When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded for Rob Gronkowski back in April 2020, it was tough to picture the future Hall of Fame tight end having a substantial impact.

After all, Gronkowski had appeared to have spent his last reserves in Super Bowl LIII when he hauled his clearly ailing body downfield and made a diving grab for a 29-yard fourth-quarter reception that set up the New England Patriots' only touchdown of their 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

It was a catch that at the time served as a spectacular last ember of an incredible career, but the Bucs put stock in Tom Brady's belief that Gronkowski's fire to deliver at the highest level still burned brightly, and they have been emphatically vindicated.

He caught seven touchdowns in the 2020 regular season, but he once again saved his best for the grandest stage with a dominant two-touchdown performance in the Bucs' Super Bowl LV rout of the Chiefs.

And, with Tampa Bay shorn of most of their depth at the wide receiver position, there will be an even greater emphasis on Gronkowski to rise to the occasion as the Bucs attempt to defend their title.

His numbers from a surprisingly efficient 2021 suggest he is more than up to the task.

Running out of receiving weapons

Last year, opposing defenses weren't able to consistently dedicate special attention to Gronkowski, such was the wealth of options at Brady's disposal.

They went into the previous campaign's postseason with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown at receiver as well as having Gronkowski at tight end.

Evans remains and remains an extremely gifted number one receiver who perhaps does not get the credit he deserves for his hugely impressive consistency.

In Week 18, Evans surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for the eighth successive year, an NFL record for the longest streak to start a career.

He leads all wideouts (min. 100 targets) in burn percentage, which measures how often a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted. Evans has won 75.2 per cent of those matchups this season, while he is also first among receivers who meet that threshold with a big play rate of 43.1 per cent.

However, Brown's departure from the team leaves the Bucs without a receiver tied third for burn yards per route (4.0) among receivers with at least 50 targets.

Godwin is on the shelf with torn ligaments in his knee, robbing Tampa of another top pass-catcher who on the list of wideouts with triple-digit targets trails only Evans, Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs with his burn rate of 70.4.

Their absences place Gronkowski's ability to produce elite play at tight end into sharper focus and his efforts at the age of 32 should give great encouragement to Tampa.

Gatecrashing the elite

Gronkowski was long since seen as the gold standard at the tight end position. A mismatch as a receiver and a tremendous blocker, peak Gronk is the blueprint for modern-day NFL tight ends.

But when he re-entered the league after a retirement that lasted only one season, a new order of top tight ends had been established.

George Kittle and Travis Kelce are regarded as the best of the best at tight end, with Darren Waller a tick below that duo. This season, Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert have taken leaps to threaten to join the elite.

Yet in several metrics, it is Gronkowski who stands above that group at the top of the pile.

Gronkowski's burn rate of 72.1 per cent trails only Goedert and Kelce among tight ends with at least 25 targets. However, he is first in burn yards per target (13.00), burn yards per route (3.5) and big play rate (45.7 per cent).

Simply put, no tight end in the NFL has done a better job at creating separation and turning his targets into explosive plays than Gronkowski, whose rapport with Brady shows no sign of dissipating.

Indeed, when he targeted Gronkowski in the regular season, Brady had a passer rating of 113.6. To put that into context, the best overall passer rating this season was Aaron Rodgers' 111.9.

When Brady needed a big play in his final Super Bowl with the Patriots, he turned to Gronkowski, and it was their combination that was arguably the most crucial offensive aspect of the defeat of the Chiefs last year.

With Brown gone and Godwin out, the cupboard is not as well-stocked for the Bucs heading into this postseason, meaning if Brady is to claim ring number eight, he will again need to turn to the man whose renaissance in Tampa is arguably as impressive as his own ceaseless brilliance.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians says it would be a "travesty" if 44-year-old quarterback Tom Brady does not win the MVP award.

Brady had 485 completions from 719 passing attempts for 5,316 yards and 43 touchdown passes across the regular season, which was the league-best across all categories.

The Bucs QB becomes the third quarterback following Drew Brees (2018) and Peyton Manning (2013) to lead the league in all four major statistical categories since 1991. Brady's 485 completions was an NFL single-season record.

Brady produced a three-touchdown display in the Bucs' 41-17 win over the Caroline Panthers on Sunday to reinforce his credentials with the home crowd chanting "MVP!".

