Tom Brady has not yet made a decision on retirement, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will give the quarterback "all the time he needs".

The Bucs' season ended on Sunday with a dramatic Divisional Round defeat to the Los Angeles Rams, going down 30-27 after Brady had led his team back from 27-3 down to tie the game.

But talk before the game had suggested it could be Brady's last if Tampa lost, as transpired.

The 44-year-old told his Let's Go podcast that he will be making any decision together with his family, refusing to rule out the possibility of quitting the NFL after seven Super Bowl triumphs.

"Playing football I get so much joy from. I love it," Brady said on the podcast. "But not playing football, there's a lot of joy in that for me also now, too, with my kids getting older and seeing them develop and grow.

"So all these things need to be considered and they will be."

After two outstanding years with the Bucs, Brady said he would only continue if he was operating at "a championship level".

The veteran QB surely still represents Tampa's best possible option under center, but coach Bruce Arians insisted on Monday he would give Brady time.

"I haven't talked to him yet," Arians said. "He'll take all the time he needs and we'll see."

The Bucs had won the championship at the end of the 2020 season and brought the entire team back for a title defence, but an ageing group could not deliver again.

There will be no "rebuild", though, as Arians responded to that suggestion: "No, I think it's just a reload, like it is every year.

"For us, free agency will be our guys. We'll see how many we can get back and build the team from there. I always look forward to that part of it and the draft.

"Each year is so different and so new. Last year, to get everybody back, that was amazing. I doubt we can do that again this year, but we're still going to give it our best."

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, a team-mate of Brady's with the New England Patriots and then the Bucs, insisted his future was not necessarily linked to the QB's.

"Whatever Tom does Tom's going to do," he said. "I'm sure that he needs time to himself, too, to see where he's at at this stage. We'll see in couple of weeks where I'm at."

Matthew Stafford revelled in "stealing somebody's soul" after he helped the Los Angeles Rams end the Tamp Bay Buccaneers' playoff hopes.

The Rams prevailed 30-27 over last season's Super Bowl champions on Sunday to reach the NFC Championship game, which will be a matchup between two underdogs after the San Francisco 49ers' win over the Green Bay Packers.

Yet it could very well have gone badly wrong for Los Angeles, who had led 27-3 until a Tom Brady-inspired comeback from the Bucs in the final quarter.

Brady connected with Mike Evans for a 55-yard touchdown pass, with the possibility of a turnaround that would rank as the joint-fourth largest in postseason history coming into view.

Evans' score made the game 27-20 and another Rams mistake allowed the Bucs to level the scores through Leonard Fournette.

Yet Stafford had other ideas, with the 33-year-old – who joined from the Detroit Lions ahead of this season – combining with wide receiver Cooper Kupp to set up a Matt Gray field goal.

"In my mind, I live for those kinds of moments," said Stafford, who has now made 43 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. That is the most of any player since the QB first featured in the NFL in 2009.

"I would have loved to have been taking a knee up three scores, but it's a whole lot more fun when you've got to make a play like that to win the game and just steal somebody's soul.

"That's what it feels like sometimes where they're sitting there going, 'Man, we just had this great comeback.' And you get to reach in there and take it from them. That's a whole lot of fun."

Stafford threw for 366 yards against Tampa Bay, a high mark for the season, besting his previous high of 365 set against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5 and bringing up the third-highest yardage in a single postseason game in Rams history.

He also threw for two touchdowns, rushed another and registered a pass completion rate of 73.7 per cent, finding his target with 28 of 38 attempts.

One of those touchdown passes was a 70-yard combination with Kupp, who led the way in the regular season for receiving yards (1,947), receiving touchdowns (16) and receptions (145).

However, Kupp was not happy with how the Rams' offense performed in the midst of Tampa Bay’s fightback.

"As an offense, we first and foremost did a terrible job of executing for this team in the second half," Kupp said.

"We can't do the things that we did. Put our defense, our team in a really bad spot."

