TAMPA — Neither a rehabilitated hamstring nor a heavy heart could thwart his highly awaited postseason encore.
In the wild, waning moments of Sunday’s division playoff game against the Rams, Leonard Fournette starred again.
“He shows up in the big moments,” Tom Brady said.
Days after the death of a cousin in Louisiana, Fournette — breakthrough star of the ‘20 season playoffs — scored on a 9-yard fourth-and-1 dash around right end to tie the score at 27 with 42 seconds left. The exhilaration was fleeting.
“This whole week’s been a very difficult week,” said Fournette, who didn’t offer details on his relative’s death. “I’m happy that I got a chance to go out there and fight with these guys.”
Making his first appearance since injuring a hamstring in a loss to the Saints on Dec. 19, Fournette totaled 107 yards running and receiving in the 30-27 loss to embed himself statistically in franchise playoff annals. He has scored at least one touchdown in seven consecutive postseason games (including his tenure in Jacksonville), and has five playoff touchdowns in two seasons as a Buc.
His 51 rushing yards on 13 carries gave him 351 in the postseason as a Buc, breaking Mike Alstott’s franchise mark of 341. He has 556 postseason yards from scrimmage as a Buc, also a team record.
“Just dependable,” Brady said. “I think his maturity and growth … since I’ve been with him has been really exceptional. He’s a great teammate, works his tail off. He really cares about winning, certainly cares about his teammates. That’s really what your two goals should be.”
Right tackle Tristan Wirfs was inactive due to an ankle injury sustained during last week’s wild-card win over the Eagles. Wirfs tore two ligaments, including one that ripped off the bone, and will have offseason surgery to repair the damage, the website The Athletic reported.
By game’s end, the Bucs’ injury-besieged receiving corps didn’t possess enough bodies to run certain sets.
Rookie return specialist Jaelon Darden exited to be evaluated for a concussion after taking a shoulder pad to the helmet early in the fourth quarter. Second-year receiver Tyler Johnson also left with a rib injury sustained late in the third.
“We were down to (tight end) Cam (Brate) playing slot receiver,” Brady said.
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“There was not a ton of healthy bodies, but we found a way to get the ball in the end zone there at the end against a really good defense. It’s tough to lose a game that comes down at the end like that, but it’s just the reality of pro football.”
By the numbers
0 Completions by Brady on his first two drives, the first time that has occurred in his 47 playoff starts, according to the Associated Press
4 Takeaways by the Bucs, tied for third-most in a single playoff game in team history
4 Postseason touchdown catches by Mike Evans, most in Buccaneer history
7.0 Career playoff sacks for Ndamukong Suh, tied for third among active players. Suh was credited with half a sack Sunday.
28 Postseason receptions by Evans, breaking the franchise postseason record previously held by Warrick Dunn (26). Evans had eight catches for 119 yards and a TD Sunday.
440 Evans’ total career playoff receiving yards, breaking the franchise mark previously held by Keyshawn Johnson (375)
86 Postseason touchdown passes by Brady, most in NFL history and nearly twice as many as the No. 2 guys on the list, Joe Montana and Aaron Rodgers (45 each)
1,389 Playoff receiving yards by Rob Gronkowski, passing Michael Irvin (1,315) for third place in NFL history. Gronk had four catches for 85 yards Sunday.
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