"I think if he doesn't get it, it's a travesty," Arians told reporters on Monday. "Most completions ever, 5,000 yards, touchdowns - the whole nine yards. To me, it's not even a close race."

Brady's 5,316 passing yards was also the third-most in NFL history, beating his own personal record of 5,235 yards from 2011.

Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski said: "It just shows what his work ethic is, how dedicated he is to the game of football and just how talented he is.

"Just his determination week in and week out - it's just unbelievable. And it's just surreal how he's pulling it off at age 44 and just coming out here like he's in his 20s still, just winging that ball, zipping it where it needs to be, making fantastic throws week in and week out."

Gronkowski added: "Tom's the MVP every year. Just the way he adjusts on the fly to his personnel, just trying to get the ball into the best players' hands or the best matchup on that current play - he's just always ready to go no matter what the situation is. He's the MVP every year."

Tom Brady was thrilled to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers claim the number two seed in the NFC as he set his sights on the playoffs after reaching a host of new landmarks in Week 18.

The defending Super Bowl champions responded to a turbulent week following the release of Antonio Brown with a comprehensive 41-17 home win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

It meant the Bucs finished at 13-4, a franchise record for victories, and were 7-1 at home, their overall record tying that of the Green Bay Packers for the best in the NFL.

The win, coupled with a defeat for the Los Angeles Rams against the San Francisco 49ers, meant the Bucs improved their seeding in the last game of the season.

While some teams opted to rest their star players going into the playoffs, Brady stayed on the field until the fourth quarter, completing 29 of 37 passes for three touchdowns.

The quarterback's 5,316 passing yards for the 2021 season is his best career total – and the third-highest tally ever recorded in NFL history - while his 43 TDs for the year set a new Bucs record.

Brady became only the second QB in history, along with Drew Brees, to have multiple 5,000-yard seasons.

He also broke a record previously held by Brees (471 in 2016) for the most pass completions in a season, finishing up with 485.

With history made, Brady will now set his sights on the Bucs repeating as Super Bowl champions, which would give him a historic eighth world title if achieved.

They start against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round, and moving ahead of the Rams means they would also be at home in the Divisional Round should they progress. 

"In the end it's a great achievement to get the two-seed and it just felt good to win," said Brady.

"With other teams, you can't ever control any of those things. Even thinking ahead for the next game [in the playoffs] – you are worrying about two games from now. 

"Even if the Rams had won, I'm not worried about two games from now, I'm worried about one game from now, which is the Eagles.

"We've still got the Eagles and that's going to be the biggest game of our season. If we win, whoever we play, wherever we play, we are still going, and that's what we want to do."

On the win over the Panthers, he added: "We got off to a little bit of a rough start but we found a way to get some rhythm, and when we do that it's pretty good. 

"We did a good job of taking care of the football, did a good job with penalties, good job in the red area, good job on third downs. We're going to have to keep it going."

Brady was not the only Bucs player to reach a significant milestone in Week 18.

Wide receiver Mike Evans (six catches for 89 yards and two TDs) extended his own record for the most consecutive seasons (eight) with at least 1,000 receiving yards to begin a career in the NFL.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had seven catches for 137 yards, now has 32 career games with 100+ receiving yards, meaning he now stands alone above Tony Gonzalez atop the all-time list for his position.

Gronkowski had equalled Gonzalez last week and this was the first time since Weeks 5-6 in the 2016 season that he recorded back-to-back 100-yard games.

It is a timely run of form with star wideout Chris Godwin out injured and Brown no longer on the team.

"It's amazing the records [they set]," added Bucs coach Bruce Arians. "It seemed like there were five or six records every week.

"Thirteen wins and it hasn't been easy. We've had a lot of guys down all season so I can't say enough about our front office having a great roster."

Antonio Brown's Tampa Bay Buccaneers career is officially over after his contract was terminated on Thursday.

There was drama when Brown astonishingly made a bizarre exit from the Bucs' win over the New York Jets last Sunday.

Brown removed his jersey and pads and left the field with Tampa Bay trailing 24-10 in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium, the wide receiver jumping in the endzone and waving to fans before running down the tunnel.

He subsequently left the stadium in an Uber and there was never likely to be a way back for the 33-year-old.

Brown accused Tampa Bay of a cover-up in a lengthy statement, revealing he will have surgery on his injured ankle.