Yet head coach Sean McVay was happy to reflect on a thrilling win, saying: "That's why you play four quarters and try to finish that game out.

"That was something else. That was something else.

"Those guys did a great job. I thought Matthew Stafford was unbelievable throughout the whole day. Just his poise, his command, his decision-making."

Tom Brady declined to discuss his playing future amid retirement talk after almost pulling off a miracle comeback as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers crashed out of the NFL playoffs.

The Bucs trailed 27-3 but fought back to level the game in the final quarter before eventually losing 30-27 to the Los Angeles Rams in Sunday's Divisional playoff.

Brady threw a spectacular pass for Mike Evans for a 55-yard touchdown to make it 27-20 in the fourth quarter.

Tampa Bay's exit comes amid growing speculation about the 44-year-old quarterback's future, with one year remaining on his Bucs contract.

"I haven’t put a lot of thought into it. Just take it day-by-day and see where we’re at,” Brady told reporters after the game.

Brady added: "The truth of it is I'm only thinking about this game. I'm not thinking about anything past five minutes from now."

Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians offered no insight into the situation either, stating "that's up to Tom" when pressed on the issue.

Brady completed 30 of 54 attempts for 329 yards and one touchdown in Sunday's defeat. The seven-time Super Bowl champion had a 67.5 percent completion rate for a career-high 5,316 yards with 43 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season.

The Bucs had entered the playoffs as the NFC's second seed but fell short after going all the way last season as fifth seeds.

"Always tough losing at the end of the year," Brady said.

"Obviously we showed a lot of fight but at the end of the day when you lose a game, you lose a game."

Tom Brady fell agonisingly short of another remarkable playoff recovery as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 30-27 at the last to the Los Angeles Rams in what could yet be the great quarterback's final game.

Discussion around 44-year-old Brady's future increased as this Divisional Round game approached at Raymond James Stadium.

If this was the end for the seven-time Super Bowl champion, who has not committed to playing next year, it befitted the rest of his outstanding career.

Brady will be a spectator next week when the Rams face NFC West rivals the San Francisco 49ers – helmed by his former backup Jimmy Garoppolo – in the NFC Championship Game, but he could hardly have done more to prolong the Buccaneers' title defence.

The Rams led 27-3 halfway through the third quarter, but errors crept into their play and Brady sniffed an opportunity.

Attempting a repeat of his Super Bowl LI fightback from 28-3 down, Brady led the Bucs to 24 unanswered points to tie the game with just seconds remaining.

The veteran had endured a frustrating first half that included his first career penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct as he fumed at officials when a hit from Von Miller left him with a bloodied lip.

That incident had long been forgotten by the time Brady connected with Mike Evans for a 55-yard touchdown pass, with the possibility of a turnaround that would rank as the joint-fourth largest in postseason history coming into view.

Evans' score made the game 27-20 and another Rams mistake allowed the Bucs to level the scores.

A sloppy second half seemed to have peaked when a Miller strip sack of Brady was immediately followed by LA's snap missing Matthew Stafford, who was looking the other way. Instead, the Rams outdid themselves as Cam Akers' second fumble gave Brady the ball back late on.

Brady handed off to Leonard Fournette and overtime loomed, yet Stafford and triple crown wide receiver Cooper Kupp – having earlier combined for a 70-yard score on third and 20 – had the final say.

A 44-yard completion gave Matt Gay a winning field goal with time up. After a third road win and a third winning field goal in this Divisional Round, now the Rams must beat a 49ers team they have twice lost to this year.

Tom Brady has paid tribute to the "tremendous" Los Angeles Rams defense that he is tasked with getting the better of in the NFL playoffs.

In one of the standout games of the Divisional Round, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host NFC West winners the Rams on Sunday.

The defending Super Bowl champions were beaten by the Rams on the road in Week 3 of the regular season but have home advantage this time around after claiming the number two seed in the NFC.

Tampa Bay eased to a 31-15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round, while the Rams also encountered few problems in beating the Arizona Cardinals 34-11.

