Another week, another prime-time defeat for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For a team with big-time aspirations, the challenge of overcoming some of the NFC's better teams, particularly on the regular season's biggest stages, continues to be an Achilles' heel. Against the Rams, Tampa had a shot at altering that narrative. An errant Brady pass on the Bucs' final drive, combined with several other miscues, ultimately sealed their fate in a brutal 27-24 loss.
"Still trying to figure that out. I mean, at times, we look really, really good. And then, there are times we, obviously, don't," coach Bruce Arians said when asked why Brady has underperformed against more formidable opponents. "I felt very, very comfortable in the two-minute drive until that throw. But, we made some plays and, obviously, we didn't make enough in this ball game, offense, defense or special teams, to win."
The throw in question came following the game's final two-minute warning. Situated on the TB 38, Brady dropped back, looked to his right and fired a 31-yarder to tight end Cameron Brate that sailed over his head and into the hands of safety Jordan Fuller. The play not only handed the Bucs a third prime-time loss in four tries but it also gave the rookie a great story to tell his family come Thursday.
Leading up to the ill-timed pass, Brady, whose recent comments on improving the deep ball added a hint of irony to the outcome, had gone just 1-of-8 on passes of 15 or more yards. Fuller logged his first career pick on one of those off-target throws in the third quarter. Brady's night could've easily ended with three TOs had Mike Evans failed to knock away John Johnson's near-pick of a deep strike late in the first half.
"They did a good job preventing 'em. They kinda play a defense that makes it tough to hit 'em," Brady said of the secondary taking away deep passes. "They're not impossible to hit, but they're tight and guys did a good job running 'em. We had a couple shots, but, in the end, didn't come up with any."
After holding their opponents to a combined nine second-half points over their last six games, defensive coordinator Brandon Staley's group again deserves praise for making the proper adjustments coming out of halftime.
Save for two big first-half defensive pass interference penalties, the Rams held Brady and the Bucs' star-studded offense to a combined 251 total yards and 10 second-half points. L.A.'s solid coverage and unrelenting frontline allowed only 18 carries for 42 rushing yards and a 26-of-48 night for 216 yards through the air.
As the architect of 47 career game-winning drives, Brady will continue to get the benefit of the doubt, even if he and his team continue to shrink in the spotlight. A huge clash against Patrick Mahomes and the 9-1 Chiefs where there will be very little room for error could present him with another crunch-time opportunity.
With their prime-time dates now in the rearview, the Bucs will have to treat every game as if it headlines that week's marquee. A quick look at their 2-4 record against teams currently with a .500 or better record should give them plenty of incentive to stick with that mindset.