He then on Thursday took to social media to post screenshots of text exchanges he had with Bruce Arians last week, informing the Bucs head coach that he was struggling with the ankle problem.

Brown then tweeted: "Don't get it twisted. My brothers have been good to me. From Tom [Brady] to practice squad, we were a top-level unit.

"They have been good to me and knew nothing about my talks with coach last week. The team mishandled this situation. They let me down and, more importantly, my teammates."

Tampa Bay later confirmed Brown has been released.

The franchise said in a statement: "The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have terminated the contract of Antonio Brown, effective immediately.

"While Antonio did receive treatment on his ankle and was listed on the injury report the week leading up to last Sunday's game, he was cleared to play by our medical team prior to the start of the game and at no point during the game did he indicate to our medical personnel that he could not play.

"We have attempted, multiple times throughout this week, to schedule an evaluation by an outside orthopaedic specialist, yet Antonio has not complied.

"Maintaining the health and wellness of our players is of the utmost importance to our organisation."

Antonio Brown has accused the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of a cover-up in a lengthy statement following his bizarre exit from their game with the New York Jets, while also revealing he will have surgery on his injured ankle.

Brown's time with the Buccaneers came to a remarkable end on Sunday when he took off his jersey and pads and left the field with Tampa Bay trailing 24-10 in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium, the wide receiver jumping in the endzone and waving to fans before running down the tunnel. He subsequently left the stadium in an Uber.

After the Bucs' comeback win, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said Brown was "no longer a Buc".

Brown has yet to be officially released, but the four-time first-team All-Pro claims that happened on the sideline and, in a statement released through his lawyer Sean Burstyn, hit back at accusations he quit on his team.

Explaining last Sunday's incident, the statement read in part: "I relented to pressure directly from my coach to play injured. Despite the pain, I suited up, the staff injected me with what I now know was a powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller that the NFLPA has warned against using, and I gave it my all for the team. I played until it was clear that I could not use my ankle to safely perform my playing responsibilities.

"On top of that, the pain was extreme. I took a seat on the sideline and my coach came up to me, very upset, and shouted, "What's wrong with you? What's wrong with you?" I told him, "It's my ankle." But he knew that.

"He then ordered me to get on the field. I said, "Coach, I can't". He didn't call for medical attention. Instead, he shouted at me, "YOU'RE DONE!" while he ran his finger across his throat. Coach was telling me that if I didn't play hurt, then I was done with the Bucs.

"I didn't quit, I was cut. I didn't walk away from my brothers. I was thrown out. Being fired on the sideline for having a painful injury was bad enough. Then came their "spin". Coach denied on national television that he knew about my ankle. That's 100% inaccurate.

"I am reflecting on my reaction, but there was a trigger. The trigger was someone telling me that I'm not allowed to feel pain. I acknowledge my past. But my past does not make me a second-class citizen. My past does not forfeit my right to be heard when I am in pain."

Brown revealed he will have surgery after an MRI showed he has bone fragments in his ankle. He claims the MRI has been read by two top orthopedic surgeons but that the Bucs are attempting to force him to get another opinion from a more "junior" physician.

"As part of their ongoing cover-up, they are acting like I wasn't cut and now demanding I see a doctor of their choice to examine my ankle," the statement continued.

"What they did not know until now is that that on Monday morning I had an urgent MRI on my ankle. It shows broken bone fragments stuck in my ankle, the ligament torn from the bone, and cartilage loss. You can see the bone bulging from the outside. That must and can be repaired. The MRI has been read by two top orthopedic surgeons in NYC, including Dr. Martin O'Malley at Hospital for Special Surgery.

"Not realising that I had already scheduled a surgery at HSS, the Bucs 'ordered' me under penalty of discipline and with a few hours' notice to show up to a more junior doctor at HSS for another opinion. What a joke. They're playing like I wasn't cut, giving me a surprise attack "order" to show up to another doctor with no reasonable notice, and setting this whole thing up as a basis to cut me because what they did on Sunday was not legitimate.

"What the organisation is doing now needs to get cleaned up. I do not understand how people publicly claiming to be concerned about my mental health can do these things to me in private.

"Once my surgery is complete, I'll be back to 100 percent and looking forward to next season. Business gonna be BOOMIN!"

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians insisted he had "no regrets" over signing Antonio Brown following his bizarre walk-off during the clash with the New York Jets on Sunday.