A star Rams defense, which includes the likes of cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, held Arizona to just 183 yards.

It was the second-fewest total yards allowed in a playoff game in franchise history, behind only their 1989 Championship Game win over Tampa Bay.

Brady does not need any reminders about how difficult it is to play the Rams, who have won seven of their last eight meetings against the Bucs.

"It's a very, very challenging team," Brady told reporters ahead of the game. "Really good offense, tremendous defense, really well-coached, great specialists, so it can be very, very difficult game for us.

"It's a very talented football team, obviously one of the great teams in the NFL.

"This team does a lot of good things well. Obviously they rush the passer well, they cover you really well in the secondary, get a lot of turnovers - they sack the quarterback, strip sacks. 

"They have a lot of dynamic players. Obviously, Jalen Ramsey is one of the great corners in the league. So between the guys that they have in the secondary as well as the front, you know that you have no place that you can take off. 

"These guys are they can turn you over. They can make big plays like they did the other night when David Long got the pick six [against Arizona]."

Brady and the Bucs will take lessons from the 34-24 regular season defeat, but the veteran quarterback does not believe it can be factored in too much due to both teams changing since then.

He added: "All these games are a little bit independent from one another. 

"Any time you know your opponent, that always gives you a little bit of understanding of kind of what they do well and things you wish you would have done. 

"But it doesn't really matter what happened in October when we played them last. It's really about this game and what we learned from last game.  

"We had a very different team and I think it was a little bit of a different team they had too. It is going to require its own individual performance."

Last season the Bucs put a strong run together to finish the regular season that continued into postseason glory.

Brady, who is now three wins away from winning an eighth Super Bowl, was asked how he always seems to find another gear once the NFL season gets to December and beyond.

"For all of us, it's repeating good process – that is the important part about getting this time of year," added the 44-year-old.

"You don't do much different, you just do more of which got you here. The things that work we do more of and you try to eliminate all the other distractions. 

"I won't do anything extra this week. I just want to do football. That's all I want to do to prepare and get ready. That is how we should all approach it. 

"This isn't the time for trips to the movie theatres, it is time to lock in on football because this is all we have - three days left [of the season] and we have got to earn more. 

"So you just look at it like that, everything you can kind of put off till the end of the year. We just certainly hope the end of the year is not on Sunday night."

The win over the Eagles was Brady's 18th career playoff win by double digits. 

He has more playoff wins by double digits (18) and by single digits (17) than any other QB has total playoff wins (second is Joe Montana with 16 wins).

Matthew Stafford is convinced the Los Angeles Rams will have to put up big points to stand any chance of knocking Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the playoffs.

Sunday's Divisional Round game at Raymond James Stadium will be the third NFL postseason meeting between the Rams and Buccaneers.

The Rams have won the previous two as the teams combined for just 26 points in those games (9-0 Rams in 1989 NFC Championship, 11-6 Rams in 1999 NFC Championship). 

But Stafford, whose side cruised past the Arizona Cardinals in a 34-11 win last week, expects a high-scoring affair this time around.

Their Week 3 matchup this season did see plenty of scoring, and the Rams won 34-24, but Brady is a formidable opponent in the playoffs.

"The biggest thing about going against a guy like Tom is just knowing his consistency and his ability to get his team in the end zone," said Stafford.

"He's done a great job throughout his career, both in New England and in Tampa of scoring points and doing it kind of every which way.

"Whether they're going to run it, throw it, throw it deep, throw underneath – whatever it is, he always has a great game plan to go out there and execute at a high level. 

"So as an offense, we know we need to do the same. We have packed a great defense. Those guys are unbelievable players and dominated the game for us on Monday. 

"But at the same time, as an offense, you know you're going to have to go out there and score points, and enough to compete with the team that's led by Tom. It's a challenge.

"He's shown year in and year out how capable he is at doing that, especially this time of year. So it's a fun, exciting opportunity. We are playing the whole team, but he [Brady] is definitely a big part of it."

