Brady, Bucs salvage sloppy game against Cards

by Gary Shelton on December 26, 2022

in general

Brady led another comeback./(Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers via AP)

Monday, 4 a.m.

For most of the night, he looked dreadful. His team, too.

For most of the night, he seemed unfocused, unsettled, uncomfortable. He spent most of the night going uphill, trying to make something out of nothing. He missed opportunities repeatedly. For a change, he looked his age.

And when you thought that yet another disappointment would be the memory that Tom Brady took from this, there was this:

Even at Christmas, the guy delivers miracles.

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When you discuss this season's Tampa Bay effort, you will start with the disappointments. For most of the night, you could include this one, too. The Bucs floundered around for most of the game, falling 10 points behind a lousy Arizona team that is playing out the string.

But Brady reminded you that the best part of the season has been when he battles a dying clock. Brady led his team back to a 19-16 overtime victory, the fourth time this year the Bucs have won behind a Brady-led comeback in the fourth quarter or later. For his career, Brady has 45 career comeback wins, the most in history, and 57 game-winning drives.

Sunday night, Brady also had to come back from his own performance, a two-interception effort when he missed open receivers and seemed uneasy behind a makeshift offensive line. For three quarters, he has rarely been worse.

"If we can keep it close in the fourth quarter, we know we’ve got a shot," Brady said.

Brady was good down the stretch. In the fourth quarter, when his team came from behind, he hit 11 of 17 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. In overtime, he hit all six of his passes for 69 yards and led his team to the winning field goal.

"Seems like we played better in the fourth quarter," head coach Todd Bowles said. "If we could transfer that to the other three, we’d be pretty consistent."

As has often been the case this year, the Bucs played down to their competition, a four-win Cardinals team that was down to its third quarterback. That's been the story of much of the season. The Bucs offense has struggled to score, and the defense has made stars out of unknown quarterbacks. There in the fourth quarter, it was easy to feel that these Bucs didn't deserve to make the playoffs.

There was the one-yard-to-go series, when the Bucs ran the ball three straight times without picking up three feet for a first down. There was the penalty that negated a touchdown. There was Brady's two interceptions, both of which he missed Mike Evans on. There was Josh Wells' injury that left the Bucs down to their third left tackle.

But comebacks are perhaps the biggest attribute of a quarterback. Somehow, Brady managed to gather himself. His rating in the fourth period was 100.1. In overtime, it was 114.6.

For the game, Brady hit 32 of 49 passes for 281 yards. He got help from Leonard Fournette, who had 162 total yards. Ryan Succop kicked four field goals for Tampa Bay.

The Bucs can clinch the NFC South title with a win against Carolina at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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