The Philadelphia Eagles have bolstered their defense with the signing of Ryan Kerrigan.

Defensive end Kerrigan has spent 10 seasons with the Washington Football Team after being picked in the first round of the 2011 draft.

A four-time Pro Bowler, Kerrigan holds the Washington franchise record for sacks with 95.5, which are the fifth-most in the NFL since 2011.

"I'll never be able to sum up what these past 10 years have meant to me in an Instagram post, but what I can say is that they have been some of the best of my life," Kerrigan wrote in a farewell message to Washington on Instagram. 

"I hope you had as much fun watching me as I did playing for you. Thank you, Washington, for everything."

In a subsequent post announcing his signing with Washington's NFC East rivals the Eagles, he wrote: "I know I probably wasn't your favourite player over the past decade, but @philadelphiaeagles fans I'm fired up to be playing for you guys now!"

He joins a Philadelphia defense that was seventh in the NFL in forcing negative passing plays in 2020 with 53 for minus 349 yards.

The Eagles are not short on talented pass rushers. Brandon Graham was fifth in the league among edge rushers last season with a pressure rate of 23.5 per cent, while Josh Sweat's adjusted sack rate of 4.4 per cent was marginally better than that of Kerrigan (4.3) in 2020.

Interior defensive lineman Fletcher Cox had 6.5 sacks and has at least 5.5 sacks in five of his past six seasons.

The Eagles will hope the addition of Kerrigan to an already talented defensive front will help them bounce back from a 4-11-1 season under new head coach Nick Sirianni.

Alex Smith has announced his retirement from the NFL, despite the quarterback admitting he still feels to have "plenty of snaps" left in him.

The first overall pick in the 2005 draft, Smith started out with the San Francisco 49ers before going on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Football Team.

The 36-year-old's career was in jeopardy when he suffered a gruesome leg injury in November 2018, leading to 17 operations and - having avoided the need for his leg to be amputated - a lengthy rehabilitation regime.

However, he made his return to action for Washington in a 2020 season that saw the franchise win the NFC East to make the playoffs and Smith named Comeback Player of the Year by the Associated Press.

Released in the offseason, he initially indicated a desire to carry on playing but released an Instagram video on Monday confirming the end of his 16-year career in the league.

"Two years ago, I was stuck in a wheelchair staring down at my mangled leg and wondering if I would ever be able to go on a walk with my wife again or play games with my kids in the yard," Smith said.

"Putting my helmet back on was the furthest thing from my mind. I just kept asking myself: 'All this for a stupid game?'.

"Then someone did something that changed my recovery completely – he put a football back in my hands. I don't know what it was, but all of a sudden, I felt stronger, more driven. What once seemed impossible began to come into focus."

Smith was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2004, his final year of college football with the University of Utah before entering the draft.

The signal-caller threw for 35,650 yards with 199 touchdowns and 109 interceptions in the NFL. He completed 62.6 per cent of his pass attempts and ends with an overall QB rating of 86.9.

There were also 15 rushing touchdowns, five of which came in the 2016 campaign when he helped the Chiefs to the first of five successive divisional titles in the AFC West.

"Even though I've got plenty of snaps left in me, after 16 years of giving this game everything I've got, I can't wait to see what else is possible," Smith said towards the end of a montage that included clips of his arduous recovery process.

"But first, I'm going to take a little time to enjoy some of those walks with my wife, and my kids have no idea what is coming for them in the back yard."

Winning the NFC East in 2020 is unlikely to take pride of place on many CVs.

The Washington Football Team came through the worst division in football with a 7-9 record before falling at the first hurdle in the playoffs, battling hard before being beaten by eventual Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But as well as scraping together the most wins, a strange season provided Washington with greater cause for optimism than their divisional rivals.

Ron Rivera's team were particularly strong on defense, as a lack of top-level production at the quarterback position prevented them from being anything more than the best of a bad bunch.

That is evidenced by Stats Perform data, but Washington's offseason moves to date suggest they should get better in 2021.

Offense

Washington had three different starters at quarterback last year, rarely the sign of an effective offensive unit.

And none of Dwayne Haskins (six starts), Alex Smith (six) or Kyle Allen (four) are set to line up under center in the coming campaign following the recruitment of Ryan Fitzpatrick. The new QB ended 2020 as a backup on a non-playoff team in Miami but still undoubtedly offers an upgrade, having played some of the best football of his career in recent seasons.