The win over the Cardinals was Stafford's first career postseason victory, meaning the Bucs clash will be his first taste of action in the Divisional Round. He only had to throw a season-low 17 pass attempts last week.

"That was just flow the game and nobody's ever talking about that number," he said. "We know we want to be balanced, like we always are. 

"We are just trying to go out there and feel the flow of the game, I think it's a credit to our guys up front, moving those guys in creating rush lanes, our guys did a great job around the football. 

"And then our defense was doing such a good job of giving us a short field. There's so many times where we had the ball with great field position, and those don't sometimes equate to long drives.

"Less plays, less opportunities to throw the football, but I take it as a positive. 

"I love throwing the ball, no doubt, but I love it when I hand it off, and our guys are getting 10 to 12 yards a pop. At this point I'll take [the yards] any way I can get them!

"This is a great opportunity. We've earned these opportunities as a team. I've loved being a part of this team. So I'm hoping that we continue to earn more opportunities. That's the goal at this point.

"Find ways to win games no matter what it looks like – hopefully, it looks great, like it did on Monday night, but sometimes games shakeout all different, you've got to find ways to win them."

Bruce Arians is hoping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can keep an offensive line he believes is the best in football together after Tristan Wirfs suffered an ankle injury in their Wild Card round win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

An ankle injury to right tackle Wirfs, which he unsuccessfully tried to return from, was one of the few blots on a routine 31-15 victory for the Buccaneers.

Center Ryan Jensen also suffered an injury but returned to the game, with Tampa Bay's win and the San Francisco 49ers' upset triumph over the Dallas Cowboys meaning the Bucs will face either the Los Angeles Rams or Arizona Cardinals in the Divisional Round.

Asked about the injury to Wirfs, Arians told a media conference: "He's got a sprained ankle, we'll see.

"Hopefully they're [the injuries] not super serious, Jensen came back in, Tristan tried it, other than that we came out pretty clean.

"Hopefully we can keep our offensive line intact because I think they're the best in football, Tristan especially, they'll be working on that ankle non-stop."

Running back Leonard Fournette, whose performance in the postseason last year was key to the Buccaneers winning Super Bowl LV, was not activated for this game as he tries to return from a hamstring injury.

On Fournette, Arians said: "Until he's top speed we're not going to use him."

While Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts struggled and threw a pair of interceptions in his first playoff start, Tom Brady was faultless in his record 46th postseason start.

He completed 29 of 37 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns including a 36-yard strike to Mike Evans.

"Once Tom figures you out, you're in trouble," Arians added. "That was a dime he threw to Mike for that long touchdown, he's a surgeon, man, once he figures you out and we can put him in a position and protect him, he's gonna eat you up."

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' hopes of winning back-to-back Super Bowls remain firmly intact after a crushing 31-15 Wild Card round win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tampa Bay's defense welcomed back two stars of their Super Bowl LV blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs in the form of Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett, and that group dominated an Eagles team that looked ill-prepared for the challenge of knocking off the defending champions.

Philadelphia did not beat a single team that qualified for the playoffs in their nine-win regular season, and this contest soon had the look of a mismatch as the Eagles punted three times, turned the ball over on downs and saw Jalen Hurts throw the first of his two interceptions on their opening five offensive series.

Touchdown runs by Giovani Bernard and Ke'Shawn Vaughn propelled the Bucs to a 17-0 half-time lead and, as Hurts struggled in his first playoff start, Tom Brady showed the benefit of his experience in his record 46th postseason start.

A muffed punt by Jalen Reagor set up a Brady touchdown pass to another seemingly ageless wonder in Rob Gronkowski and Hurts' second interception was followed immediately by a 36-yard strike to Mike Evans.

Late Eagles scores from Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell proved little more than consolations on a day when the only concern for the Buccaneers was a worrying ankle injury to right tackle Tristan Wirfs.

After the Patriots saw their playoff campaign emphatically come to an end on Saturday, the man who left New England to further his legacy begins his quest for an eighth ring on Sunday.

