Bucs win big, but without being sharp

by Gary Shelton on October 25, 2021

in general

Evans caught three touchdown passes./CARMEN MANDATO

Monday, 4 p.m.

Now here's a sight you don't often see:

Tom Brady, passenger. Tom Brady, backup singer. Tom Brady, tagalong.

Oh, Brady had four touchdowns Sunday. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 600 touchdowns.

But for the most part, Brady was a background player in the Bucs' 38-3 walloping of the Chicago Bears. He threw 16 incompletions in 36 throws, an unusually high number for Brady. Touchdowns aside, it wasn't one of Brady's finer days.

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Around him, however, the rest of the Bucs were very good. The defense, still riddled with injuries, harassed Bears' rookie Justin Fields relentlessly. The defense sacked Fields four times, intercepted him three times and made him fumble twice.

The running game was good, too. The Bucs ran for a season-high 182 yards -- averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Leonard Fournette had 81 yards and Ronald Jones II had 63.

And the receivers? Chris Godwin caught eight passes for 111 yards. Mike Evans caught three touchdown passes.

Oh, it's hard to gripe about a five-touchdown victory, but the truth is that the Bucs may kick themselves for the points they squandered. Head coach Bruce Arians said it was "ridiculous" that the Bucs got close without scoring.

"I thought it was a really good team win," Arians said. "I really loved the way our defense played in the second half. Offensively, we left about 20 points out there, but overall, it was a really good team win."

Said Brady: “The defense was amazing, they played great – obviously they played great. We got off to a fast start and then had a few goal line stands there that we just didn’t quite get it in, which is kind of going to leave a little bitter taste in our mouths. We left some meat on the bone – you know, we’ll get back out there this week and try to get better and improve. Obviously we have that huge division game against the Saints in the dome on Halloween night which will be a great environment for football. So [we’ll] take the win to see what we can learn from this game and try to be better.”

It was odd to see Brady misfire so often. Then again, the Bucs haven't fired on all cylinders yet.

"We weren’t really that sharp in the passing game even though statistically we had a bunch of touchdowns," Arians said. "But they were all short fields. Didn’t like the way we played with long fields. The second half drive, we wanted to go no-huddle, tire them out. We had that no huddle drive right before half and we execute pretty good then we don’t make the third down. Just a bad audible.”

Arians took solace in the play of the defense, especially considering the injuries the team has had.

“It was awesome," Arians said. "I think Todd (Bowles) loves seeing rookie quarterbacks. That was a situation where they had a great plan to get after him and really disguise coverages and utilize a bunch of different pressures. It was outstanding defense. I didn’t like seeing [them] run on us so much because we’re going to have to stop a hell of back next week.

“It’s not like we’re just playing one coverage. Todd (Bowles) is putting in a hell of a plan where we have pressure, mixing up our coverages, our safeties are doing a really good job of disguising and those corners have stepped up and played. Rashard (Robinson) went in and played good. Pierre (Desir) goes in and has an interception. Dee (Delaney) has an interception. That is really good coaching. I have to give Todd a ton of credit for that.”

Arians wasn't surprised to see Brady get another record.

"No, because every day he comes to practice looking like he’s 12," Arians said. "I’ve played against him for so long. Yeah, the numbers, they’re staggering and they’ll probably never be broken. I say that, but who knows when the next Tom Brady is going to come. They are staggering, but when you watch him practice every single day, you don’t see the age.”

After he reached 600, receiver Mike Evans -- as is his custom -- gave the ball to a fan. A Bucs' official retrieved it.

"That was really cool," Brady said. "I’ve got it in the bag over there – Mike Evans gave it away and said, ‘I’m sorry man, I’ll get it.’ I said it’s alright I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to get it back. I don’t actually keep too many things, though in that circumstance I just felt like that might be a good one to keep.

"(The fan) is going to get something nice in return. So we’ll get him a helmet or a couple jerseys or some other stuff – it was really cool of him to do that.” 

The Bucs travel to New Orleans to play the Saints Sunday. The game begins at 4:25 p.m. in the Superdome.

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