With the Buccaneers down 24-10 and just over three minutes left in the third quarter, Brown appeared to be talking to team-mate Mike Evans on the sidelines before removing his jersey and shoulder pads, taking off his under-shirt and throwing it into the crowd, and then waving as he jogged towards the tunnel.

The 33-year-old had taken three receptions for 26 yards before leaving the game, which the Bucs went on to win 28-24 and move to a 12-4 record in the NFC.

Speaking after the comeback victory, Arians told reporters: "He is no longer a Buc. That's the end of the story. Let's talk about the guys that went out there and won the game."

The Bucs signed Brown in October 2020 after a short stint at the New England Patriots in 2019.

Arians had initially called Brown a "diva" and said "there's no room" for him at the Bucs.

But despite an eight-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy after punching a delivery truck driver, they did eventually sign him. 

He served another three-game ban this season after an NFL investigation found that he had produced a fake COVID-19 vaccine card.

Arians is happy with his decision to sign Brown, however, and hopes this latest incident can act as a turning point for the 33-year-old. 

"I have no regrets [over signing him]. I just hope the best for him," he told a media conference.

"It was very hard. I wish him well. If he needs help, I hope he gets some. It's very hard because I do care about him; I care about him a bunch. I hope that he's OK."

Asked if Brown told him he was injured, Arians said: "No. It's pretty obvious what happened. He left the field and that was it. We had a conversation, and he left the field."

Brown had played in just six games this season prior to Sunday, managing 39 receptions for 519 yards and four touchdowns.

Matthew Stafford inspired the Los Angeles Rams to move one step closer to securing their second straight NFC West title with a 20-19 win over the slumping Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

The defeat for the Ravens, who were without quarterback Lamar Jackson for the third straight game, leaves them perilously close to slipping out of the Wild Card hunt after their fifth consecutive loss.

Justin Tucker's field goal had put the Ravens up 19-14 with 4:33 left but Stafford launched a game-winning 75-yard drive to overhaul the deficit.

Stafford completed a 15-yard pass to Tyler Higbee and a 24-yarder to Cooper Kupp, before finding Odell Beckham Jr twice in a row, with the latter being the decisive TD.

The Rams QB finished with 26 of 35 passes for two touchdowns but also two interceptions, including a Chuck Clark first-quarter pick six, as well as a sack.

Clark's TD was the Ravens' only for the game, as QB Tyler Huntley completed 20 of 32 passes for 197 yards.

Rams running back Sony Michel had 19 carries for 74 yards including a TD along with wide receiver Kupp with six receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown.

Over a month ago the Ravens had been 8-3 and looking good for the AFC top seed but now they are scrapping for a playoffs spot after a series of narrow defeats and desperate for Jackson's return.

Carlson field goal gives Raiders edge in Wild Card race

The Las Vegas Raiders claimed a crucial last-gasp win from Daniel Carlson's 33-yard field goal in the AFC Wild Card race with a 23-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz cleared protocols for the game but completed 16 of 27 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown, while running back Jonathan Taylor had one TD from 20 carries for 108 yards, with the defeat marking the first this season when he has rushed more than 100 yards.

The Raiders pipped the Colts in the final quarter, trailing 17-13 at the final break with QB Derek Carr hitting Hunter Renfrow on a fourth-down play for a TD, before Michael Badgley squared the game with a 41-yard field goal, only for Carlson to win it with one from 33 yards as time expired. The Raiders improve to 9-7, pulling ahead of the 9-7 Colts in the AFC Wild Card race.

 

Bengals clinch maiden AFC North title

The Cincinnati Bengals clinched their first-ever AFC North title as Evan McPherson kicked a late 20-yard field goal to secure a 34-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase set an NFL rookie record and franchise record with 266 yards and three touchdowns on 11 catches, while QB Joe Burrow threw 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns.

Burrow got the better of opposing QB Patrick Mahomes who completed 26 of 35 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns as the Chiefs, who have already won the AFC West title, moved to 11-5.

 

Brady cool after Brown meltdown

Tom Brady was cool in a crisis after Antonio Brown stormed off the field as the NFC South-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers rallied to win 28-24 over the New York Jets.

Brady completed 34 of 50 attempts for 410 yards and three touchdowns, including leading them on a 93-yard drive in the final minutes to clinch the victory.