 

Washington ranked 25th for net passing yards per game (216.6), albeit that still had them second in the division in that regard.

Haskins, a first-round pick in 2019, was released in December after he was pictured partying without a mask at a strip club following a defeat to the Seattle Seahawks and then completed just 50.0 per cent of 28 passes, with no touchdowns and two interceptions, against the Carolina Panthers, earning a wretched passer rating of 36.9.

Among qualifying QBs - 224 attempts for the season - only Nick Foles (5.94) trailed Haskins in yards per attempt (5.97), while his passer rating of 73.0 was third-worst behind Sam Darnold (72.7) and Carson Wentz (72.8).

Haskins was only playing against Seattle and Carolina because Smith, back from his awful, life-threatening leg injury, was out again. Smith won his final five starts of 2020 but finished the year close behind Haskins, with a seventh-worst 6.28 yards per attempt and fifth-worst 78.5 passer rating, and has since been cut.

For Fitzpatrick, this is a low bar to clear.

But the former Dolphins QB should also have the benefit of greater talent on the end of his passes, with wide receiver Teddy McLaurin carrying the load for Washington in 2020 with 87 catches on 134 targets for 1,118 yards and four touchdowns.

McLaurin ranked 14th in the league for receiving yards per game (74.5), with Logan Thomas the team's next best performer in 64th (41.9).

On the ground, Antonio Gibson found more help, effectively protected by his offensive line as he rushed for 170 carries, 795 yards and 11 TDs.

But Washington's total offense put up just 317.3 yards per game and 4.83 per play, ranking 30th and 31st. Improvement should come easy but is desperately required.

Defense

If those offensive yardage numbers effectively sum up Washington's woes on that side of the ball, the figures going the other way do a similar job.

Washington allowed a meagre 304.6 yards per game and 4.85 per play, totals only undercut by the Los Angeles Rams' outstanding defensive unit. Opponents scored just 329 points, the fourth-fewest in the NFL.

Blessed with the star performers that were absent elsewhere in the team, the defense made light work of the other similarly poor NFC East offenses.

Washington have found incredible value up front, where defensive ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young and defensive tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen are all still on their rookie contracts.

Sweat led the team in sacks (9.5 for 83.0 yards), QB hits (20) and tackles for loss (12) and scored a defensive TD on his only pick, while Young was not far behind (7.5 sacks, 12 QB hits, 10 TFL, four forced fumbles and three recovered). Payne had 3.0 sacks, eight QB hits and seven TFL, as Allen had 2.0, 14 and three.

Sweat, Young and Payne also combined to stuff 16.0 runs, contributing to Washington's impressive record in forcing stoppages. Only Pittsburgh's defense (25.0) allowed a lower percentage of conversions on fourth down (37.5).

These players will have to be paid eventually if a talented quartet of the future is to stay together, but these are not worries for this year.

The big defensive offseason questions instead lay elsewhere, notably how would Washington replace cornerback Ronald Darby's production with 16 passes defensed? The signing of William Jackson III has already answered that query.

Offseason

Jackson's three-year, $40.5million signing has been Washington's biggest outlay in free agency, his 11 passes defensed ensuring they should again have a top performer at corner.

The team clearly recognised they could not afford to weaken the strongest area of their roster.

Another safety could yet be of use, although Kamren Curl (63 tackles, three interceptions and a defensive TD) and Landon Collins, recovering from a torn Achilles, are both on the books.

On the offense, Fitzpatrick's one-year, $10m deal showed exactly how Washington see his signing. The 39-year-old is neither a long-term solution nor a game-changer but should instead do enough to keep his new team at the top of the division.

To help the veteran - and McLaurin - the team made a big pick-up at receiver in the form of Curtis Samuel, a second-round draft pick during Rivera's time with the Panthers.

He arrives for three years and $34.5m, having posted a career-high 1,051 yards (851 receiving, 200 rushing) in 2020, along with five TDs.

But Washington still have not quite gone all in - not that they need to.

Even if they do not look a genuine contender at this stage, the team's defense will keep them in most games.

With $20.9m of cap space remaining and their first-round pick at 19, Washington are instead well positioned to seize on any unexpected opportunities that come their way.

It might only take a crazy trade from a team in turmoil or a lucky bounce in a big game to bring the NFC East champions to the fore.

Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel is expected to sign with the Washington Football Team.

