TAMPA — The Bucs’ injury outbreak now has hit a unit previously presumed to be immune.
Two days after becoming the first offensive lineman in franchise history to be named an all-pro, right tackle Tristan Wirfs exited after the game’s fifth play with an ankle injury.
He limped back onto the field late in the second quarter, but was outmuscled on his third play back by defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who sacked Tom Brady for a 9-yard loss. Wirfs never reappeared, and coach Bruce Arians had no immediate update on his status.
“Tristan, he’s our anchor,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “The guy’s a beast. He’s got bigger quads than Quadzilla out there, that’s how big they are. He’s a great dude, too, great teammate, and hopefully it’s nothing serious because he did try to come back in the game.”
Also dinged up, at least briefly, was center Ryan Jensen, who limped off the field on his own power following Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s 1-yard scoring run late in the first quarter. Jensen re-entered the next offensive series.
Prior to Sunday, Wirfs — also one of three Bucs offensive linemen to earn Pro Bowl nods — hadn’t missed a snap in his two-season career. He, Jensen and left guard Ali Marpet all recently were named to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
“Hopefully we can keep our offensive line intact because I think they’re the best in football, Tristan especially,” Arians said. “They’ll be working on that ankle non-stop.”
Another Scotty sighting
Following nearly four full months of obscurity, Scotty Miller formally has resurfaced.
A week after scoring on a 33-yard end-around against the Panthers, Miller came up huge on the biggest special-teams play of the afternoon Sunday, making initial contact with Eagles punt returner Jalen Reagor on his fumble that was recovered by Ross Cockrell. He also had a 9-yard run and 8-yard catch.
“That’s two for Scotty now,” said Arians, alluding to Miller’s recovery of a fumbled punt at Indianapolis.
“I was very apprehensive about him being a gunner with his size (5-foot-10, 174 pounds), and man, he’s turned out to be a heck of a gunner. That’s two fumble causes and recoveries. He’s playing his ass off.”
By the numbers
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2 Times the Bucs have shut out the opponent in the first half of a playoff game. They led the the Lions 13-0 after one half of a 20-10 wild-card victory in 1997.
3 Postseason touchdown catches by Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski in their Bucs careers, tied for most in franchise history.
4 Interceptions this season by safety Mike Edwards, which lead the team. Edwards intercepted Jalen Hurts in his own end zone with 43 seconds to play in the first half.
9 Receptions Sunday by Evans, a franchise record for a playoff game.
28 Different quarterbacks Tom Brady has beaten in the playoffs.
85 Total postseason touchdown passes thrown by Brady.
84 Combined postseason touchdown passes thrown by Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.
321 Evans’ career postseason receiving yards, 54 shy of Keyshawn Johnson’s franchise record.
“Jacks, that’s the goal-line personnel that we have. As tight ends, we’re all jacked.” — Gronkowski on the four-tight-end package the Bucs used near the goal line Sunday
“Whatever team plays the most man coverage.” — Evans, when asked which team he’d prefer to face next
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