The game was marred after Brown's meltdown, storming off the field in the third quarter with the Bucs 24-10 down, with head coach Bruce Arians confirming "he is no longer a Buc" after the game.

Matthew Stafford inspired the Los Angeles Rams to move one step closer to securing their second straight NFC West title with a 20-19 win over the slumping Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

The defeat for the Ravens, who were without quarterback Lamar Jackson for the third straight game, leaves them perilously close to slipping out of the Wild Card hunt after their fifth consecutive loss.

Justin Tucker's field goal had put the Ravens up 19-14 with 4:33 left but Stafford launched a game-winning 75-yard drive to overhaul the deficit.

Stafford completed a 15-yard pass to Tyler Higbee and a 24-yarder to Cooper Kupp, before finding Odell Beckham Jr twice in a row, with the latter being the decisive TD.

The Rams QB finished with 26 of 35 passes for two touchdowns but also two interceptions, including a Chuck Clark first-quarter pick six, as well as a sack.

Clark's TD was the Ravens' only for the game, as QB Tyler Huntley completed 20 of 32 passes for 197 yards.

Rams running back Sony Michel had 19 carries for 74 yards including a TD along with wide receiver Kupp with six receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown.

Over a month ago the Ravens had been 8-3 and looking good for the AFC top seed but now they are scrapping for a playoffs spot after a series of narrow defeats and desperate for Jackson's return.

Carlson field goal gives Raiders edge in Wild Card race

The Las Vegas Raiders claimed a crucial last-gasp win from Daniel Carlson's 33-yard field goal in the AFC Wild Card race with a 23-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz cleared protocols for the game but completed 16 of 27 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown, while running back Jonathan Taylor had one TD from 20 carries for 108 yards, with the defeat marking the first this season when he has rushed more than 100 yards.

The Raiders pipped the Colts in the final quarter, trailing 17-13 at the final break with QB Derek Carr hitting Hunter Renfrow on a fourth-down play for a TD, before Michael Badgley squared the game with a 41-yard field goal, only for Carlson to win it with one from 33 yards as time expired. The Raiders improve to 9-7, pulling ahead of the 9-7 Colts in the AFC Wild Card race.

 

Bengals clinch maiden AFC North title

The Cincinnati Bengals clinched their first-ever AFC North title as Evan McPherson kicked a late 20-yard field goal to secure a 34-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase set an NFL rookie record and franchise record with 266 yards and three touchdowns on 11 catches, while QB Joe Burrow threw 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns.

Burrow got the better of opposing QB Patrick Mahomes who completed 26 of 35 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns as the Chiefs, who have already won the AFC West title, moved to 11-5.

 

Brady cool after Brown meltdown

Tom Brady was cool in a crisis after Antonio Brown stormed off the field as the NFC South-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers rallied to win 28-24 over the New York Jets.

Brady completed 34 of 50 attempts for 410 yards and three touchdowns, including leading them on a 93-yard drive in the final minutes to clinch the victory.

The game was marred after Brown's meltdown, storming off the field in the third quarter with the Bucs 24-10 down, with head coach Bruce Arians confirming "he is no longer a Buc" after the game.

Antonio Brown has apparently played his last game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after head coach Bruce Arians declared that the wide receiver is "no longer a Buc".

Arians made the comments following Brown's bizarre walk off during the clash with the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

With the Buccaneers down 24-10 and just over three minutes left in the third quarter, Brown appeared to be talking to team-mate Mike Evans on the sidelines before removing his jersey and shoulder pads, taking off his under-shirt and throwing it into the crowd, and then waving as he jogged towards the tunnel.

The 33-year-old had taken three receptions for 26 yards before leaving the game, which the Bucs went on to win 28-24 and move to a 12-4 record in the NFC.

Speaking after the comeback victory, Arians told reporters: "He is no longer a Buc. That's the end of the story. Let's talk about the guys that went out there and won the game."

Brown had played in just six games this season prior to Sunday, managing 39 receptions for 519 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bucs signed Brown in October 2020 after a short stint at the New England Patriots in 2019, followed by two claims of retirement from the game before changing his mind.

Antonio Brown bizarrely walked off mid-game as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

With the Buccaneers down 24-10 and just over three minutes left in the third quarter, Brown appeared to be talking to team-mate Mike Evans on the sidelines before removing his jersey and shoulder pads, taking off his under-shirt and throwing it into the crowd, and then waving as he jogged towards the tunnel.