According to ESPN and NFL Network on Wednesday, Samuel is signing a three-year contract worth $34.5million in Washington.

Samuel will reunite with Washington head coach Ron Rivera, who coached the 24-year-old during his first three seasons in Carolina.

A second-round draft pick in 2017, Samuel had a career-best 77 catches for 851 yards and 41 rushes for 200 yards last season as the Panthers (5-11) missed the playoffs.

In 53 career games Samuel has 185 receptions for 2,087 yards and 14 touchdown receptions and 478 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.

Washington (7-9) topped the NFC East in 2020, but lost to eventual Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers n the Wild Card Round.

Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera praised Alex Smith for his impact on a young roster after the franchise confirmed the departure of the veteran quarterback.

Friday's announcement came as no surprise, considering there had been widespread reports of Smith's impending release at the start of the week.

The 36-year-old was pivotal in helping Washington rally from a 2-7 record to win the NFC East and qualify for the playoffs, throwing for 1,582 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions after stepping in to take over as starter from Kyle Allen.

However, the former number one overall pick was sidelined by a calf issue for the Wild Card loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Taylor Heinicke started instead and, having done well in his limited opportunities at the back end of the season, was handed a new two-year contract in February. 

Smith was voted as the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year by the Associated Press having recovered from a career-threatening leg injury to resume his career, though he is now looking for a new home after Washington agreed to cut him.

"I had a chance to meet with Alex Smith this week and we had a very honest and real discussion," Rivera said in a statement released by Washington. "We had the chance to reflect on the 2020 season and talk about moving forward into the next year. 

"After the conclusion of that meeting, we decided that it would be best for both parties to move on, and we will be granting Alex his request to be released. 

"I want to thank Alex for his contributions this past year. He made such an impact on our young roster and his leadership was one of the key factors in our late-season success, and in making the playoffs for the first time since 2015. 

"Everyone here in Washington wishes Alex and his family the best going forward and appreciates all that he gave to our organisation."

Smith, who previously played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, made clear in an interview with GQ last month that he intends to carry on playing in 2021, insisting he had "got more left" following his long road to recovery.

He underwent 17 operations and overcame sepsis after suffering a compound fracture injury to his right leg in a game against the Houston Texans in November 2018.

Alex Smith will need to find a new home if he wants to carry on playing as the Washington Football Team reportedly plan to release the quarterback.  

Smith's return to action from a gruesome leg injury was one of the feel-good stories of the 2020 NFL season; the 36-year-old was named Comeback Player of the Year by the Associated Press after throwing for 1,582 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions.  

However, according to a report by NFL Network duo Ian Rapoport and Kim Jones, Washington are expected to part ways with the player in the coming days. 

His career had previously appeared in serious jeopardy after he suffered a compound fracture of his right leg during a game against the Houston Texans in November 2018. Following initial surgery, Smith developed necrotising fasciitis – a rare but serious bacterial infection – and sepsis.  

After a total of 17 operations and having avoided the need for the leg to be amputated, he went through a lengthy and arduous rehabilitation regime before returning to the active roster last year.  

Smith was called to duty when Washington starter Kyle Allen was hurt in the Week 5 game against the Los Angeles Rams. His family were there to witness him play again too, though it proved to be a tough outing: he was sacked six times while completing nine of his 17 pass attempts for 37 yards in a 30-10 defeat.  

Allen resumed starting duties before a serious ankle injury against the New York Giants in Week 9 put an end to his campaign. Smith again stepped in, throwing for one score and three interceptions in a 23-20 defeat. There were career-high numbers for passing attempts (55), completions (38) and yards (390) the following week in a loss to the Detroit Lions, at which stage the franchise had a 2-7 record.  

Yet Smith celebrated a first win as a starter in 754 days against the Cincinnati Bengals, the first of five in a row for Washington under his stewardship as they rallied to clinch the NFC East title.  

A calf issue denied him the chance to play in the Wild Card playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though. Taylor Heinicke started instead and, having done well in his limited opportunities under head coach Ron Rivera, was handed a new two-year deal in February.  

Smith - who previously played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs - will seemingly not be back for the 2021 season. 

Taylor Heinicke has re-signed with Washington for two years after the stand-in quarterback impressed in the team's losing playoff bid.

The 27-year-old has penned an extension worth a reported $8.75 million, marking a remarkable turnaround for a man whose NFL career looked to be heading for an early finish.

