On a team of aged veterans, youth came through late in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' thrilling 17-16 come-from-behind victory over division rival New Orleans.
Rookie tight end Cade Otton scored the first touchdown of the comeback on a 1-yard pass from Tom Brady. Then with eight seconds in the game, rookie running back Rachaad White ran an excellent route for a 6-yard score to earn the W.
"They're really great players, really great young men and they help us win," receiver Mike Evans said of the youngsters scoring the pivotal points. "That's why they're in there."
The Bucs entered the 2022 NFL season with the oldest roster -- not surprising when your quarterback is 45. When Tampa needed a play Monday in a pivotal NFC South game, the youngsters stepped up.
"I'm just grateful, honestly -- coach called the play, we've been working it all week in practice," White said of the game-winning TD. "I was just grateful he called my name. I ran the route, I was in the spot I was supposed to be in, I see Tom throw the ball, I was just going to catch it and do whatever I could to get in the end zone and that's what happened. So, I'm just very grateful and blessed. …
"It's all still kind of a daze. Honestly, I'm just happy we got the win, that's all I can think about. Regardless of how we did, I'm just happy we got the win."
White has become a key cog in the Bucs' offense of late, and while he was outrushed by Leonard Fournette on Monday, it was the rookie on the field for the biggest third-down play.
"I know we had it dialed up during the week, it was Rachaad's play all week," Bowles said of the TD. "He got him in there and he made the play."
Otton finished with 10 targets Monday night, second only to Chris Godwin's 13, hauling in six for 28 yards and one TD. But, on a team with big names all over the receiver corps, it was Otton who Brady kept targeting on quick passes and when under pressure.
The rookies earned the G.O.A.T.'s trust.
"It's so surreal. There are times where I'm in the huddle and I look around and see who I am in the huddle with. It's just so unbelievable to me," Otton said. "At the same time, you hear the play, you line up and you have a job to do. That is the biggest thing I focus on is doing my job and doing it to the best of my ability."
A walking carcass of a club at times this season, the Bucs needed to find some young playmakers to inject life into the operation. Those rookies stepped up massive Monday, pushing Tampa to 6-6 and what might be an insurmountable lead in a woeful NFC South.