The 33-year-old wide receiver had taken three receptions for 26 yards before leaving the game.

Brown had played in just six games this season prior to Sunday, managing 39 receptions for 519 yards and four touchdowns, and had been a doubt for the trip to the Jets with an ankle injury, but was able to play until he decided to leave of his own accord.

Tampa Bay had already clinched the NFC South Division title but were still hoping to add to their 11-4 record heading into this weekend as they seek to secure home advantage for the playoffs.

The Bucs signed Brown in October 2020 after a short stint at the New England Patriots in 2019, followed by two claims of retirement from the game before changing his mind.

Bruce Arians will be able to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the New York Jets after clearing coronavirus protocols.

Arians and wide receivers coach Kevin Garver have spent the week in isolation following positive tests for COVID-19.

However, both will be available for the Week 17 clash, and the Bucs could also have two cornerbacks back on their active roster.

Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting were each activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list having been placed on it on Tuesday.

They are listed on the injury report as questionable and, should the Bucs deem them ready to play, they will travel separately for the game in New Jersey. 

Tampa Bay head into the game 11-4, a game behind the 12-3 Green Bay Packers in the race for the one seed in the NFC.

Tom Brady says being on the brink another NFL record is "a credit to everybody" on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster.

Going into the Bucs' game at the New York Jets on Sunday, Brady is within touching distance of making more history.

The veteran quarterback is looking to become just the second player ever to record 40 or more passing touchdowns in consecutive regular season campaigns.

Brady had 40 TD passes on the way to Super Bowl glory last season and sits on 37 this time around with two games to go.

The 44-year-old is looking to equal the record held by Drew Brees, who had 46 and then 43 TD passes across the 2011 and 2012 NFL seasons, but he stressed beating the Jets was his main priority.

Brady said: "All the individual stats and so forth – ultimately, it's a team sport. That's just a credit to everybody.

"Winning is the thing that I concern myself with the most and I feel like the most important thing for any quarterback is to win games.

"Just winning the game Sunday will be what I'm looking forward to. We've got to go out there and earn it."

The Bucs (11-4) have activated wide receiver Mike Evans off the COVID-19 reserve list ahead of their clash with the Jets (4-11).

"Everyone is going to have to play a role with different people in and out of the line-up," added Brady. "We've had a lot of people in and out the last few games.

"At different times you've got to adjust. Different players – Leonard [Fournette], Chris [Godwin], Mike [Evans], A.B. [Antonio Brown] has been out for a while, 'Gronk' [Rob Gronkowski].

"You've just got to try to get guys to play a role and provide the level of production that allows you to go down and score points. 

"Every week is going to be a little bit different. I don't think it's production. It's just a matter of scoring points to me. If we have to go 80 yards, we've got to go 80 yards to get the ball in the end zone. 

"If we get a turnover on the 10-yard line, it's still about scoring points. 

"We don't have to produce as many yards to score points because the defense helped us out a lot. It's really the ultimate team sport in that respect. 

"You have to do the best you can do based on the circumstances and opportunities that you are provided.

"How the defense plays, how the special teams plays, how the other team plays – all of those things factor in differently to the overall outcome of the game."

Brady was visibly angry as he and the Bucs were shutout in a divisional loss to the New Orleans Saints in primetime, but Tampa bounced back with a 32-6 road win over the Carolina Panthers last time out.

The win meant they sealed victory in the NFC South for the first time since 2007 but the Bucs are still looking to improve on their current standing as fourth seeds in the conference ahead of the playoffs.

Brady regularly faced the Jets as a member of the New England Patriots.

He is 30-7 as a starter against them in his career, good for the second-most wins by any QB against a single opponent – behind only a record Brady already holds with 33 wins over the Buffalo Bills.

Brady is 7-0 in his last seven against the Jets, winning by an average of 23.3 points.

Crowds came flocking back in force, we had the full complement of golf majors and tennis grand slams, and sport almost ran smoothly over the past 12 months.

To boot, there were sensational moments, featuring both the biggest names in sport and some that few had heard of at this time last year.

Here, Stats Perform looks back at some of the biggest stories of the year, and the numbers that made them so remarkable.