Heinicke stepped in after Alex Smith, who steered Washington to the divisional title in Week 17, failed to overcome a calf injury in time to start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He threw for 306 yards and a touchdown, as well as rushing for 46 yards and a further score, in a 31-23 playoff defeat for the NFC East champions to the Bucs.

Having been set for restricted free agency, Heinicke was delighted to be given a new lease of life.

"It's a good feeling," Heinicke, who is studying for an engineering degree, told Washington's website.

"Everyone knows I was at home taking math classes...so for this contact to come, it's a big sigh of relief.

"I'm really excited. This is the place I wanted to be, so everything came together pretty smoothly, and I'm really excited to be back."

Marty Schottenheimer, the coach with the eighth highest number of wins in NFL history, has died at died at the age of 77.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014, and died on Monday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, his family said in a statement.

Known for his passionate pre-game speeches and a smash-mouth brand of football that spawned the term 'Martyball', Schottenheimer went 200-126-1 in regular-season games from 1984 to 2006 while coaching the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, and the then Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers.

Current Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said: "My heart goes out to the Schottenheimer family. Marty was a friend and someone I admired greatly.

"He was an outstanding mentor to me as a young football coach, and one of the most passionate coaches I've ever been around. He did things the right way. He was great for the league and really revived this franchise during his time here. I'm honoured I had a chance to get to know him and his family. My thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time."

Schottenheimer's coaching career began in Cleveland in 1984, and two seasons later he led the franchise to the first of back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game. Both times, however, they lost to the Denver Broncos, and both times in heartbreaking fashion.

Postseason shortcomings will forever be associated with Schottenheimer, who was just 5-13 in the playoffs.

After mutually agreeing to leave the Browns following the 1988 season, he coached the Chiefs from 1989-98 and led Kansas City to six consecutive playoff berths from 1990-95, but his teams only won postseason games in two of those seasons.

He then spent one season with the team now known as the Washington Football Team, going 8-8 in 2001, before coaching the Chargers from 2002-06, where he once again enjoyed some regular-season success without a single playoff win to show for it.

In 2006, his Chargers were 14-2 and had the AFC’s top seed but lost to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots 24-21 in the divisional round. A month after that defeat he was fired.

In his 21 seasons as coach, his teams won 10 or more games 11 times – including five seasons with 12 or more victories – but he never made it to the Super Bowl.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been crowned the NFL's MVP for a third time.

Rodgers was honoured during Saturday's awards – on the eve of Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – as he added to his 2011 and 2014 MVPs.

The 37-year-old is now level with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, Packers great Brett Favre, Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown with three Most Valuable Player honours – only Peyton Manning (five) has more in NFL history.

The Packers fell short in the NFC Conference Game, beaten by Super Bowl finalists the Buccaneers, but Rodgers still enjoyed a memorable campaign.

Packers star Rodgers amassed 48 touchdowns, five interceptions and a completion rate of 70.7 per cent this season.

His quarterback rating of 121.5 puts him second on the all-time list among qualifiers, behind only his 2011 campaign (122.5).

In total, Rodgers completed 372 of 526 attempts for 4,299 yards as the Packers topped the NFC North with a 13-3 record to clinch home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion during the 2010 season – featured in his first NFC title decider at Lambeau Field, but the Packers fell to Brady's Buccaneers 31-26.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald won the Defensive Player of the Year for a third time.

Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt had been tipped to win the award, but Donald maintained his dominance, having also reigned supreme in 2017 and 2018.

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski claimed the Coach of the Year award after leading the franchise to their first postseason victory in 25 years.

Not since the 1994 season had the Browns won a playoff matchup, until upstaging the Steelers before losing to the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round.

 

List of NFL Honors

Rookie of the Year: Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert
Defensive Player of the Year: Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert
Offensive Player of the Year: Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Washington DE Chase Young
Comeback Player of the Year: Washington QB Alex Smith
Coach of the Year: Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski
Most Valuable Player: Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

The NFL crowned its two top rookies on Saturday as Chase Young and Justin Herbert claimed deserved recognition for stunning first years in the league. 

Defensive Rookie of the Year Young, the second overall pick in the 2020 draft, had long since been the frontrunner for that award.

His case was helped substantially by the pivotal role he played in propelling the Washington Football Team to an unlikely playoff berth as part of a fearsome defensive front.

Herbert was not given the chance to test himself in the playoffs as the Los Angeles Chargers' mystifying tendency for throwing away leads condemned them to another losing season.

