EAST RUTHERFORD: Mike Evans #13 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulls in this touchdown reception against James Bradberry #24 of the New York Giants in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 02, 2020. - AFP

RUTHERFORD: Tom Brady threw two second-half touchdown passes as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rallied from an early 11-point deficit to post a 25-23 victory over the New York Giants on Monday night at East Rutherford, NJ. Brady completed 28 of 40 passes for 279 yards as Tampa Bay (6-2) won its third straight game and moved a half-game ahead of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South. Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans caught touchdown passes, and Ryan Succop booted four field goals.

Daniel Jones connected on 25 of 41 passing for 256 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Giants (1-7), who dropped to 1-3 at home. Wayne Gallman rushed for a touchdown while Dion Lewis and Golden Tate caught scoring passes for New York. The Giants pulled within 25-23 on Jones’ 19-yard scoring pass to Tate with 28 seconds left. Antoine Winfield Jr broke up the two-point conversion pass to Lewis, and Justin Watson covered the ensuing onside kick to seal the Buccaneers’ victory.

Tampa Bay went ahead to stay on Brady’s 8-yard scoring pass to Evans with 9:02 left in the game. The diving grab in the right corner of the end zone gave the Buccaneers a 22-17 advantage, and Succop added a 38-yard field goal with 3:41 remaining. The two touchdown passes raised Brady’s total to an all-time leading 561, one ahead of Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.

Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting notched interceptions for the Buccaneers, who were outgained 357 yards to 344. Tampa Bay moved ahead at 15-14 on Brady’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski with six minutes left in the third quarter. A two-point conversion pass for Evans was incomplete. The score marked the 93rd time—counting the postseason—that Brady and Gronkowski teamed up for a touchdown, moving the duo into second place on the all-time list, ahead of the San Francisco 49ers’ combo of Steve Young and Jerry Rice.

The leaders are the Indianapolis Colts pair of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison at 114. The Giants went back ahead at 17-15 on Graham Gano’s 33-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in the quarter. Earlier, Jones threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Lewis in the first quarter, and Gallman scored on a 2-yard run with 1:46 left in the second as the Giants held a 14-3 lead. Succop connected on a 40-yard field goal—his second field goal of the first half—with seven seconds left before intermission as Tampa Bay cut its deficit to eight points. Succop added a 43-yard field goal with 10 minutes left in the third quarter as the Buccaneers moved within 14-9.

16-team playoff field

Meanwhile, the NFL has not yet lost any scheduled games because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But the league is constantly preparing in case it does. The latest evidence is a plan that potentially could adjust this season’s playoff format to a 16-team field, with eight teams in each conference qualifying for the postseason, ESPN reported Monday. The fall-back option was discussed on a conference call conducted by the NFL competition committee on Monday, with the purpose to soften some of the league’s financial blow in case multiple games are eventually canceled and bye weeks are lost due to COVID-19.

NFL sources were cited describing the idea that would hypothetically increase the numbers of playoff teams by two to 16, with one additional team each from the AFC and NFC. This postseason was already slated for a two-team playoff spike, with one more wild-card team in each conference, after the league approved the switch in March. If approved and instituted, the seeding system would include no byes for division champions and instead rank each team by conference from No 1 through 8. In the opening round, the top seed—the division champion with the best overall record—would face the wild-card team with the worst record as the No 8 seed.

Then the second seed would face the seventh seed, with No 3 versus No 6 and No 4 against No 5 in the opening weekend. The league office has reportedly remained steadfast in its hopes to avoid any schedule changes that could threaten its current Super Bowl LV date, currently slated for Feb. 7, 2001 in Tampa. In case of major postseason scheduling changes, the NFL’s likely first move would be to eliminate the week off scheduled between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.- Agencies