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be expected to win in routine fashion in their Wild Card round matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, while the team they beat in last season's Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs, are anticipated to end Ben Roethlisberger's career with a routine victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Sandwiched between those two potential blowouts is the game of the weekend as two storied rivals, the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, contest a long overdue renewal of acquaintances in the postseason.

As Stats Perform's look at Sunday's action explains, both the Niners and the Cowboys possess the offense firepower to ensure the matchup lives up to its lofty expectations.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The defending champion Bucs are unsurprisingly the heavy favourites against an Eagles team that claimed nine wins in the regular season, none of which came against an opponent that made the postseason.

Not much stock will be put in the history of this encounter, even if it does make pleasant reading for any Eagles fans looking for reason for hope.

The Eagles and Buccaneers have split their 20 all-time meetings, with each team winning eight regular-season games and two in postseason play. Their only postseason matchup in Tampa was a 24-17 win by the Bucs in 1979, their first-ever playoff win.

All eyes at Raymond James Stadium will be on Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, who is set for another piece of history in his seemingly endless career.

Brady will be playing in his 19th postseason and in his 46th career playoff start, the most by any player in NFL history. At age 44, Brady will break his own record for the oldest quarterback to start a playoff game. Brady has more playoff wins since turning 36 years old (17) than any other QB has in his entire career.

Carmelo Anthony says LeBron James' early-season prediction that the Los Angeles Lakers would emerge victorious like Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers is proving true.

The Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook during the off-season and brought in the likes of Anthony, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan and Trevor Ariza.

After some underwhelming results, the Lakers hit form with four wins in a row to start 2022 before losing 127-119 to in-form Memphis Grizzlies last time out.

It was a similar story for Brady in his first year with the Bucs last time out when 7-5 overall before their season truly took off, culminating in a 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Sitting seventh in the Western Conference with a record of 21-20, Anthony agrees with James' comparison that the Lakers could be heading for similar success.

"Just from the standpoint of starting off slow and having new guys on the team, a new system, guys trying to figure it out, guys trying to figure out how to play with LeBron and [Anthony Davis] and now incorporating Russ and just now everybody figuring out what their role is," he said. 

"And what made it beautiful for the Bucs is that once it came together, it came together and you saw what happened with that."

Anthony has averaged 13.2 points across his 41 games for the Lakers this season – the fourth most behind Westbrook (19), Davis (23.3) and James (28.9), and similar to the 13.4 averaged in his final year with the Portland Trail Blazers.

With the Lakers now halfway through their campaign, Anthony admits it was always going to be a long-term process after plenty of close-season changes.

"It was just kind of preparing ourselves for whatever happens, whatever comes along," he said when reflecting on the past three months.

"I think we were, I don't want to say prepared for those [difficult] moments and those times mentally and emotionally, but yeah, those were conversations that were happening."

The Lakers have back-to-back road games coming up against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday and the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded for Rob Gronkowski back in April 2020, it was tough to picture the future Hall of Fame tight end having a substantial impact.

After all, Gronkowski had appeared to have spent his last reserves in Super Bowl LIII when he hauled his clearly ailing body downfield and made a diving grab for a 29-yard fourth-quarter reception that set up the New England Patriots' only touchdown of their 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

It was a catch that at the time served as a spectacular last ember of an incredible career, but the Bucs put stock in Tom Brady's belief that Gronkowski's fire to deliver at the highest level still burned brightly, and they have been emphatically vindicated.

He caught seven touchdowns in the 2020 regular season, but he once again saved his best for the grandest stage with a dominant two-touchdown performance in the Bucs' Super Bowl LV rout of the Chiefs.

And, with Tampa Bay shorn of most of their depth at the wide receiver position, there will be an even greater emphasis on Gronkowski to rise to the occasion as the Bucs attempt to defend their title.

His numbers from a surprisingly efficient 2021 suggest he is more than up to the task.

