| The Detroit News
Detroit — It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Tom Brady has played at Ford Field for the final time in his career.
If that turns out to be the case, the 43-year-old quarterback certainly made a lasting impression.
Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 47-7 beatdown of the Detroit Lions on their own turf on Saturday, as the future Hall-of-Famer racked up 348 yards and four touchdowns on 22-for-27 passing.
Oh, and all of this took place in a single half.
“It was just a great team effort,” Brady said. “(and) good execution. Guys were just making plays for me all over the field.”
Brady led the ruthlessly efficient attack, throwing all four touchdown passes to different receivers and exiting the game at halftime with a 34-0 lead.
“The goal was to be dominant,” said receiver Mike Evans, who finished with 10 catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns, breaking his own franchise record with the 12th and 13th touchdown catches of his season.
“You want the games to be almost perfect like that like that … it was great. (Brady) balled out, he was very dialed in this week, and he had a hell of a game.”
Brady’s first touchdown pass to Evans set a single-season franchise record for passing touchdowns with 34. He finished the day with 36.
He averaged 12.89 yards per attempt in the game, a mark that ranks 44th in NFL history and fourth in Brady’s 300-game career. He had a perfect passer rating of 158.3, the second time he’s done that at Ford Field, with the first occurrence coming on Thanksgiving Day in 2010.
And, for the cherry on top, the 588 yards that he and his Bucs teammates accounted for was the second-most given up by the Lions in franchise history, and most since Nov. 1990.
“I love playing,” Brady said. “The teammates that I have, I always feel like I never want to let them down. I know it’s been that way for 21 years of my career, I just try to show up and do the best I can every week, every day, and realize that the competition isn’t only on Sunday. The competition’s every day of the week.”
Dating to last week, Brady and the Bucs have been virtually unstoppable on offense — which makes sense, given that much of the season has been spent wondering why they’ve been unable to reach the ceiling that their talented roster gives them.
Brady closed out last week’s win over against Atlanta by posting 320 passing yards and two touchdowns in the second half, meaning he’s amassed 668 yards and six touchdowns over his last four quarters of play.
In clinching its first playoff spot since 2007, it’s hard not to notice the intangible elements of a winning football team that Brady has brought to Tampa Bay.
“(It’s just) December football,” Evans said. “Really locking in, honing in on the details of everything. Knowing what coverages they’re going to run on certain down-and-distances, and just really hitting it hard.”
Everybody in the Bucs locker room was thrilled to clinch the team’s first playoff spot since 2007, but for defensive lineman William Gholston, the setting made it just a little bit sweeter.
“For me to be able to clinch in my hometown,” Gholston said, “to be able to achieve one of our goals, it’s a beautiful thing.”
The Detroit native was a standout at Southeastern High School and Michigan State, where he was a member of the 2013 Rose Bowl squad.
Drafted by the Bucs’ 126th overall in 2013, he’d spent the last eight years chasing the opportunity to play in the playoffs — and when his team finally clinched, it was right down the road from where he grew up.
“When I was warming up today, I was thinking about the first time I had the opportunity to get on Ford Field. It was a big thing, I was in little league,” Gholston said.
“And just knowing I wanted to play there as a little kid, I think I was like 11 or 12 — to be able to come here and win is great. It’s a great feeling for me. And then, I get to come home and smile in front of my family, so they don’t get to talk any trash.”
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.