Bucs try to overcome their slow starts

by Gary Shelton on December 24, 2020

in general

Brady hopes to finish strong./TIM WIRT

Thursday, 4 a.m.

For most of the season, they have moved uphill...across glass...against the wind.

The Bucs have spent most of the 2020 season behind, scrambling in an attempt to catch up. But before that happens, they have been bloodied against the ropes. It seems the other team always jumps ahead, then tries to hang on.

So credit the late charges. Or lament the slow starts. With the Bucs, both things are true.

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Remember the first Saints game, when they fell behind 24-7?

Remember the Chargers' game, when they trailed 24-7?

Remember the Packers, when they were behind 10-0?

All season long, it has happened. You wait for this team to charge out of the game, and they start without energy, without rhythm. The running game doesn't work. Tom Brady can't find a receiver. The defense can't cover anyone.

Remember trailing the Giants, 14-3?

Remember the second Saints game, when they trailed 31-0?

Remember the second Panthers game, when they trailed 14-7?

Either the opening game script is wrong, or players need an earlier wake-up call. This is a league of punches and counter-punches, but rarely do the Bucs get in the first lick.

Remember the Chiefs, when they trailed 17-0?

Remember the Vikings, when they trailed 6-0 (and it should have been worse)?

Remember the Falcons, when it was 24-7?

Why can't this team get out of the blocks quicker?

“I think there are always things you’re working on," said quarterback Tom Brady. "Sometimes you’re fast starters and slow finishers. Sometimes you’re not good at the end of halves [or] slow to start the third quarter. I think we definitely have to be better to start the game. To spot a team 17 points [or] 14 points is not where we want to be.

"I don’t think there is a special play to call. There’s nothing guaranteed to get us yards, or first downs or points. It’s about us all collectively bringing the right energy, emotion and execution to the early part of the game. That would put us all in a better position to succeed as we move forward in the games. I’d like to see us play with the lead and we’re going to have to work hard at that. There [are] no magic plays to those things. It’s going to be up to us to just go out there and do it.”

The Bucs, one of the worst first-quarter teams in the league, have come back strong in the second halves, enough to win nine games. However, their history of slow starts could hurt them down the road.

"We’re trying to win football games – they understand the game is four quarters," said offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. "As much as we want to start off fast, that didn’t happen again this week, but we did what we had to do to win the football game, which is ultimately the ultimate goal.”

This week, former Bucs' coach Tony Dungy said that Brady was his sixth-toughest quarterback to prepare for. Brady sent him a photo of a Colts' banner saying Indy reached the 2014 AFC title game. The problem? Brady and the Patriots won that game 45-7 (Dungy had retired the year before).

“I was just having fun," Brady said. "I was only referring to him as the Indy head coach, not as the Bucs head coach. It was nothing personal. Coach Dungy knows I love him. I was just giving him a little grief. He gave me a little grief and I gave him a little grief. It was all in good fun.”

Brady would like to see his team get into the playoffs and make some noise.

“I think the season will be what we make of it," Brady said. "Our season is not over yet. We’ve got a lot of football ahead. We’ve got, obviously, a hugely important game this week and then one more game in the regular season. We’re going to have to play our way into the playoffs. It means we’ve got to win games.

"This is the one that matters the most because it’s the next one. If we [win] it, we do get in, so it’s hugely important. Every season presents different challenges. Every season has different things that challenge you in different ways. This one has been a challenge I think for everybody around the world. We’re managing with it, we’re managing it [and] we’re dealing with it as best we can. I think we’re trying to make improvements – trying to make them on a daily basis. I’m very excited about this weekend’s game and seeing what we do on the day after Christmas.”

Brady didn't seem bothered that he didn't make the Pro Bowl roster.

“I think there [are] a lot of people who end up being deserving of a really cool accolade like that.," Brady said. "I’ve been very fortunate to be picked a bunch of times, and I think it’s really great for other guys to get picked too. It’s hard sometimes to pick just a few guys. This year, there [were] a lot of great candidates at a lot of positions and a lot of teammates that I wish they would’ve made it. You’ve just got to keep trying to go out there and earn it. I think ultimately, for me, it’s about winning games. I think individual accolades have a certain place, [but] the most important thing for me has always been about winning football games. I wish we were 14-0 at this point, [but] we’re not – we haven’t deserved it. We haven’t played to that level yet, but hopefully we can play at a much higher level this Saturday.”

The Bucs play against Detroit on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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