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On frosty night, Bucs try to put old demons on ice

Numbing weather, night kickoff don’t appear to thwart Tampa Bay early on Saturday.
Bucs wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) celebrates his touchdown in the first quarter at FedEx Field on Saturday.
Bucs wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) celebrates his touchdown in the first quarter at FedEx Field on Saturday. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 10, 2021|Updated Jan. 10, 2021

LANDOVER, Md. — Bedecked in red shorts and a black T-shirt, Bucs center (and Colorado native) Ryan Jensen jogged onto the FedExField grass as Van Halen’s Eruption began blaring over the stadium public address system early Saturday evening.

The temperature was 43 degrees and falling, yet Jensen’s distinctive rust-colored locks were longer than his sleeves. Meteorological defiance at its most brash.

It represented only the Bucs’ initial sign of rebellion in their first playoff game since 2007.

Soon thereafter, they began attempting to conquer the other intangibles — a cavernous stadium, an evening kickoff, collective mediocrity in raw weather — that threatened to besiege them.

Bucs quarterback Tom Brady greets center Ryan Jensen before Saturday's game.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady greets center Ryan Jensen before Saturday's game. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The Bucs entered this prime-time playoff game 1-3 in evening kickoffs this season, and 11-48 overall in games when the temperature at kickoff was less than 45 degrees. Additionally, any postseason aura was negated by an absence of fans at 82,000-seat FedExField.

But by halftime, they had an 18-7 lead, and Tom Brady had thrown scoring passes of 36 and 27 yards to Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin, respectively.

Those scoring throws gave Brady 75 career touchdown passes in the postseason, further cushioning his NFL record. Joe Montana (45) ranks second.

Brady also became the oldest player to throw a scoring pass in the playoffs (43 years, 159 days), eclipsing the mark held by George Blanda (43 years, 108 days).

History spawned on the sidelines

Saturday night’s game was the first in NFL playoff history featuring at least one female full-time coach on the sideline.

The Bucs’ tandem of Lori Locust (assistant defensive line) and Maral Javadifar (assistant strength and conditioning) joined Washington full-year intern Jennifer King for a ground-breaking photo prior on the FedExField turf prior to kickoff.

“(Locust) has done a great job, and I’m really, really proud of her. Her and (Javadifar),” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said earlier this week. “I know (Washington coach) Ron (Rivera)...we were on a panel once together on diversity, so I think it’s huge. I think it’s the wave of the future.”

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Odds and ends

Six days after sustaining a hyperextended knee against the Falcons, receiver Mike Evans snagged Tom Brady’s second pass (for a 15-yard gain) Saturday night. Evans had two first-quarter targets. ... Cornerback Carlton Davis, sidelined the last two games with a groin injury, had four solo tackles and a key pass breakup — on third-and-9 inside his own 40 — in the first half. ... The Bucs’ first-quarter doldrums continued fading into oblivion Saturday. In their past three games, they have outscored the opposition 32-3 in the opening period. ... Bucs tailback Ronald Jones didn’t appear in the opening quarter and officially was announced as questionable for the game with a quad injury.