TAMPA, Fla. – What a midseason actuality verify.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are nonetheless wannabes.
Simply when the Bucs appeared primed to serve discover that they’re a reputable Tremendous Bowl contender with Tom Brady in tow, they bumped into Murphy’s Regulation.
The whole lot dangerous that would occur did occur.
How embarrassing. Earlier than a nationwide TV viewers in primetime, the Bucs took a 38-3 pummeling for the ages. There was no Brady magic, no Antonio Brown increase, no Gronk moments, no probability.
Brady was delivered to Tampa and signed to a two-year, $50 million contract for video games like these.
Or so it appeared.
Seems, Brady suffered the worst lack of his profession in his greatest sport but for the Bucs.
Give it some thought: Brady logged the 333rd begin of his illustrious profession on Sunday night time and it was first time in these 333 video games that he trailed by 30-plus factors on the half.
It ended with a 35-point deficit that was even worse than that 31-0 loss with the Patriots within the 2003 season opener at Buffalo, aka “The Lawyer Milloy Sport.”
And weighted with the three picks, Brady’s passer ranking of 40.4 was one of many worst for a sport in his profession – at one of many worst attainable occasions.
Reasonably than taking an enormous step ahead, the Bucs (6-3) took two steps backward as they failed a significant litmus check.
“It was stunning,” summed up a dejected Bucs coach Bruce Arians.
Like the remainder of us, there’s no means Arians noticed this coming. Not with the Bucs using in with a three-game profitable streak. Not with the way in which the Todd Bowles-coordinated protection dealt with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers a couple of weeks in the past. Not with the entire star energy added to the offense.
“To look at us apply the way in which we practiced all week and the boldness we had coming in…we’ve to return and look within the mirror as coaches, gamers, everyone,” Arians mentioned.
Right here’s some excellent news for the Bucs: It solely counts as one loss within the standings.
The flip facet: This occurred towards the Saints, the bullies of the NFC South. If the Bucs can’t deal with New Orleans, aiming for a fourth consecutive division crown, then how on the earth can they count on to play themselves into the Tremendous Bowl combine?
The Saints have swept the Bucs in back-to-back seasons and gained 5 straight within the sequence. This has to really feel a bit unusual for Brady, after the entire years ruling the AFC East with the Patriots.
In 20 years in New England, Brady was by no means swept by a division opponent.
Now he switches conferences and encounters the Saints, whose quarterback, Drew Brees, is engaged in an arms race with Brady for the NFL’s all-time profession landing move mark (up to date tally: Brees, 564-561).
The Saints absolutely haven’t any mercy on TB12. Of his seven interceptions this season, 5 have come towards New Orleans, which gained in Brady’s Bucs debut.
However it went means past the picks. The Saints battered the 43-year-old Brady with three sacks, 9 quarterback hits and different types of stress and harassment. The safety was spotty, however the sport circumstances even worse. The Bucs had been down 21-0 earlier than they even managed a primary down, squashing any reputable plans for a balanced offense. Tampa Bay ended the night time with simply 8 speeding yards – on all of 5 carries.
The sport turned fast and landed squarely on Brady’s shoulders. And that was an excessive amount of to bear.
“I actually should play lots higher,” Brady mentioned. “Turning the ball over towards good groups by no means helps. We simply didn’t plat the way in which we had been able to taking part in. Everybody’s acquired to go lots higher and it begins with me. Get again to work tomorrow morning and attempt to make it a greater week.”
The Saints protection couldn’t have drawn up the state of affairs any higher. With a fats, early lead, it rapidly grew to become a matter of teeing off on Brady.
“Our job was to get Tom Brady off his spot, as a result of he throws it sizzling,” mentioned Saints defensive finish Cameron Jordan. “He’s nonetheless the second-greatest quarterback for a cause.”
The usually colourful Jordan won’t ever hail any quarterback as higher than Brees. By no means thoughts that Brady has six Tremendous Bowl rings – 5 greater than Brees.
Apart from, within the right here and now, Brees has the higher hand now.
If Brady’s going to in the end win one other ring, it’s a very good wager that he’ll should undergo the Saints to get it. After Sunday night time, Brady and the Bucs came upon that they nonetheless don’t measure up.
Comply with USA TODAY Sports activities’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.