Running out of receiving weapons

Last year, opposing defenses weren't able to consistently dedicate special attention to Gronkowski, such was the wealth of options at Brady's disposal.

They went into the previous campaign's postseason with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown at receiver as well as having Gronkowski at tight end.

Evans remains and remains an extremely gifted number one receiver who perhaps does not get the credit he deserves for his hugely impressive consistency.

In Week 18, Evans surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for the eighth successive year, an NFL record for the longest streak to start a career.

He leads all wideouts (min. 100 targets) in burn percentage, which measures how often a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted. Evans has won 75.2 per cent of those matchups this season, while he is also first among receivers who meet that threshold with a big play rate of 43.1 per cent.

However, Brown's departure from the team leaves the Bucs without a receiver tied third for burn yards per route (4.0) among receivers with at least 50 targets.

Godwin is on the shelf with torn ligaments in his knee, robbing Tampa of another top pass-catcher who on the list of wideouts with triple-digit targets trails only Evans, Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs with his burn rate of 70.4.

Their absences place Gronkowski's ability to produce elite play at tight end into sharper focus and his efforts at the age of 32 should give great encouragement to Tampa.

Gatecrashing the elite

Gronkowski was long since seen as the gold standard at the tight end position. A mismatch as a receiver and a tremendous blocker, peak Gronk is the blueprint for modern-day NFL tight ends.

But when he re-entered the league after a retirement that lasted only one season, a new order of top tight ends had been established.

George Kittle and Travis Kelce are regarded as the best of the best at tight end, with Darren Waller a tick below that duo. This season, Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert have taken leaps to threaten to join the elite.

Yet in several metrics, it is Gronkowski who stands above that group at the top of the pile.

Gronkowski's burn rate of 72.1 per cent trails only Goedert and Kelce among tight ends with at least 25 targets. However, he is first in burn yards per target (13.00), burn yards per route (3.5) and big play rate (45.7 per cent).

Simply put, no tight end in the NFL has done a better job at creating separation and turning his targets into explosive plays than Gronkowski, whose rapport with Brady shows no sign of dissipating.

Indeed, when he targeted Gronkowski in the regular season, Brady had a passer rating of 113.6. To put that into context, the best overall passer rating this season was Aaron Rodgers' 111.9.

When Brady needed a big play in his final Super Bowl with the Patriots, he turned to Gronkowski, and it was their combination that was arguably the most crucial offensive aspect of the defeat of the Chiefs last year.

With Brown gone and Godwin out, the cupboard is not as well-stocked for the Bucs heading into this postseason, meaning if Brady is to claim ring number eight, he will again need to turn to the man whose renaissance in Tampa is arguably as impressive as his own ceaseless brilliance.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians says it would be a "travesty" if 44-year-old quarterback Tom Brady does not win the MVP award.

Brady had 485 completions from 719 passing attempts for 5,316 yards and 43 touchdown passes across the regular season, which was the league-best across all categories.

The Bucs QB becomes the third quarterback following Drew Brees (2018) and Peyton Manning (2013) to lead the league in all four major statistical categories since 1991. Brady's 485 completions was an NFL single-season record.

Brady produced a three-touchdown display in the Bucs' 41-17 win over the Caroline Panthers on Sunday to reinforce his credentials with the home crowd chanting "MVP!".

"I think if he doesn't get it, it's a travesty," Arians told reporters on Monday. "Most completions ever, 5,000 yards, touchdowns - the whole nine yards. To me, it's not even a close race."

Brady's 5,316 passing yards was also the third-most in NFL history, beating his own personal record of 5,235 yards from 2011.

Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski said: "It just shows what his work ethic is, how dedicated he is to the game of football and just how talented he is.

"Just his determination week in and week out - it's just unbelievable. And it's just surreal how he's pulling it off at age 44 and just coming out here like he's in his 20s still, just winging that ball, zipping it where it needs to be, making fantastic throws week in and week out."