But the Chargers can afford to be confident that better days are ahead, Herbert looked every inch a franchise quarterback as he subverted pre-draft expectations that were not as high as those placed on former Heisman Trophy finalist Young.

Both Young and Herbert look poised to have a defining impact on the NFL over the course of the 2020s and here, using Stats Perform data, we look back on their magnificent maiden years.

Chase Young

Just like his fellow former Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa, drafted second overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 2019, Young emphatically lived up to his draft status, becoming the fourth ex-Buckeye to win Defensive Rookie of the Year in the last five seasons (DE Joey Bosa, 2016; CB Marshon Lattimore, 2017; DE Nick Bosa, 2019).

He did so through making the lives of opposing offensive linemen miserable, leading rookies in every metric that measures pass rush.

Young's 7.5 sacks were first among all rookies, while he also led the way hurries (37), knockdowns (12.5), quarterback hits (12) and total pressures (55).

Similarly dominant against the run, Young was first among all rookies with 10 tackles for loss and six stuffs, his performance in the latter category putting him tied-13th among all defenders.

He demonstrated a nose for the football, his four forced fumbles tied third in the NFL. Three of those resulted in turnovers, with only Myles Garrett (4) performing better in that regard.

Young's game-wrecking rookie year proved his pre-draft billing was well deserved and, in the eyes of many, vindicated taking him ahead of the other quarterbacks not named Joe Burrow.

However, the success of the Chargers' gamble on a quarterback seen as a level below Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa raises the question of whether Washington would have been better served taking a chance on Herbert.

Justin Herbert

After making his first start in Week 2 amid unusual circumstances, Herbert's rookie season was one defined by him setting rookie records.

Herbert is the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season having not played the opener, Week 1 starter Tyrod Taylor sidelined after a team doctor accidentally punctured his lung while administering a painkilling injection.

His 4,336 passing yards rank second all-time among rookie quarterbacks behind Andrew Luck, who racked up 4,374 with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.

With his completion percentage of 66.6 trailing only Dak Prescott's 67.8 in 2016, Herbert set all-time leading marks for rookie quarterbacks in completions (396), passing yards per game (289.1), passing touchdowns (31) and 300-yard games, of which he recorded eight.

Just three players - Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Tom Brady - finished with a higher yards per game average in the regular season in 2020.

Herbert's name already being in such elite company indicates he is primed to make the leap to the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks, provided Los Angeles can build an ecosystem to make the most of his undoubted gifts, and it unquestionably makes him worthy of being the first Charger to win Offensive Rookie of the Year since Don Woods in 1974.

Few anticipated Herbert outperforming both Burrow and Tagovailoa in his rookie season. While Young's incredible first year is an endorsement for betting on freakish athleticism on defense, Herbert's record-setting start to what the Chargers hope will be a storied career serves as further evidence of the significantly more imposing challenge that comes with evaluating quarterbacks.

Taylor Heinicke was not able to draw up a famous win for Washington on Saturday, but the quarterback studying for an engineering degree may have laid the foundations for his future in the NFL.

Heinicke threw for 306 yards and a touchdown, as well as rushing for 46 yards and a further score, in a 31-23 playoff defeat for the NFC East champions to Tampa Bay.

Those stack up as impressive numbers for someone who was not even meant to be playing in the Wild Card game in the first place.

Alex Smith had steered Washington to the divisional title in Week 17, yet he failed to overcome a calf injury in time to start against the Buccaneers.

With their first-choice option ruled out, Washington turned to a 27-year-old they had only signed to their practice squad in early December, an undrafted quarterback who had spent time with four other teams in the league and who had previously thrown a grand total of 58 pass attempts in his NFL career.

The new addition did catch the eye when coming in to replace the underperforming Dwayne Haskins, Washington's first-round pick in 2019, in the fourth quarter of a Week 16 defeat to the Carolina Panthers. Still, this was different. This was the playoffs. This was a game against Tom Brady. This was in primetime.

While there was no fairytale result for the underdog in the end, Heinicke emerged as the headline story from the opening day of the postseason.

His performance made him just the third quarterback to have at least 300 passing yards and 40 rushing yards in a playoff debut, a feat previously achieved by Daunte Culpepper and Tim Tebow (who both won, by the way).

"I have nothing but respect for number four," Washington receiver Terry McLaurin said of his quarterback after the loss.

