Brady Bet Pays Off Big in Las Vegas Blowout
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went all-in on Tom Brady in 2020 and on Sunday that paid off with a jackpot during their first-ever trip to Las Vegas. Brady led the Buccaneers to a 45-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium, throwing for 369 yards and four touchdowns on 33-of-45 passes, and also running for a fifth score His four scoring passes included perhaps the best – and at the very least the prettiest – throw of the season, a perfect 33-yard back-corner strike to Scotty Miller just before halftime that gave the Bucs a 21-10 lead.

"It was a sweet play," said Miller. "Tom put it on the money there in the back corner. It was really just a straight go-route, I just ran right at my guy and got on his toes. Tom put it up and I knew it was close to being out of bounds, so I just tried to catch it and dropped straight to my knees to try to get at least one knee down. It ended up working out, but again, he put it right in the breadbasket and made it easy for me."

Brady threw with that type of precision throughout the afternoon and continued his impressive play of late. Over his last five games, Brady has thrown 15 touchdown passes and has just one interception. When he threw his fourth touchdown pass on Sunday he actually moved ahead of Drew Brees, who had two touchdowns in the Saints win over Carolina on Sunday, on the all-time regular-season touchdown pass list. Brady now has 559 to Brees's 558. The two will meet for a second time in 2020 in Week Nine.

"I think it's knowing the guys better, knowing the system better, everything that we change each week," said Head Coach Bruce Arians. "There's such good communication of what we're trying to get done, where the ball should be going versus each coverage. I think it's just total growth of the offense." The win improved the Buccaneers' record to 5-2, including a 3-0 mark against AFC West teams. The victory, the team's second in a row and second in four road trips this season, kept the Buccaneers in first in the NFC South after the New Orleans Saints improved to 4-2 earlier in the afternoon.

The Buccaneers played their first game ever in Las Vegas, the Raiders' new home this year after a move from Oakland. It was also Tampa Bay's first game against Jon Gruden since he started his second stint as the Raiders' head coach in 2018. Gruden, who was the Buccaneers' head coach from 2002-08, led Tampa Bay to victory over the Raiders in Super Bowl XXVII at the end of his first season at the helm.

After the Bucs hit on Brady they doubled down with his old New England buddy Rob Gronkowski, and that also paid off in Vegas on Sunday. Gronkowski caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown, giving the Bucs their first lead at 14-10 in the second quarter with a perfect back-corner fade. Miller led all receivers with 109 yards on six catches, recording his first career 100-yard game. Brady also threw touchdown passes to Chris Godwin and Tyler Johnson in the last half of the fourth quarter as the Buccaneers pulled away with 21 straight points after the Raiders had closed the gap to 24-20. Godwin made a series of big plays in the second half to extend several drives and finished with 88 yards on nine catches.

"He's doing an unbelievable job," said Brady of Godwin. "We're growing together ever day and I have so much respect for him as a player, his style of play, how he complements Mike [Evans] and Scotty. That whole receiving group has done it's job for us. We're 5-2, we're at decent place, we're not quite at the halfway point in the year. We've got a lot of football left. We're going to need everybody and we're going to need everybody's best and we're going to expect everybody's best and we're going to try to meet the challenge every week."

Brady scored on a one-yard sneak for the Buccaneers first touchdown in the first quarter, and RB Ronald Jones II found the end zone with a one-yard dive with seven minutes to play. But the drive that put the game out of the reach for Tampa Bay was a masterful 67-yard march that took 5:21 off the clock in the fourth quarter and ended in Godwin's four-yard touchdown after the Raiders had scored 10 straight points to close the gap to 24-20.

"That was important," said Brady. "We got behind the down-and-distance a few times, too, and overcame some third downs. Leonard [Fournette] made a great play on the one where I got it to him quick and he got vertical and got the first down. Mike got the P.I. on the one where he went out-and-up. There were some really good plays that were made and we finished the game strong against a good football team that played hard."

Antoine Winfield then intercepted Derek Carr's next pass on a ball that was tipped by S Mike Edwards, which led to the 21-point flourish at the end of the game. Arians identified that play and the two-minute drill that produced Miller's long touchdown and put the Bucs up by 11 heading into halftime as the key moments in the victory.

"I thought the drive at the end of the half was big in the ballgame," said Arians. "I thought it flipped the whole game around, to get a touchdown before the half and finish it. We knew the way they were going to play Mike [Evans], Scotty was going to have a game and have opportunities. I thought before the half, the two-minute drive, and that interception were the game-changing plays in the game."

Miller had 72 more yards than Evans, his superstar teammate, as Evans was held to two catches for 37 yards. But Miller, along with the rest of his skill-position teammates, understands that the attention being paid to Evans gives them more opportunities to be Brady's target. He appreciated that attention helping him get something he's always dreamed of.

"It's crazy; it's a blessing really," said Miller. "A goal of mine my whole life was to get 100 yards in a game, so it's just an awesome moment for me. Mike is one of the most unselfish superstars in the league. He only had a couple catches today and in the last couple games, but that's really because he's getting double-teamed the whole game, really. That's just making it so much easier for me and everybody else."

One week after playing the "cleanest" game in franchise history – the first one with no penalties drawn, no sacks allowed and no turnovers – the Buccaneers came close to duplicating it. They once again avoided any turnovers, and Brady wasn't sacked and was hit only one time, and though there were four penalties they weren't terribly costly except for one Oakland touchdown drive.

"I don't think there's any doubt," said Arians regarding the Bucs' solving their penalty problems. "I think we had one penalty offensively when Tom changed the snap count and got Tristan [Wirfs]. We had that little lapse on defense I don't like. We had three in that series that gave them a touchdown when we were off the field with an interception. We still have to clean it up a little defensively. Four penalties is really nothing to shake about other than we gave up one drive. But nothing offensively."

Johnson's touchdown catch, his second in as many weeks, provided the game's final points after ILB Devin White had sacked Carr on a desperation fourth-and-one play with five minutes left. White finished the game with a career-high 3.0 sacks to go with a team-leading 11 tackles, one tackle for loss, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble. Over the last two weeks, White has 21 tackles, 4.0 sacks, four tackles for loss and five quarterback hits.

"We always knew he was a great blitzer; they both are," said Arians, including ILB Lavonte David in the conversation. "That's the beauty of it. When he comes up the middle, he's a force. They run twists so well together, too. He's a dynamic player. Both of them with such speed they have makes them ridiculous in the pass-rush game."

Johnson's touchdown catch came on third-and-goal and it continued a remarkable streak for the Buccaneers in 2020. The Bucs' offense achieved a first-and-goal five times on Sunday in Las Vegas and scored five touchdowns on those drives. Incredibly, Tampa Bay is now 20 for 20 in 2020 in converting goal-to-go situations into touchdowns.

Scott Smith,, published 26 October 2020