Gronkowski added: "Tom's the MVP every year. Just the way he adjusts on the fly to his personnel, just trying to get the ball into the best players' hands or the best matchup on that current play - he's just always ready to go no matter what the situation is. He's the MVP every year."

Tom Brady was thrilled to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers claim the number two seed in the NFC as he set his sights on the playoffs after reaching a host of new landmarks in Week 18.

The defending Super Bowl champions responded to a turbulent week following the release of Antonio Brown with a comprehensive 41-17 home win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

It meant the Bucs finished at 13-4, a franchise record for victories, and were 7-1 at home, their overall record tying that of the Green Bay Packers for the best in the NFL.

The win, coupled with a defeat for the Los Angeles Rams against the San Francisco 49ers, meant the Bucs improved their seeding in the last game of the season.

While some teams opted to rest their star players going into the playoffs, Brady stayed on the field until the fourth quarter, completing 29 of 37 passes for three touchdowns.

The quarterback's 5,316 passing yards for the 2021 season is his best career total – and the third-highest tally ever recorded in NFL history - while his 43 TDs for the year set a new Bucs record.

Brady became only the second QB in history, along with Drew Brees, to have multiple 5,000-yard seasons.

He also broke a record previously held by Brees (471 in 2016) for the most pass completions in a season, finishing up with 485.

With history made, Brady will now set his sights on the Bucs repeating as Super Bowl champions, which would give him a historic eighth world title if achieved.

They start against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round, and moving ahead of the Rams means they would also be at home in the Divisional Round should they progress. 

"In the end it's a great achievement to get the two-seed and it just felt good to win," said Brady.

"With other teams, you can't ever control any of those things. Even thinking ahead for the next game [in the playoffs] – you are worrying about two games from now. 

"Even if the Rams had won, I'm not worried about two games from now, I'm worried about one game from now, which is the Eagles.

"We've still got the Eagles and that's going to be the biggest game of our season. If we win, whoever we play, wherever we play, we are still going, and that's what we want to do."

On the win over the Panthers, he added: "We got off to a little bit of a rough start but we found a way to get some rhythm, and when we do that it's pretty good. 

"We did a good job of taking care of the football, did a good job with penalties, good job in the red area, good job on third downs. We're going to have to keep it going."

Brady was not the only Bucs player to reach a significant milestone in Week 18.

Wide receiver Mike Evans (six catches for 89 yards and two TDs) extended his own record for the most consecutive seasons (eight) with at least 1,000 receiving yards to begin a career in the NFL.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had seven catches for 137 yards, now has 32 career games with 100+ receiving yards, meaning he now stands alone above Tony Gonzalez atop the all-time list for his position.

Gronkowski had equalled Gonzalez last week and this was the first time since Weeks 5-6 in the 2016 season that he recorded back-to-back 100-yard games.

It is a timely run of form with star wideout Chris Godwin out injured and Brown no longer on the team.

"It's amazing the records [they set]," added Bucs coach Bruce Arians. "It seemed like there were five or six records every week.

"Thirteen wins and it hasn't been easy. We've had a lot of guys down all season so I can't say enough about our front office having a great roster."

Antonio Brown's Tampa Bay Buccaneers career is officially over after his contract was terminated on Thursday.

There was drama when Brown astonishingly made a bizarre exit from the Bucs' win over the New York Jets last Sunday.

Brown removed his jersey and pads and left the field with Tampa Bay trailing 24-10 in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium, the wide receiver jumping in the endzone and waving to fans before running down the tunnel.

He subsequently left the stadium in an Uber and there was never likely to be a way back for the 33-year-old.

Brown accused Tampa Bay of a cover-up in a lengthy statement, revealing he will have surgery on his injured ankle.

He then on Thursday took to social media to post screenshots of text exchanges he had with Bruce Arians last week, informing the Bucs head coach that he was struggling with the ankle problem.

Brown then tweeted: "Don't get it twisted. My brothers have been good to me. From Tom [Brady] to practice squad, we were a top-level unit.

