Brady's superb half lifts Tampa Bay into NFL playoffs

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Tom Brady threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the first half Saturday to power Tampa Bay to a 47-7 win over Detroit and lift the Buccaneers into the NFL playoffs.

The 43-year-old quarterback, who joined the Bucs this year after 20 campaigns and six Super Bowl crowns with New England, was benched for the second half after guiding Tampa Bay into the post-season for the first time since 2007.

"We played pretty good in the first half," Brady said. "Good execution. Guys were making plays for me all over the field. It was just a great effort by the whole team."

The Buccaneers led 34-0 at half-time in improving to 10-5, securing a playoff spot while the Lions sank to 5-10.

"It's just the beginning," said Bucs coach Bruce Arians. "Our goal when this all started was to get into the dance. Now it's to win 11 games and see who we play next.

"We're going to be a pretty tough out."

Brady, who completed 22 of 27 throws, set a first-half career best and club record in passing yardage and the four touchdown passes were his most in a first half since 2014.

Brady's club-record 36 passing touchdowns this season sent the Bucs to the playoffs, a feat New England failed to manage without him.

The Buccaneers also set a team record with 410 total first-half yards, the most by any NFL club in a decade.

In his 300th career NFL game, Brady threw touchdown strikes of 33 yards to former New England teammate Rob Gronkowski, 27 yards to Mike Evans, 12 yards to Antonio Brown and 7 yards to Chris Godwin.

Leonard Fournette added a four-yard touchdown run and Brady's back-up Blaine Gabbert added touchdown passes of 25 yards to Gronkowski and 22 yards to Evans in the rout.

"When we do play the way we're capable of playing, we're tough to beat," Brady said. "We have to learn to do it more consistently."

Evans, who had 10 catches for 181 yards, broke his own team touchdown reception record with 13.

"We've been scratching and clawing every year," Evans said of the Bucs' playoff quest. "We're happy we finally accomplished it, but that's just where it starts."

Arians said he could sense a great performance coming while watching workouts.

"You could feel this was a playoff practice week," Arians said. "Even with the holidays, they handled their business well."

The Lions avoided a shutout when Jamal Agnew returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Detroit, hampered by a right ankle injury to quarterback Matthew Stafford, also had five coaches sidelined by Covid-19 and contact tracing, with receivers coach Robert Prince serving as acting head coach.

- Dolphins win thriller -

The Bucs became the seventh NFL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining Green Bay, New Orleans and Seattle in the NFC plus Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Buffalo in the AFC.

Miami's Jason Sanders kicked a 44-yard field goal with one second remaining to give the Dolphins a 26-25 victory at Las Vegas that saw four lead changes in the last four minutes.

The Dolphins (10-5) stayed ahead of Baltimore (9-5) for the last AFC playoff berth by eliminating the Raiders (7-8).

Ryan Fitzpatrick's 34-yard pass -- while having his face mask yanked by a defender -- was caught by Mack Hollins to set up the winning kick.

"It didn't feel great," Fitzpatrick said. "When I threw it, I didn't see it because my face mask got ripped off. It was pretty incredible."

The San Francisco 49ers delivered a setback to Arizona's playoff hopes by beating the host Cardinals 20-12.

C.J. Beathard threw three touchdown passes for the 49ers and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray suffered a leg injury trying to spark a late rally.

Chicago can deny Arizona a playoff spot by beating Jacksonville on Sunday and Green Bay next week.

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OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Tampa Bay
+155+3.5O 51.5
Green Bay
-182-3.5U 51.5