Tom Brady reminded the Carolina Panthers and the rest of the NFL world why he is considered the greatest football player of all time with a monster performance in the team’s victory on Sunday.

Brady had three touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 30-24 victory over the Panthers and clinch the NFC South title.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion found Mike Evans twice in the fourth quarter. The first touchdown came with 13:49 remaining and answered a touchdown pass from Sam Darnold to Shi Smith. The Brady-Evans touchdown went for 57 yards and cut the deficit to five points.

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Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans celebrates after scoring against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Tampa, Florida.
(AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

The Buccaneers took the lead on Brady’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Evans. Tampa Bay went up three points after the two-point conversion. The defense would then force a Darnold fumble and Brady would get to the goal line on Tampa Bay’s second play after the turnover and score on a tip-off.

Brady finished the game 34 of 45 with 432 passing yards and had three touchdown passes, all to Evans. It was the first time he’s passed 400 yards since Week 16 against the New York Jets.

Evans and Godwin each had 100 or more receiving yards. Evans finished with 10 receptions for 207 yards. Godwin had nine receptions for 120 yards.

The Buccaneers’ defense also played strong.

GIANTS GET FIRST PLACE TO THE PLAYOFFS SINCE 2016 IN BIG WIN VS COLTS

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold is sacked by Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Tampa.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold is sacked by Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Tampa.
(AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

Despite allowing 24 points, the Tampa Bay defense kept the offense in the game and allowed Brady to score at the most opportune moments. The team recovered two fumbles and picked off Darnold once.

Darnold finished 22 of 36 with 316 passing yards with three touchdown passes and an interception to Sean Murphy-Bunting.

DJ Moore led the way with six catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Smith had four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. Tommy Tremble had three catches for 33 yards and a touchdown.

Three Panthers were in double figures in tackles: Frankie Luvu (13), Jeremy Chinn (12) and Shaq Thompson (12).

All Tampa Bay needed to do in Week 17 was win and they would be in. They did exactly that. It is the third consecutive season that the Buccaneers will be in the playoffs and it is the second time in a row that the organization can be called the champion of the NFC South.

For Brady, the victory allowed him to avoid missing the playoffs. He has made every postseason since 2008, when he missed the entire year with a devastating knee injury.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is sacked by Carolina Panthers defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Tampa.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is sacked by Carolina Panthers defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Tampa.
(AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

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The division title caps a wild regular season that didn’t look like Tampa Bay was going to pull it off as injuries mounted and the offense seemed out of sync for most of the year. But now, the Buccaneers are warming up entering the most important part of the year.

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