Bucs rout Lions to end long playoff drought, Browns down 6 players for game vs. Jets

Tom Brady was so dominant in Detroit that he could’ve left Ford Field at halftime to get his favourite chicken wings near the University of Michigan’s campus and still made it back to fly to Florida with his team.

Brady threw four touchdown passes in the only half he needed to play and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went on to rout the Lions 47-7 on Saturday, sealing a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

“When we do play the way we’re capable of playing, we’re pretty tough to beat,” Brady said, who sat out the last two quarters after Tampa built a 34-0 lead — its largest halftime lead in franchise history. 

The Bucs (10-5) set a franchise record with 588 yards and snapped the NFL’s second-longest post-season drought behind Cleveland’s 18-year run that can end Sunday.

COVID protocols leave Browns shorthanded 

The Browns will try to make the playoffs without four wide receivers, including Jarvis Landry, along with their starting middle linebacker and his replacement, because of a positive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing.

Cleveland’s game against the New York Jets will be played as scheduled on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, an NFL spokesman said.

The stunning news for the Browns came as the team was preparing to fly to the New York area and potentially lock up its first post-season berth since 2002.

Starting linebacker B.J. Goodson was the first to be placed on the COVID-19 list after he tested positive. Then, after the team completed contact tracing, Landry and fellow receivers Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge were also placed on the list, knocking them out of the game.

Rookie linebacker Jacob Phillips, who may have started for Goodon, is also out.

The losses leave quarterback Baker Mayfield without most of his top targets. Landry leads the team with 67 catches for 789 yards in the absence of Odell Beckham, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 25.

Per league rules, Goodson will miss Sunday’s game and the Jan. 3 matchup against Pittsburgh is also in question. The league says any player testing positive has to stay out at least 10 days before being eligible to return. Of course, that also depends on the player’s health.

The other players will be allowed back as long as they continue to test negative.

More records for Brady

Brady was 22 of 27 with a mix of passes deep down the field and darts in traffic. The six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback threw touchdown passes to Rob Gronkowski, Evans, Chris Godwin, who made a one-handed catch, and Antonio Brown from 33, 27, seven and 12 yards. Brady has now thrown a franchise-record 36 touchdowns and set a personal record with the 348 yards passing by halftime.

“When we can keep Tom standing, he’s going to deliver for us,” coach Bruce Arians said.

The 43-year-old Brady, who split time with Drew Henson in college, started his 298th game to tie Brett Favre’s record for an NFL quarterback and played in his 300th game.

Lions quarterback Stafford exits early with injury

The Lions (5-10) started the game without interim coach Darrell Bevell along with assistants on the defensive staff because of COVID-19 contact tracing. And they played much of the game without quarterback Matthew Stafford. He was questionable to play with hip and thumb injuries and then hurt his right ankle on the opening drive and did not return.

Chase Daniel struggled to move the ball much for the Lions, who avoided getting shut out for the second time this season when Jamal Agnew returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Daniel was replaced in the fourth by David Blough, an undrafted rookie last year.

“It’s obviously tough when you’ve got a lot of coaches shifting around, but those guys did a great job of getting us ready,” Blough said. “No one feels sorry for us.”

49ers stun Cardinals

Third-string quarterback C.J. Beathard threw three touchdown passes, Jeff Wilson ran for 183 yards, and the San Francisco 49ers dealt a brutal blow to the Arizona Cardinals’ playoff hopes by defeating them 20-12.

Beathard was making his first start since 2018 and was 1-9 as a starting quarterback before he was pressed into action against the Cardinals because of injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens.

The 27-year-old wasn’t amazing but avoided big mistakes. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 182 yards, Wilson earned hard yards on the ground and the 49ers came up with two big defensive stops late in the fourth quarter, including Ahkello Witherspoon’s interception of Kyler Murray’s pass in the end zone.

The Cardinals (8-7) no longer control their own destiny in the playoff race. If the Chicago Bears win their final two games, they will reach the playoffs because of a tiebreaker over the Cardinals.

Arizona started the day positioned as the No. 7 and final team in the NFC playoff field, but the game was a struggle from the outset. The 49ers (6-9) pulled ahead 14-6 in the third quarter on Beathard’s 9-yard touchdown pass to fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

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