Jacobs, the shock Tokyo Olympics sprint king

Entering 2021, Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs had a career-best of 10.03 seconds for the 100 metres. By most standards that is staggeringly quick, but at the very elite level of sprinting it ranks as only middling. To put it into some context, 34 men ran quicker than 10.03 seconds in 2021. Jacobs finished only 19th at the 2019 World Championship and few outside of athletics circles knew the name. The former long-jumper grabbed a little attention when he produced a world-leading 6.47 seconds to win the 60 metres at the European Indoor Championships in March, then he ran 9.95 for the 100m in Savona in May, but he still headed to the Tokyo Olympics as a big outsider, not expected to be a factor. Jacobs made a mockery of his lowly billing, as he powered to personal bests in the heats and semi-finals before doing so again in the final, dashing home first in 9.80 seconds to grab gold and leaving rivals gasping in astonishment. He led Italy to sprint relay gold too, a glorious double in that country's remarkable year of success.

Emma Raducan-who? From A level exams to US Open top marks

Twelve months ago – no, make that barely six – London-based Raducanu was simply not a factor in grand slam discussions. Fresh out of school, she had to fight to earn a wildcard for Wimbledon when organisers initially baulked at the idea, but they were persuaded and Raducanu went on to reach the fourth round. The teenager who was born in Canada and has a Romanian father and Chinese mother had arrived, but it was at the US Open that she roared into the history books. There was no wildcard in New York for the British youngster, but Raducanu won three qualifying matches and then raced through the main draw, defeating 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the title match. She did not drop a set in 10 matches and became the first women in the Open era to win 10 main-draw matches in her first two grand slams. It made her the first qualifier to win a slam and the first US Open women's singles winner since Serena Williams in 2014 to triumph at the tournament without dropping a set along the way. The $2.5million in prize money was followed by endorsement offers from across the world as Raducanu became an instant superstar. The tennis world waits to see what comes next.

No country for old men as US win Ryder Cup

The youngest Ryder Cup team ever assembled by the United States torched European hopes at Whistling Straits in September, scoring a 19-9 victory. That was the widest margin of victory by either side since Europe, rather than Great Britain and Ireland, became the USA's opposition in 1979. Dustin Johnson bounced back from losing four of his five matches in the 2018 edition to finish with a 5-0 record, just the third player in US v Europe battles to finish with a perfect record (after Larry Nelson in 1979 and Francesco Molinari in 2018). Johnson, at 37, was the oldest player on the team. European veteran Lee Westwood matched Nick Faldo's record of 11 appearances in the match, while Sergio Garcia stretched his points record from 25.5 to 28.5 as he and Jon Rahm combined well, but it was emphatically an event that belonged to the host Americans.

Veteran Mickelson still had his day 

He might have been absent for the US team's Ryder Cup triumph, but Phil Mickelson's name was up in lights again as he became the oldest winner of a men's golf major, landing the US PGA Championship title in May. At the age of 50, Mickelson caused a huge upset at Kiawah Island, scooping his sixth career major when he held off Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen on the final day. It was his only top-10 finish of the year on the PGA Tour.

Federer bagelled, Djokovic denied Golden Slam

Strange things happened in men's tennis in 2021, not least the sight of Roger Federer suffering a 6-0 'bagel' at the end of a straight-sets Wimbledon quarter-final defeat. That happened against Hubert Hurkacz in July, and it was the last match Federer played in the year. He wants to play again, and the 40-year-old believes he can, but knee surgery will keep him out of action until mid-2022 at the earliest, by his own reckoning, and that Centre Court defeat to Hurkacz could turn out to be how his eight-title Wimbledon career ends. Novak Djokovic joined Federer and Nadal on a joint-record 20 grand slam titles by cleaning up at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, and he has now spent a record 353 weeks at number one, passing Federer this year. But Djokovic could not make it a Golden Slam, losing to eventual champion Alexander Zverev in the Olympic Games semi-finals, and a Grand Slam was just beyond him too, Daniil Medvedev winning his first major when he swept the Serbian in straight sets in the US Open final.

Another year, more records for Brady

At the age of 43, Tom Brady was MVP in the Super Bowl as he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in February. He now has seven Super Bowl wins behind him, another outright record, and has been MVP in the game on an unmatched five occasions. Brady, having turned 44 in August, is in the hunt for another Super Bowl ring and perhaps outright NFL MVP honours this season, although Aaron Rodgers will likely deny him the latter accolade. Still, the records keep coming for Brady. He has moved in front of Drew Brees to have the most pass completions in league history (7,200 and counting), become the first ever 15-time Pro Bowler, and in December became the first quarterback to throw 700 career touchdowns.

