Bucs, Brady wake up late to beat Saints

by Gary Shelton on December 6, 2022

in general

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

This time, he came back from awful.

This time, he came back from a losing season, against a dying clock, against the whispers of old age. He came back from being stuck in the sand, and from shaking heads, and from a lousy performance.

This time, Tom Brady came back against all of that, and against the hated Saints, to lead the Tampa Bay Bucs to an improbably 17-16 victory.

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For most of the night, Brady looked every day of his 45 years. He overthrew deep. He underthrew short. He as every bit as lousy as his own offense. On the message boards, amazingly, some fans were actually calling for third-stringer Kyle Trask, who has never thrown an NFL pass.

Then came clutch time, and the NFL's most clutch player in its history.

"Just like we drew it up," Brady said.

It enabled the Bucs to stay at .500 (6-6) with a lead in the NFC South. And while it's hard to forget the malaise of the first three-and-a-half quarters, the Bucs stand wobbly but upright.

“Great job, great execution," said Bucs' coach Todd Bowles. "It seems like we can only score at the last part of the ballgame. We sputtered around a couple quarters, but the leadership that Tom showed, the receivers did a great job, every one of them, running backs – Rachaad (White) and Lenny (Fournette) – the O-line got the job done and Cade (Otton) played well. They did good in the last part of the game.”

With 183 seconds to play, the Bucs trailed by 13 points, 16-3, and looked lifeless. They hadn't scored since the opening drive of the game.

And then the old man came to life...again. He led his team downfield , hitting tight end Cade Otten on a one-yard touchdown pass with three minutes to play. The defense forced a quick three-and-out (31 seconds). Brady then led the Bucs downfield in 2:26, hitting Rachaad White on a on a six-yard touchdown pass. (He had thrown five-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin three plays earlier, but it was called by on a holding penalty on Donavan Smith).

It was the record-setting 44th comeback of Brady's career.

It was the second largest deficit Brady has overcome, and it was his latest score to win one of them. Still, it will not be remembered as a great night for Brady.

All season, he has directed a punchless offense, but this time, he was one of the worst performers. He ended up with 281 yards, but his rating was only 84.0. his fourth-lowest rating of the season. In the second quarter, his rating was just 25.0.

But in the late going, when Tampa Bay was down to hope, Brady turned young again. He hit seven of 10 bases for 60 yards. On his last drive, he hit eight of 10 for 44 yards.

In all, his last three minutes, he hit 15 of 20 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. His rating over that period was 119.58.

"We made types of plays – our guys made them. At the end of the day, our guys made the plays this week," Brady said. "Mike [Evans] made plays, Chris [Godwin] made plays, Cade [Otton] made plays, Rachaad [White] made plays, ‘Lenny’ (Leonard Fournette) made plays, Julio [Jones] made some great plays – everyone contributed. So, [the Saints] are a hard team to beat and just glad we won. [The Saints] have a great defense, they played us very physical like we thought – we made some mistakes in there, but we made enough plays in the end to win.”

Godwin caught eight passes for 63 yards. Leonard Fournette had 49 yards rushing and 32 receiving.

 "I think it’s experience and it’s (Brady's) skillset and his mindset – he just knows at the end of the game he wants the ball in the offenses’ hands and he demands to go out there and try to make plays,”  Evans said.

"No one loves Lenny more than I do," Brady said. "Maybe his mom and few relatives, but I'm up there."

The defense gave up some plays, but overall, they allowed New Orleans just one touchdown and three field goals. Lavonte David had 12 tackles and a sack.

Late in the game, Bucs' coach Todd Bowles put his trust in the defense when he punted from the Saints' 40 and from his own 32. At the time, neither looked particularly daring. But Brady made that decision irrelevant, too.

The Bucs travel to San Francisco Sunday to play the 49ers at 4:25 p.m.

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