"They have been good to me and knew nothing about my talks with coach last week. The team mishandled this situation. They let me down and, more importantly, my teammates."

Tampa Bay later confirmed Brown has been released.

The franchise said in a statement: "The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have terminated the contract of Antonio Brown, effective immediately.

"While Antonio did receive treatment on his ankle and was listed on the injury report the week leading up to last Sunday's game, he was cleared to play by our medical team prior to the start of the game and at no point during the game did he indicate to our medical personnel that he could not play.

"We have attempted, multiple times throughout this week, to schedule an evaluation by an outside orthopaedic specialist, yet Antonio has not complied.

"Maintaining the health and wellness of our players is of the utmost importance to our organisation."

Antonio Brown has accused the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of a cover-up in a lengthy statement following his bizarre exit from their game with the New York Jets, while also revealing he will have surgery on his injured ankle.

Brown's time with the Buccaneers came to a remarkable end on Sunday when he took off his jersey and pads and left the field with Tampa Bay trailing 24-10 in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium, the wide receiver jumping in the endzone and waving to fans before running down the tunnel. He subsequently left the stadium in an Uber.

After the Bucs' comeback win, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said Brown was "no longer a Buc".

Brown has yet to be officially released, but the four-time first-team All-Pro claims that happened on the sideline and, in a statement released through his lawyer Sean Burstyn, hit back at accusations he quit on his team.

Explaining last Sunday's incident, the statement read in part: "I relented to pressure directly from my coach to play injured. Despite the pain, I suited up, the staff injected me with what I now know was a powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller that the NFLPA has warned against using, and I gave it my all for the team. I played until it was clear that I could not use my ankle to safely perform my playing responsibilities.

"On top of that, the pain was extreme. I took a seat on the sideline and my coach came up to me, very upset, and shouted, "What's wrong with you? What's wrong with you?" I told him, "It's my ankle." But he knew that.

"He then ordered me to get on the field. I said, "Coach, I can't". He didn't call for medical attention. Instead, he shouted at me, "YOU'RE DONE!" while he ran his finger across his throat. Coach was telling me that if I didn't play hurt, then I was done with the Bucs.

"I didn't quit, I was cut. I didn't walk away from my brothers. I was thrown out. Being fired on the sideline for having a painful injury was bad enough. Then came their "spin". Coach denied on national television that he knew about my ankle. That's 100% inaccurate.

"I am reflecting on my reaction, but there was a trigger. The trigger was someone telling me that I'm not allowed to feel pain. I acknowledge my past. But my past does not make me a second-class citizen. My past does not forfeit my right to be heard when I am in pain."

Brown revealed he will have surgery after an MRI showed he has bone fragments in his ankle. He claims the MRI has been read by two top orthopedic surgeons but that the Bucs are attempting to force him to get another opinion from a more "junior" physician.

"As part of their ongoing cover-up, they are acting like I wasn't cut and now demanding I see a doctor of their choice to examine my ankle," the statement continued.

"What they did not know until now is that that on Monday morning I had an urgent MRI on my ankle. It shows broken bone fragments stuck in my ankle, the ligament torn from the bone, and cartilage loss. You can see the bone bulging from the outside. That must and can be repaired. The MRI has been read by two top orthopedic surgeons in NYC, including Dr. Martin O'Malley at Hospital for Special Surgery.

"Not realising that I had already scheduled a surgery at HSS, the Bucs 'ordered' me under penalty of discipline and with a few hours' notice to show up to a more junior doctor at HSS for another opinion. What a joke. They're playing like I wasn't cut, giving me a surprise attack "order" to show up to another doctor with no reasonable notice, and setting this whole thing up as a basis to cut me because what they did on Sunday was not legitimate.

"What the organisation is doing now needs to get cleaned up. I do not understand how people publicly claiming to be concerned about my mental health can do these things to me in private.

"Once my surgery is complete, I'll be back to 100 percent and looking forward to next season. Business gonna be BOOMIN!"

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