England's Ashes surrender calls for Root and branch review

Joe Root became the first England captain – or player, indeed – to suffer nine defeats in Tests starting in a single calendar year, in a strange 12 months for the Yorkshireman. His form with the bat has been up there with the best of his career, the 31-year-old scoring 1,708 Test runs to go third on the all-time single-year list, with only Mohammad Yousuf and Viv Richards ahead of him. Even in the Tests that England have lost, Root has made a number of handy contributions with the bat, scoring 648 runs at an average of 38.11. Overall he has scored 26 per cent of England's Test runs across the year, the highest proportion of any player for their respective team in 2021. Yet the Ashes were lost by lunch on day three of the third Test, an outrageously dismal result. Root top-scored in England's two innings in Melbourne, typically, but he cannot get a tune out of many of his team-mates, so ends the year with his future as skipper in doubt.

Curry still hot as NBA records fall

In January, LaMelo Ball became the youngest player to post a triple-double in the NBA, as the 19-year-old Charlotte Hornets prospect grabbed 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over the Atlanta Hawks. Come December, the Memphis Grizzlies set two records in the same game, scoring a franchise-high number of points and winning by the biggest margin in NBA history, as they handed out a 152-79 thrashing to the Oklahoma City Thunder. December was also the month when Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors set a new three-pointer record, becoming the first man to make 3,000 threes in a career after going past Ray Allen's previous NBA record of 2,973.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has tested positive for COVID-19, the NFL team announced on Tuesday.

The Bucs, who face the New York Jets on Sunday, will have Arians' assistant Harold Goodwin in temporary charge while he is away from the team.

Arians, the  former Arizona Cardinals head coach, said he had experienced "mild symptoms" of coronavirus.

The 69-year-old led the Bucs to Super Bowl glory in February, when his team beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the showpiece game, staged in Tampa Bay.

They are 11-4 this season and heading to the playoffs again ahead of their clash with the 4-11 Jets.

Arians said: "I tested positive for COVID-19 this morning but have only experienced mild symptoms to this point.

"Harold Goodwin will take over my duties during my absence. I have complete confidence in him and the rest of our coaching staff to prepare the team for this week's game against the Jets.

"I look forward to rejoining the team and being back in the facility as soon as I can test back in."

The Bucs, who have five players sidelined due to COVID-19, said on their website that Arians was isolating at his home.

The Buffalo Bills took control of the AFC East standings as they held firm to defeat the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Bill Belichick's men, winners in the reverse game this month, had hoped to avenge a 38-9 defeat in Week 16 in Foxborough last season – that 29-point margin is the second largest the Patriots have suffered in their coach's storied 21 years in charge.

Yet despite threatening a fightback in the third quarter, the Patriots succumbed 33-21 Josh Allen inspired Buffalo to a valuable win.

Allen completed 30 of 47 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns. In so doing, he joined Peyton Manning as the only other player with multiple three-passing-touchdown games at New England since Belichick's arrival in 2000.

The Bills quarterback was instrumental in a 13-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter that helped to quash hopes of a New England comeback after they had pulled to within five points on the scoreboard.

"The offensive line must have liked their Christmas presents because they played great today. I'm so happy for them and our team to go on the road and get this win," Allen said.

Buffalo (9-6) will see out the regular season against the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets, while the Patriots (also 9-6) face the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins.

Bittersweet for Odell Beckham Jr as Jefferson breaks record in Rams win

The Los Angeles Rams moved clear at the top of the NFC West as they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 30-23 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Odell Beckham Jr's touchdown helped the Rams move to 11-4 and edge clear of the Arizona Cardinals, who lost 22-16 to the Indianapolis Colts, although they and Los Angeles are still guaranteed a playoff spot.

His Griddy celebration was especially pointed as, with just under 13 minutes left in the third quarter, OBJ saw his record for most receiving yards in a player's first two NFL seasons surpassed by Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

Bucs end 14-year wait for division title

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take their Super Bowl defence into the postseason after securing the NFC South title on Sunday.

The Bucs' 32-6 victory over the Carolina Panthers sealed their first division title since 2007 as they advance into the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 2002.

Tom Brady threw for 232 yards and one touchdown as they made it back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time.

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