13 years removed from Tampa Bay’s last playoff appearance, the Buccaneers were rightfully emotional and overjoyed following a 47-7, postseason-clinching victory over Detroit on Saturday afternoon.
Of course, no current member of the roster was a part of that playoff team, nor have they been around the team for the entirety of the near-decade-and-a-half. However, the moment was as raw for everyone involved as it was for onlookers, fans, and even the former players who applaud the Bucs’ efforts.
“I’m actually at a loss for words,” said defensive end William Gholston after the game. "This thing hasn't really hit me."
Gholston is one of the longest-tenured veterans on this Buccaneers team, inching towards the end of his eighth season with Tampa Bay. Along with ninth-year linebacker Lavonte David and seventh-year wide receiver Mike Evans, Sunday's end result was certainly a long time coming for several household names on the Bucs' roster.
Entering this season, David - who has been on the roster longer than anyone - had a 45-83 record on his resume as a member of the Buccaneers entering the 2020 season. Tampa Bay accrued a double-digit loss record in five of his nine seasons prior to this year.
“Bittersweet – it’s amazing," said David. "Great feeling, everybody knows what it took. Coach [Bruce Arians] made an emphasis on it throughout the year, nothing is going to be given, we have to go out and take what we want. We’re here, man. We did it."
Those three shared postgame hugs after the years of ups and downs that the trio faced as Buccaneers, amid the playoff drought. David shared that he and former Buccaneers' defensive lineman Gerald McCoy, one of his closest friends, also messaged him throughout the previous week in anticipation of a clinching win on Saturday.
"He's happy for me," David added about McCoy. "I’m sure I have a bunch of messages from him being excited for me and everything."
Evans, along with the entire Tampa Bay offense, put an exclamation mark on the important win. As the Buccaneers scored 47 points, quarterback Tom Brady was pulled at halftime after throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Along with a solid showing from his backup, Blaine Gabbert, Evans led the team in receiving yards at 181, nearly 100 more than the next receiver.
Entering the game, Evans was 221 yards from the 1,000-yard mark on the season. He's now 40 yards removed from his seventh consecutive 1,000-yard year, one for every season of his career.
With that goal now in reach, paired with a playoff berth, it was a pretty sweet day for the Tampa Bay pass catcher.
“It was a great moment [and] a great experience. We’ve been scratching and clawing every single year to try to make the tournament," said Evans. "It’s been a journey, but we are happy we finally accomplished it and that’s just where it starts. We want to go as far as we can.”
Brady didn't have much to offer on the feat in his postgame presser. This is far from new to the 21-year veteran, as January will serve as his 18th trip to the postseason. Brady is proud of the accomplishment, of course, and happy for his teammates making it for the first time, but "we’ve got a home game next week against Atlanta, so that’s what I’m thinking about," he said.
So is everyone else. But that won't stop the Buccaneers from absorbing this moment. Arians, who is five years removed from his last appearance as a head coach, is soaking it all in.
“It means the world," said Arians. "This is why you coach, you want to get a chance to win a championship."