brady hit Gronkowski for two first-half touchdowns. The first was an eight-yard strike off a screen in the first quarter which set a playoff record for most passing touchdowns by a quarterback-pass catcher duo in NFL history. It was the 13th such connection, breaking the mark previously held by 49ers' greats Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. In the second quarter from first-and-ten, Brady threw a play-action laser to Gronkowski in the back of the end zone. Gronkowski was initially held off his release, then spun around and broke to create cushion, creating a large target for Brady. The future Hall of Fame tight end finished the game with six catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets.
Staple Back-Shoulder Fade
Against Dallas in Week One of the 2022 season, the Bucs loaded the line on the left side with receiver stalk blocks, tight end chips and pulls by offensive linemen. During the matchup, 15 of Leonard Fournette's runs came to the left side of the formation, accounting for 111 yards - courtesy of Ko Kieft's lead blocking and the club's pin-and-pull technique. That forced the Cowboys' cornerbacks to make tackles in space as the Bucs hooked defensive ends and brought linemen to the second level to take on linebackers. As the Cowboys adjusted to stopping the run by loading the box, Mike Evans took advantage of one-on-one matchups. In the third quarter, Tom Brady hit Mike Evans in the end zone on a back shoulder fade - the pair's bread and butter - extending the team's lead, 19-3. As Evans fell backward, he hauled in an acrobatic one-handed catch to the cheers of the crowd. His sensational play helped seal the victory and sparked the team's resurgence in the second half.
In 2022, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinched the NFC South with an exhilarating 30-24 comeback win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. En route to the team's second-straight division crown on New Year's Day, Tom Brady connected with Mike Evans on three touchdowns. Coming into the Week 17 matchup, a deficiency in the Bucs' offense had been explosive plays downfield (25th in the league). Tampa Bay had one touchdown play of 20-plus yards all season long and against the Panthers, the deep ball returned. Tom Brady was masterful from the pocket and Evans served as the prime beneficiary. After missing Evans early downfield on the first drive, Brady made a concerted effort to get Evans the ball regardless. Just before the two-minute warning in the second quarter, Brady lobbed a deep pass down the right sideline to Evans in stride for a 63-yard touchdown. Otton chipped Brian Burns on the play which kept a clean pocket and Evans quickly got north, running right past Keith Taylor to trim the deficit, 14-7.