Don't count out Tom Brady, but Bucs need everyone to avoid one-and-done in playoffs | Opinion

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Whatever got into Tom Brady – payback, desperation, a flashback – sure came in the nick of time on Sunday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staring at a complete disaster.

Brady put the Bucs on his back when they needed nothing less to overcome a 14-nothing hole against the Carolina Panthers to clinch another NFC South crown with a 30-24 victory. He beat Father Time again and put up his first 400-yard game of the season, 432 to be exact. For the first time in five games, he didn’t throw an interception. And he struck gold again with Mike Evans, finally, connecting for three long touchdowns…which goes far in explaining the season-best 127.3 passer rating.

“Tom was just dropping dimes,” gushed Evans, who scored for the first time since Week 4.

Still, given the pattern of inconsistency we’ve seen all season from the Bucs (8-8), it’s fair to wonder:

Was that a sign of things to come in the NFC playoffs or some sort of curtain call?

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Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady runs off the field after Sunday's win against Carolina.

The Bucs are in but still need to hit another gear to avoid a one-and-done playoff appearance, having dodged another potential upset to the Panthers a week after escaping an embarrassing loss at Arizona.

Sure, nothing is a given in the wild, wild NFL. If a team gets hot at the right time…

And this is a team with the biggest Super Bowl winner ever in the 45-year-old Brady. Just when you think that you can count him out, Brady has a way of writing another page to his legend. Yet even as Brady keeps showing vitality in his arm and is leading the NFL in pass attempts and completions, that is not the formula to be banked on the deeper it gets into January. It’s going to take a lot more than 400-yard games from TB12 if the Bucs are to beat Dallas (or Philadelphia) in the playoff opener and then hit the road as legitimate contenders.

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