"The way he came in and handled his business on a moment's notice when we found out that Alex wasn't going to be able to go. He was just prepared for the moment. That's what this league is about, being prepared for your moment."

So, what's next for the new hero? Heinicke is set to become a free agent but made clear in the aftermath that he would like to be back with Washington. The franchise ended the Haskins experiment considerably early by releasing him last month and while Smith is still under contract, he will be 37 by the time the next regular season begins.

Head coach Ron Rivera - who described his quarterback's display as "gutsy" - would not be drawn over the team's plans for the future in the immediate aftermath.

"We'll see what happens. I was just very proud of what he did, coming out and competing the way he did and helping us get where we are today," Rivera, who had previously worked with Heinicke at the Carolina Panthers, told the media.

There may be alternative options elsewhere too, considering plenty will have seen what Heinicke produced against the Bucs. At the very least, he profiles as a solid back-up in a sport where they are coveted – teams are willing to pay to have a reliable understudy waiting in the wings.

"I'm proud of myself and I'm happy that coaches believed in me and gave me the opportunity. Hopefully I can do it again next year," Heinicke said.

"I want to be in the NFL, I want to keep playing ball. It's a dream of mine and [I will] keep working towards it."

Heinicke should get his wish to keep playing, whether that be in Washington again or somewhere else.

Tom Brady wants the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to show a greater killer instinct after missing chances in their road win at the Washington Football Team.

The Bucs won their first postseason match since the 2002 campaign on Saturday, beating Washington 31-23 in their first playoff game in 14 years.

Brady threw for 381 yards and recorded his 75th career postseason touchdown after setting up Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin.

The 43-year-old, now the oldest player in history to throw a touchdown pass in an NFL playoff match, dropped deeper to pick his targets and frustrate a Washington pass rush that recorded 47 sacks in the regular season.

Brady, who led the regular-season standings for downfield passes of 20 yards or more, threw for two touchdowns over the same distance in a postseason game for the first time in his remarkable career.

Still, he was frustrated at certain missed opportunities, notably when he was sacked by Daron Payne and when Godwin made three drops, which allowed Washington nine unanswered points in a third quarter that threatened to derail the Bucs' endeavours.

"We hit some big plays, made some chunks," Brady said. "I think just not scoring enough in the red [zone] was probably the thing that bothers us, [we] missed a two-point play, had other opportunities to score but just didn't quite take advantage of it.

"We moved the ball okay. I think we had decent yardage. But at the end of the day, it comes down to points, and we've got to do a better job scoring more points - and we'll work on that next week."

Brady was full of praise for wide receiver Mike Evans, who recorded a team-high six catches on 10 targets for 119 receiving yards, all after recovering from a hyperextended knee in Week 17.

"Mike played his butt off," Brady said. "He got hurt last week. We weren't sure if he was going to go or not. [He] just did an incredible job fighting through it and made a bunch of big plays when we needed it."

The match mostly belonged to Brady, though, the six-time Super Bowl winner making history as he became the oldest player to throw a touchdown pass in the playoffs, overtaking George Blanda in the 1970 AFC Championship game.

"Come on, that's Tom Brady," said team-mate Leonard Fournette said. "I haven't got to think too much about that. That's the boy. We've got faith in him. We're going to protect our butts off for him to make sure he gets that throw. That's our job."

Tom Brady posted a vintage post-season performance as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held off the Washington Football Team, 31-23, in the Wild Card round to advance in the NFL playoffs.

The 43-year-old showed his class at FedExField and clinched his 31st post-season victory, his first for the fifth-seed Bucs, while throwing for 381 yards and recording his 75th career post-season touchdown with scoring passes to Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin.

Led by rookie revelation Chase Young, Washington’s defense kept the NFC East champions in contention and stand-in quarterback Taylor Heinicke led an impressive comeback attempt but was unable to force Ron Rivera’s side back into the Wild Card contest.

Brady, 43, became the oldest player to throw a pass in an NFL playoff game as he led the Bucs on a 55-yard opening drive for a field goal before Heinicke, replacing starter Alex Smith who was sidelined with a calf injury, raced into Tampa Bay territory but his tipped pass ended up in the hands of Sean Murphy-Bunting for an interception.

Ex-Patriots signal caller, Brady, took advantage of the strong field position to find wide receiver Brown with a 36-yard play-action pass to extend the lead to nine, as kicker Ryan Succop’s extra point was blocked.

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