Image courtesy of USATI
Tampa Bay — First things first. We’re sticking with “Tompa Bay Tuesday” for this piece for the remainder of the year. It’s lame. We know. Oh well.
Now, it wasn’t pretty, but Tom Brady and the Bucs got their first win of the year on Sunday, beating Carolina 31-17.
Brady was 23-of-35 for just 217 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Mike Evans and Brady finally appeared to find their in-game connection, with Evans catching seven balls for 104 yards and a touchdown. Interestingly, LeSean McCoy had the second most catches for the Tampa offense with five. Gronk was held without a catch in this one as he continues to struggle.
The offense just doesn’t look right yet, but on Monday head coach Bruce Arains acknowledged it’s still very much a work in progress.
“It’s going to take time,” he said. “It’s both – it’s our offense, [but] it’s letting him have his say like we always do with all our quarterbacks and build a game plan for the best way to beat the defense and put every guy in a position to be successful.”
What’s been very apparent – at least to me – is that it seems like every single offensive player on the Bucs is terrified of making a mistake, and because of it they’re making a ton of them. If you caught any of the game against Carolina on Sunday, Brady should have had at least two or three more touchdowns but receivers were dropping balls that he laid in absolutely perfectly. The aura around Brady has seemingly infected the skill players, no one wants to piss the GOAT off.
“Oh gosh – we dropped, probably, about 125 yards worth. About seven drops [and] two touchdowns,” Arians said. “Maybe three touchdowns, really. You put the ball right there and we don’t catch it – I don’t think I’ve ever seen Scotty [Miller] drop that ball. I know LeSean [McCoy] is going to catch it nine times out of ten. The wind did get Cyril [Grayson] a little bit – that ball moved a little bit – it hit him in the head. But, the guy’s got great hands and that’s an easy touchdown. That should have been three touchdowns. Tom [Brady] should have had a 400-yard day if we just catch it.”
The Gronk situation is quite peculiar. Once he signed in Tampa the world thought the Brady-Gronk connection would be better than ever. With all the weapons in Tampa, how were they going to cover Evans, Godwin and Gronk? However, the output Gronk has put fourth is non-existent. Gronk has seemingly been used as nothing but a blocker, and it’s worth wondering whether this is how it’s going to be all year or if these are just growing pains.
“Not really. He got a nice pass interference call for us [and we] missed him on the over route. We’re not throwing the ball 50 times to tight ends – that’s what we have receivers for [and] that’s the way our offense is built,” Arians said when asked if he’s surprised about the lack of production from Gronkowski.
“Gronk’s playing great run blocking in the fourth quarter, so I’m not concerned with his pass catches or his targets.”I don’t think they’re paying that much attention to him. Tom [Brady] has the ball [and] he decides where it’s going, so he’s reading the defenses and he’s taking whatever they’re giving him. We don’t force passes to anybody.”
Whatever the case may be, the Tampa ship was righted for at least one week. It’s been much uglier than people expected early on and there seems to be a feeling that things are still a bit tense in Tampa. This week’s game in Denver will be quite a test of Brady’s patience with his new teammates.
Brady has struggled his entire career in Denver, but he’s also never gone there with this type of weaponry at his disposal. The Broncos are banged up and Brady’s Bucs should run them over, but if not, the questions and finger pointing between him and Arians are sure to ramp up another notch or two.