TAMPA, Fla. — This wasn’t the type of historical past Tom Brady got here out of retirement to make.
Earlier than Sunday, the Buccaneers quarterback had been 89-0 in his profession in dwelling video games the place he leads by 17 factors or extra at any level within the recreation. Simply three losses in 23 NFL seasons, interval, as soon as he had such an enormous cushion.
And by some means the Bucs went from main the Bengals 17-0 simply earlier than halftime — hey, that is how they’re able to taking part in once more — to Brady committing 4 turnovers in a span of 10 offensive performs, serving to the Bengals to a stunning 34-23 comeback victory.
“Turnovers kill you, and so they killed us right this moment,” mentioned Brady, who dedicated 4 turnovers mixed within the first 11 video games of this season. “It isn’t the way in which we have to (play) with a purpose to win, and that is definitely not how I must play with a purpose to win … We actually simply gave them the ball.”
Up 14 on the half and lose by 11 factors or extra? That had occurred simply 4 instances to any NFL workforce since 1987, just below 35 years, and the Bucs pulled it off Sunday, discovering a brand new and much more confounding solution to lose.
Per week earlier, they trailed 28-0 on the half, shedding 35-7 on the 49ers. They’ve misplaced twice — to the Packers and Steelers — on missed two-point conversions. They misplaced on a one-handed fourth-down landing catch within the remaining minute to arrange an additional time loss.
Regardless of all these losses — eight now, essentially the most ever for a workforce with Brady as beginning quarterback — the Bucs have the odd comfort of nonetheless being in first place within the NFC South, one recreation forward of three 5-9 groups and nonetheless very a lot in charge of their playoff future.
“All you are able to do is combat,” coach Todd Bowles mentioned after the sport. “You possibly can combat, you may play smarter, you may coach smarter, and we’ve got to maintain preventing. We perceive that what we’re doing is just not adequate, by far. It isn’t even near adequate, and we’ve got three video games left to avoid wasting our season.”
The Bucs play on Christmas at Arizona, which simply misplaced quarterback Kyler Murray to a season-ending knee harm, and is 4-10 and has misplaced 4 in a row and 6 of seven. Win there and at dwelling on New 12 months’s Day in opposition to Carolina (which beat them 20-3 in Charlotte this season) and Tampa Bay will clinch back-to-back division titles for the primary time of their historical past, incomes a house playoff recreation.
Possibilities apart, that appears laborious to think about, given how the Bucs performed within the second half Sunday, up 17-3 and in full management of the sport.
Going through a fourth-and-1 from their 26-yard line, Bowles known as for a faux punt, however because the ball was snapped on to backup operating again Gio Bernard, he did not appear to count on it, and the ball bounced off the aspect of his helmet and he was tackled for a turnover on downs. Even then, the Bucs protection held the Bengals to only a discipline purpose and stored a 17-6 lead.
Then a buzzsaw of 4 Brady turnovers in 4 drives, main to a few Bengals touchdowns and a 27-17 lead. Brady had a go intercepted by Tre Flowers, fumbled on a sack after which fumbled on a handoff to Leonard Fournette. The Bengals solely needed to go 31, 13 and 39 yards for his or her touchdowns, this after getting the ball on the Bucs’ 13 off the faux punt. If there have been any likelihood of bouncing again for a comeback, Brady threw one other interception on the following drive, for 4 turnovers in a span of 10 offensive performs.
“We’re pissed off,” Bowles mentioned of his locker room after the sport. “It is the identical outdated track. It is Bucs vs. Bucs. We play a superb first half, and the second half, we come out and we shoot ourselves within the foot, both by turnovers or penalties or discipline place on particular groups. It is a story of two halves, and the half we performed within the second half was Bucs vs. Bucs.”
That has been the storyline all season, a workforce adequate for Brady to come back out of retirement for, but unable to attain wherever practically as constantly as his first two seasons in Tampa, getting 30 factors a recreation. The 23 factors scored by the Bucs on Sunday — together with six on a meaningless landing go with 49 seconds left — marked the second-highest scoring whole this season, behind a 41-31 loss to the Chiefs that additionally included a tack-on landing within the remaining minutes.
The protection continues to be unable to create takeaways with any regularity. They’d one Sunday, intercepting a Joe Burrow go, however that is simply 13 takeaways whole in 14 video games — in your entire NFL, solely the Raiders (11) and Saints (10) have compelled fewer.
The Bucs have simply three video games left, and will even again into the playoffs as a 7-10 division champ, nevertheless it’s been so uncommon that they’ve performed like a first-place workforce, that they’ve performed like a profitable workforce from begin to end, that even when they received to the playoffs, there’s little confidence in what the Bucs may do, even with a seven-time Tremendous Bowl champion as their quarterback.
“I believe we’ve got the power to play good,” Brady mentioned. “I do not suppose we lack confidence in taking part in good. It is simply consistency. Two good quarters does not win you any soccer video games, and 5 turnovers does not win you soccer video games.”
It is the primary time in Brady’s profession he is had a number of interceptions and a number of misplaced fumbles in the identical recreation. His means to keep away from turnovers was maybe what he’d finished finest as a 45-year-old, however even that has given manner with six turnovers within the final two losses.
The Bucs are a workforce with a shedding report, however moderately, all they must do is beat two groups which have shedding data within the subsequent three weeks, and so they’ll be a playoff workforce, if an underwhelming one. Tampa Bay doesn’t have a lot time to show their season round, however that is still their purpose, nonetheless irritating that pursuit continues to be for them.
“We’ve got lots of toughness,” Bowles mentioned. “We’ve got to take care of adversity higher. We’ve got to cease the miscues and the Bucs vs. Bucs. We perceive that. We discuss it, we preach it, we observe it, we take possession of it, and we’ll combat to cease it.”
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Greg Auman is FOX Sports activities’ NFC South reporter, protecting the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He’s in his tenth season protecting the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having frolicked on the Tampa Bay Occasions and The Athletic. You possibly can observe him on Twitter at @gregauman.
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