Brady leads big second half in Bucs’ victory

by Gary Shelton on October 5, 2020

in general

Brady threw for five touchdowns in Bucs' comeback./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

This is his greatness. He wins, and he makes you forget about the bumps along the way.

This is his greatness. He refuses to bow to a lesser afternoon, and he owns the second half.

This is his greatness. He grants forgiveness to the rest of the team on those days it is ordinary. He is Captain Comeback, and in the end, he is all that matters.

The Bucs got their first true example of Tom Brady's excellence Sunday afternoon. After a less-than-pedestrian first half, a half in which you were tempted to check Brady's birth certificate to make sure he wasn't older than 43, Brady was a surgeon once again in the second half, leading the Bucs to a 38-31 victory.

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Brady threw for 369 yards and five touchdowns Sunday, leading the Bucs to a comeback victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. It was Brady's first fourth-quarter comeback in Tampa Bay, but the 37th overall (and nine more in the post-season). He found five different receivers on his five touchdown passes.

Earlier in the week, I suggested that the then-2-1 Bucs would be, well, 2-1 if Jamies Winston were still here instead of Brady. That's no longer true. Winston wouldn't have won this game. He wouldn't have brought his team from 17 down, with Chris Godwin out and Evans hobbled, with the defense being suspect, with a big-time running back injured. This was pure Brady in the second half, and not many quarterbacks could have pulled it off.

It will probably be forgotten by time, because winning is a great eraser, but Brady was, well, awful in the first half. He threw a pick-six (his fourth in his last six games), and he saw his team fall behind 24-7. He threw for only 106 yards in the first half, and his rating was just 69.0

Ah, but in the second half, Brady was throwing darts at hummingbirds,. He hit 15 of his 17 passes for 263 yards, a 153.8 rating.

“I thought he just played outstanding," Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said. "I just have to coach him up better on that one play and just get it coached better. He played fantastic and was lights out in the second half.”

On the other hand, the Bucs' defense suffered its worst game of the season, watching rookie Justin Herbert hit 20 of 25 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns, a 137.9 rating. In four games, the Bucs have seen starting quarterbacks throw for 1,046 yards and six scores.

Herbert hit touchdown passes of 53 and 71 yards for Las Angeles.

“I told (Chargers Head Coach) Anthony (Lynn -- after the game -- I said, ‘You’ve got a great one.’ " Arians said. "That retreating play – that looked like (Chiefs QB Patrick) Mahomes where we had an all-out blitz and he just kept retreating and threw a dime down the field. For rookies to make plays like that, you know they’re special.”

Brady is still looking for the elusive complete game.

“We put ourselves in a pretty good hole and we were going to have to dig our way out of it," Brady said. "That’s just the way football works sometimes – just have to tighten some things up. Glad we came back – defense made a big play for us before the end of the [first] half and that got us ignited a little bit. We made some plays in the third quarter and made some good plays in the fourth quarter. Started the game well [and] finished the game well – that middle part – we have to figure out how to play 60 minutes well.” 

Besides Brady, the Bucs had several other stars. Mike Evans, playing on an injured ankle, had seven caches for 122 yards. Ronald Jones II played his best game in the absence of injured Leonard Fournette, rushing 20 times for 111 yards. Ndamukong Suh forced a fumble that gave the Bucs a touchdown just before the half. And Lavonte David had 11 tackles. And Carlton Davis III had a key interception late.

“It meant a lot – just being in the right place at the right time, being able to read the quarterback’s eyes and making the play," Davis said. "That’s what we have to do every week. Week-in and week-out it’s any given Sunday. You never know what play is going to change it. You never know when that play is going to come, so for me to have that play at the end was huge.”

Davis was pleased with the way the Bucs played in the second half.

“We just had to get our heads out of our butts and make some plays and be aggressive," Davis said. "You know, play that defense that we’ve been playing in the previous three games and that’s what we did. Like I said, any given Sunday – all kind of obstacles are going to occur and it’s all about how you battle back. I think we did a good job of battling back today.”

Evans did a good job battling himself on a bad ankle.

“I get paid to play football and if I’m eligible to be out there, then I’m going to be out there," Evans said. "My team needed me. Went to the back [and] the trainer taped me. My boy (head athletic trainer) Bobby (Slater got me right, I came back out, and played.”

Evans was impressed with what he saw from Brady.

“We all know his track record and his résumé. It speaks for itself. We need him to play like that week-in and week-out if we want to be the special team that we think we are capable of being. We have the utmost confidence in Tom. He had a hell of a game today.” 

Arians thought the second half belonged to the Bucs.

“I think there were some times where we hit a little bit of a lull, but I thought from the last 50 seconds (of the first half) to the end of the ballgame, I thought we made plays to win the ballgame," Arians said. "Very seldom does our defense give up a lead, but they did and we bounced right back and got the score. Then, we get the huge interception to ice it. I think we could still play better, but we’re getting there.”

The Bucs, now 3-1 on the season and winners of three in a row, play Thursday night in Chicago against the Bears. The game begins at 8:20 p.m.

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