After the thrilling early games in Week 9, what a dud for the big late-afternoon game to be the Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Two teams with roster deficiencies that haven’t been enjoyable to watch at all this season.
For most of the game, both teams’ offenses were largely ineffective. Until the fourth quarter, Cooper Kupp’s 69-yard touchdown catch was the only play that resembled the two offenses that fought in January for an appearance in the NFC Championship Game.
Part of the problem was the pass rush. Both Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady spend much of the game under duress from Vita Vea and Aaron Donald, respectively. The pocket is quite the hostile place when those two bulldozers are moving offensive linemen
However, at the end of the game, Brady summoned enough strength from his 45-year-old body to keep the Buccaneers in the race for the top spot in the putrid NFC South, in which every team is currently under .500.
The Buccaneers actually shouldn’t have needed to sweat out the result of the game. On their penultimate drive, Brady was in rhythm, and completed three consecutive passes to Scotty Miller. He looked for him in the end zone on 2nd and goal and threw a perfect pass to an open Miller, who dropped the ball. The Bucs would eventually turn the ball over on downs.
A disappointing drive like that is capable of knocking the wind out of a team. Stomping on spirits that were already on the ground.
Brady decided to go back to Miller on the Buccaneers’ final drive of the game, and was rewarded. He caught two more passes including a massive 3rd-down conversion. On a field that Miller shared with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, the 2019 sixth-round draft pick was the Buccaneers’ most important skill position player.
Maybe Brady needed an unheralded pass catcher to step up to make him feel like he was young again, providing a reminder of what it was like during the early years with the New England Patriots. Back then, Brady won a lot of ugly offensive performances off a defense that kept the game close, and he would make all of the necessary late plays with competitions to Kevin Faulk, Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney, or whoever happened to be open.
Whatever sealed the deal, that embrace that Brady launched at Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich showed that even though the legend has now thrown for more than 100,000 combined regular season and playoff yards, he really needed that win yesterday.
The Buccaneers had lost three games in a row, and had managed to put up 25 or more points once this season. Much of Brady’s energy had been spent cursing at his offensive line and smashing tablets. Also, his personal life is falling apart in front of the world, with rumors about his marriage on the rocks turning out to be true as both he and his wife Giselle have confirmed that they are in the process of getting a divorce. This season was looking like Brady had returned to the stage for one too many encores.
Sunday was more of the same with Brady getting tossed around and the Buccaneers struggling all day to move the football. Then, for a few minutes, that old Brady magic returned and helped keep the team in a good playoff position.
However you may feel about Brady, that guy needed a win yesterday. As much as it improved the Buccaneers’ playoff hopes, it provided much more help for a 45-year-old man who, for a fleeting moment, got to bask in the high of something going right for once.