Bruce Arians' Buccaneers have a prime-time problem.
Tampa Bay (7-4) is 1-3 on the national stage this season, losing most recently to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night. It was Tampa Bay's second straight defeat in the prime viewing window and followed up a dreadful performance versus New Orleans in which the Buccaneers were boat-raced in a blowout loss.
Tampa Bay's showing under the spotlight hasn't been strong, but Arians doesn't believe it's a product of a lack of assuredness, at least not for his future Hall of Fame quarterback. Arians told reporters Tuesday he doesn't think Tom Brady has a confidence problem, even after Brady threw two game-swinging interceptions in the loss to Los Angeles.
The issue, Arians said, is the team's lack of practice time afforded them because of the roster's quick offseason convergence amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"You don't have a spring at all or a real training camp, it's hard on the quarterback, especially when you've done something for 20 years and then throw all these guys at him," Arians said, via The Athletic's Greg Auman.
Tampa Bay's general manager, Jason Licht, hasn't helped with the jelling process, bringing in key veterans like LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette just weeks before the season started, and adding Antonio Brown in the middle of the campaign.
Arians noted the difficulties one will encounter with last-minute signings when speaking Monday.
"It's better to have them all spring and all summer than to throw them all together in the middle of a season," he said.
Still, this is the NFL, where wins and losses matter, but excuses don't. Arians was predictably blunt when discussing Brady's performance, echoing statements he's delivered earlier this season about receivers being open, but Brady not finding them. Brady has also seen a steep drop in production when it comes to throwing down field -- a hallmark of Arians' offensive approach -- in the last four weeks, going 0-for-19 on deep passes while throwing three interceptions on such attempts, per NFL Research.
The statistical output (or lack thereof) is a stark contrast with where Brady was in Weeks 1-7, in which he completed just 35.9 percent of those attempts but owned a passer rating of 101.2 and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2-0. The difference might necessitate a philosophical change on the part of Arians moving forward if the Buccaneers want to achieve their ultimate goals.
Arians doesn't appear to be at that point yet. Instead, he's blaming the team's lack of continuity for its problems. But if such trends hold, opposing defenses will find their task much easier: Shut down Brady underneath, pressure him and bank on the 43-year-old being unable to complete passes downfield.
If that becomes reality, the Buccaneers will have larger problems than a lack of continuity.