TAMPA — History will show that Breshad Perriman’s walkoff touchdown reception from Tom Brady in overtime traversed 58 yards. But the journey really began in New York, wound through Detroit and Chicago until eventually finishing in a dogpile of teammates in the south end zone of Raymond James Stadium with a crowd of 65,655 going crazy.
It was Perriman’s only catch of the game in Sunday’s 33-27 thriller over the Buffalo Bills but one that won’t be forgotten because of what it meant to the Bucs.
Having blown a 24-3 lead in the third quarter, Tampa Bay improved to 10-3 and needs only a win Sunday over New Orleans to clinch its first NFC South title since 2007.
For Perriman, cut by the Lions and Bears this season and trying to earn his keep on his third team in a year, it was more meaningful than that.
The former UCF star was still beaming when he walked into the postgame interview room wearing a black Amiri t-shirt with a prophetic message: “Beyond your wildest dreams.”
“Oh man, it was bittersweet,” Perriman said. “... It was kind of a blessing. Just how my year been going so far, I can’t really put it into words. I’m just thankful to God, and I’ve got my teammates. They make me feel like I’m on top of the world, and it’s a great feeling.:
In fact, Perriman wasn’t the primary receiver on the game-winning TD. The play was supposed to go to Mike Evans on a rub route, but Perriman went over the top and beat his defender.
“Yeah, we had a crosser called and they kind of jumped Mike coming across the field and left B.P. back there, and I kind of picked him out of the corner of my eye and got it to him and he made a great catch and run,” Brady said. “He’s got great speed. Once I saw him in the open field, I was like, ‘Go B.P.! Run!’ And he did.”
In 2019, injuries to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin thrust Perriman into the Bucs No. 1 receiver role. He responded by producing 419 receiving yards and five touchdowns over a four-game stretch.
That earned Perriman a 1-year, $3 million contract with the New York Jets, where he played 12 games in 2020 and caught 30 passes for 505 yards and three touchdowns.
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He was cut by the Lions in training camp and picked up by the Bears, who never played him.
“We played Chicago earlier this year and I asked him, ‘What’s going on?’” linebacker Shaquil Barrett said. “Because I know what type of player and type of guy (he is) and what he can bring to a team. I’m wondering why he’s not suited up.
“And he was like, ‘Man, I don’t know what’s going on.’ I said, ‘That’s crazy, because we could use you for sure.’ And you see how he made plays for us. So I’m glad he’s taking the opportunity and running with it.”
Perriman was signed to the Bucs’ practice squad Nov. 10 to provide some depth at receiver with Antonio Brown out with an ankle injury and Scotty Miller recovering from turf toe.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians never forgot how well Perriman played the final month of 2019 and felt his size and explosiveness might solidify the the Bucs’ No. 3 receiver spot.
He earned some playing time last week at Atlanta but had only three catches for 24 yards prior to Sunday’s game.
“Man, he had a great year here three years ago, and he was our No. 1 at the end of the year when Chris and Mike were out,” Arians said. “He had 100-yard ballgames, so we know he can do it. He’s got great speed, he’s big, he’s active in the blocking.
“With this offense, you wait for your turn, and when your turn comes you better make the play or you don’t get any more turns.”
The fact that the Bucs needed heroics from Perriman seemed unlikely after they built a three-touchdown lead at halftime behind Leonard Fournette’s 47-yard TD run, a Brady TD pass to Mike Evans and a quarterback sneak for another score.
But inside the Bills’ pads still beat a champion’s heart.
They rallied behind the play of quarterback Josh Allen, who rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown while passing for 308 yards and two more scores.
The Bucs defense was gassed in the fourth quarter but managed to send the game to overtime by forcing the Bills to settle for Tyler Bass’ 25-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining in regulation.
Buffalo won the coin toss, but the Bucs forced a three-and-out, setting up the OT dramatics.
“We get off the field, we get the stop,” Arians said. “Now it’s a field-goal game. I’ll take the touchdown. The walkoff home run is pretty nice.”
It’s also pretty rare. Brady hadn’t thrown a walkoff TD pass in overtime since he hit Troy Brown to beat Miami in the extra period in 2003.
Of course, like many of Brady’s passes, this one also made history. It was the 700th of his career, including playoffs.
“I’d much rather have it not come down to that,” Brady said. “In the end they all count the same. We’ve got to learn from it and move on. Obviously, we’re playing for a division championship next week, which is pretty exciting for all of us.”
Perriman said he took a glance at the Jumbotron to see who was close to him. Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds appeared to have an angle on him and Perriman reached back to stiff-arm him, but it wasn’t needed.
“Go! Go, man!” Perriman said he thought to himself. “Don’t get caught. (No.) 49 was running pretty fast, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to pick it up and get going.’”
It was the kind of win that keeps everything alive for the Bucs. A division title, but even more importantly, a chance at the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
For Perriman, it’s a play that will remain beyond his wildest dreams.