Bucs still searching for offensive identity

by Gary Shelton on November 13, 2020

in general

Arians, Leftwich compare notes./TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

Winning lasts a matter of seconds. It is over, and you grin, and you go back to work.

Losing? Losing lingers.

Ask Bucs' quarterback Tom Brady, who has lost only 64 of 283 games over his career. The defeats can gnaw at you.

"I remember pretty much all the losses,' Brady said Thursday. "I probably don’t remember all the wins, but I definitely remember all the losses. I

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think they all stick with you because you’re competitive and you want to go out there and play your best every week. You’re not a movie actor where you get six takes when it doesn’t go right like, ‘Oh, let me do that one over again. I messed that one up. Let’s run that back.’ You’re a football player and you’re making split-second decisions and you always wish, ‘Man, I made every split-second decision right,’ but that’s just not the reality of the sport. You’ve got to try and improve it as best you can.

"Again, we’re just trying to work as hard as we can every day to make improvements that we need to make, understanding that it’s a process and it’s going to last. There’s probably not ever going to be a day where I’m going to say, ‘Hey man, we’ve got this all figured out. This sport – we nailed it. We figured out football completely.’ Every week it’s just a reinvention of what you’re trying to do, what the other team is trying to do, what you need to do [and] what you need to be better at. I think we all recognize we’re not at a place where we can ever relax. We’ve got to improve the urgency. We’ve got to make the improvements faster, learn from the mistakes and do a better job.”

Judging from last week's 38-3 loss at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, you would assume that the wounds are still fresh. The Bucs, favored coming into the game, were dominated in almost every aspect of the game.

Couple that with a narrow win over a last-place Giants team the week before, and the Bucs are definitely off of their game.

“Losing games is part of the NFL – I don’t think you ever go unscathed," Brady said. "There’s only one team that’s gone undefeated in the history of the NFL. You’re going to lose games. When you win a lot it’s amazing, but you also have to deal with when you don’t play the way you’re capable of playing [and] you play good teams, you lose. We’ve all lost games – it sucks. It sucks for your family, it sucks for you, it sucks for your players [and] it sucks for everybody. The whole organization feels crappy when you lose because you put a lot into it. You’re not going to sit here and feel sorry for yourself [and] you’re not going to make excuses. You’re going to get back to work and you’re going to try and make it better. You’re going to identify where the problems are, the things you can do better, the things you need to improve on and then you go out and you practice them.

"Then, you try to go get it again. It really sucks when you lose at the end of the year and you don’t have any games left. That’s when you really feel bad. I always say, ‘You win or you learn.’ Hopefully from losing, you learn a lot of valuable lessons and we’ve got to learn those, move on and improve our level of play so we can go out there and play at a higher level, play consistently, score more points and put more pressure on the defense.”

Of course, it starts with protecting Brady, and giving him time to throw to his receivers. A bit of a running game would help, too.

So what is the identity of this offense? It's an important question. You know certain teams are going to run on the important downs, and certain teams are going to throw. Certain teams are going to depend on their defense.

But who are the Bucs?

“I think we’re trying to figure that out," Brady said. "It definitely hasn’t been 60 minutes of consistent football yet. Again, I think we’re trying to just figure it out. It’s going to change from week-to-week based on who we play. That’s what teams are all about. Football is a tough sport. There’s different matchups every week [and] there’s different elements to every game that are a challenge. It’s never really the same. Again, (we’re) just trying to work at it.”

In particular, Brady has yet to find a rhythm with receiver Mike Evans.

“Mike does pretty much everything better than (anyone)," Brady said. "Nothing is 50-50 with Mike – Mike’s better at just about anything than anybody. He’s a spectacular player and I think from my perspective, it’s just me giving him opportunities to touch the ball, catch it and figuring out different ways based on different styles of defense that we’re getting that enable him to touch it. He’s an incredible player when he gets it and he’s an incredible player before he gets it. [We’re] working hard at it and again, I wish I’d be making every throw exactly the way I want. The only thing I can say is we’re trying to get it right, trying to figure out how to get everybody involved and put together a lot of different pieces that have never been together – including myself. I think the great advantage in football is continuity. I’ve learned a lot over the years [and] continuity in the NFL is so important with coach (and) quarterback [and] what you’re trying to be as a team. A lot of situations you’re in over years and years – we just haven’t been in those together."

Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich agreed the Bucs are still looking for their identity.

“We’ll just keep working like we always do," Leftwich said. "We can’t allow last week’s game to really get in the way of the way we approach the game of football, the way we attack people, the way we play the game of football [and] the way we go about it. All we can do is learn from that game. When you have games like that, all you can do is really dissect everything, learn from it, do the things that you need to do, do the things that we feel as though we need to do to be successful and try to do those things. We’ll learn from that game – I think we learned a lot from that game just sitting here watching, but now it’s time to move on. We’ve got a tough opponent here Sunday, so we’ve got to get ready to play a good football team on Sunday.”

What could the Bucs have done differently against the Saints? Well, everything.

“Really, a lot, just looking at the game," Leftwich said. "Obviously when you get beat like that, you feel as though you could’ve done something different. All we can do is learn from it, really. If we ever [were] to get in that situation again – hopefully we don’t – we’ve just got to do a better job, collectively, of fighting through that and trying to get back into that ballgame. That really starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting these guys in position [and] getting these guys ready to roll.

“I think everything was off. When you lose a game that way, nothing really worked [and] nothing really went right. So, everything was off. We came in here and watched the film. It was a tough film to watch as a crew, as we looked at it together. We’ll learn from it, we’ll get better from it [and] we’ll use those moments to get better.”

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles agreed that there wasn't much to brag about in the defeat.

"Obviously, nothing worked – the zone, the blitz – anything we did didn’t work. We’ve just got to coach it better and play it better.”

The Panthers have lost four games in a row, but all of them have been within eight points.

The Bucs and Carolina kick off at 1 p.m. in Carolina.

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