TAMPA, Fla. - Tom Brady threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns Sunday, helping the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinch the fifth seed in the NFC with a 44-27 regular season-ending win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The victory, which means the Bucs (11-5) will face the NFC East champion, Washington or the Giants, on the road in the club’s first postseason game in 13 years, may have come with a steep cost.
Star receiver Mike Evans was carted to the locker room with a left knee injury late in the first quarter and did not return.
Brady threw touchdown passes of 29 and 4 yards to Chris Godwin. The six-time Super Bowl champion also tossed scoring passes of 25 and 30 yards to Antonio Brown, finishing with a Tampa Bay single-season record 40 in his first season with the Bucs.
Brady also joined Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino as the only players with multiple seasons of at least 40 TD passes. Rodgers has done it three times, the others twice.
Evans was injured one play after a 20-yard reception made him the first player in NFL history to begin a career with seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. The 6-foot-5, 231-pound receiver was helped to his feet and tried to walk off with assistance from a trainer. Unable to put his weight on the knee, he finished the trip to the locker room on a cart and was later taken for a MRI.
Matt Ryan completed 29 of 44 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns for the Falcons (4-12), who finished a distressing season that claimed the jobs of former coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff after an 0-5 start.
Ryan scored on a 1-yard sneak and also threw scoring passes of 19 yards to Russell Gage and 1 yard to Hayden Hurst. The latter trimmed Atlanta’s deficit to 30-27 before Brady put the game away with two late drives.
Brown had his most productive day since joining the Bucs midway through the season with 11 catches for 138 yards. Godwin had five receptions for 133 yards, while Evans had three catches for 46 yards before leaving the game.
Falcons: Wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) missed his fourth consecutive game, finishing the season with 51 receptions for 771 yards and three touchdowns in nine games. ... Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (groin) left in the first half and did not return.
Buccaneers: Cornerback Carlton Davis sat out for the second straight week with a groin injury. ... RB LeSean McCoy was inactive. He didn’t practice late in the week, however, the team said it was not injury related.
Falcons: will have a busy offseason, beginning by hiring a general manager and coach. Interim coach Raheem Morris was interviewed for the full-time job last week. He took over on Oct. 12 and went 4-7.
Buccaneers: make their first playoff appearance in 13 years. They haven’t won a postseason game since their Super Bowl championship run to end the 2002 season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.