Bucs pulled out a late win, but there is work to do

by Gary Shelton on September 10, 2021

in general

Brady had the 40th comeback of his career./TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

The comeback was perfect.

The Tampa Bay Bucs are not.

Oh, the final score worked out, all right. The winning kick was flawless. And 1-0 certainly looks better than the alternative. But for most of the night, you could hardly suggest the Bucs resembled the defending Super Bowl champions.

“As I told our guys," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians, "I learned a long time ago that you don’t learn anything more from losing than you do from almost losing. We have a lot to learn.?

For instance, the Bucs have to learn to avoid the bad plays. Such as:

Four turnovers.

106 yards worth of penalties.

403 yards passing allowed.

Dropped passes. Missed assignments. Open-night stumbles.

Yeah, there is work to be done.

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Ryan Succop nailed the winning field goal./TIM WIRT

Oh, let's face it. Quarterback Tom Brady forgives a lot of errors. In the 40th comeback win of his career -- more than any Bucs' quarterback has won -- Brady led his team downfield in the final 82 seconds for a field goal to give the team a 31-29 victory over Dallas. Brady's drive covered 57 yards and set up Ryan Succop with a 36-yard field goal for the win.

Arians could imagine the finish after Brady took over for his final drive.

"There was no doubt that we were going to win the game," Arians said. "With him, it’s who going to make plays? Guys up front did a hell of a job protecting and guys went and got open.”

Brady likes the last two minutes of a game.

“It’s just competition at its best," he said. "NFL football challenges you a lot in different ways. We worked hard on our two-minute [offense]. It really comes down to execution and sometimes we’re going to need it, and you never know when you’re going to need it 

Brady, however wasn't satisfied.

"We won," he said. "It’s great. But we know it was far from perfect. We have to get back to work and clean things up."

Watching from the sideline, kicker Succop was sure he was going to get a chance at the winning field goal. Just off the Covid list -- he still has a cough -- Succop was calm as he made the kick.

"I was pretty certain we were going to have a chance," Succop said. "You know, obviously (Brady) is the greatest quarterback of all time. The greatest player of all time. He’s so calm, so collected. You know, his poise, I think it permeates everybody and everybody goes out and plays better because of him. 

“I was pretty certain we were going to have a chance," Succop said. "He (Brady) is the best quarterback of all time, the best player of all time. He's so calm, so collected, it permeates thought everyone. It was really special."

Succop now will leave immediately for his son Cooper's sixth birthday party. He'll have some explaining to do. His mother made him go to bed at halftime Thursday night.

Perhaps you want to concentrate on the last drive, because it's a moment where the Bucs reminded you of what they did a year ago. But for much of the night, the Bucs' turnovers -- and their inability to stop Dak Prescott -- showed that greatness is something this team will have to grow into. Prescott hit 42 of 58 passes for the night and had a rating of 101.4. The Cowboys converted 53 percent of their third downs.

"Loved the finish," Arians said. "Our guys are winners. They’re going to finish and they’re going to win, but we can play better and not put ourselves in that situation. Obviously, there’s turnovers, penalties, things we can improve on but our guys fought and won the game."

First, however, Prescott almost stole the night. He led the Cowboys 60 yards to set up Greg Zuerlein's 48-yard field goal with 1:24 to play that gave Dallas a 29-28 lead.

The Bucs had only one sack on the night, by Shaq Barrett.

Brady was excellent, too. He hit 32 of 50 passes for 379 yards. He threw two interceptions, but one was off Leonard Fournette's hands and the other was a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half. He found Antonio Brown for 121 yards and Rob Gronkowski for 105.

The Bucs looked as if they had a chance to salt the game away with just over five minutes to play. The Bucs led 28-22, but Brady took the team on a long drive. But with 5:04 left, he hit Chris Godwin with an 11-yard pass, and Godwin fumbled at the 2. Dallas recovered, leading to Prescott's late heroics.

“I think in tight ball games, we have a ton of confidence," Arians said. "For me, just don’t put ourselves in that situation. Let’s play better and have that 14-point lead we should have had instead of fumbling the ball on the inch line. The confidence is real, it’s earned.”

Arians pointed out that Dallas is a talented team.

“I’ve known Dak a long time," Arians said. "I have so much respect for him as a person and as a man and what he did at Mississippi State was legendary. Just a tremendous football player and a tremendous leader. It’s just a shame he had to play Brady.

"Dallas is a hell of a football team. Wen you look ack when Dak was healthy, and the offense line was healthy, they were putting up 30-some points a game. Didn't surprise me. I would have liked to have seen us a little bit better."

Godwin had the fumble, but on the winning drive caught a 24-yard pass to the Dallas 18 to set up the win.

"He made a huge play for us," Brady said. "We just had so many drives during the middle of the game where we didn’t do anything to keep them off the field. So we kind of exposed our defense and then obviously we [weren’t] moving the ball. We had a couple turnovers, that certainly set us back. There is obviously a lot to clean up.

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