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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady: Different Formulas for Success

The Buccaneers' offense is reshaping itself again with some fresh injuries and the departure of Antonio Brown to deal with, but Tom Brady says great teams find new ways to get the job done

Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers only had the lead for 15 seconds of game time in their 28-24 win over the New York Jets last Sunday. Compared to one of the most memorable games of Brady's career, that was practically an eternity.

Brady and the New England Patriots famously rallied from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit in Super Bowl LI to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28, in overtime. When the Patriots snapped the ball 63 minutes and 52 seconds into the game clock, they hadn't led for a single one of those minutes or seconds. Then James White took a handoff around right end and scored on a two-yard run and the Patriots simultaneously stopped that clock and snatched the game's final lead.

Even Brady, who engineered his 53rd career game-winning drive in the regular season last Sunday in the Meadowlands, wouldn't want to make a habit of getting behind by 25 points in the second half. The point is, however, that he and the Patriots found a way to win, as NFL champions have to be able to do on a regular basis, and under many different circumstances.

Brady's current team is trying to repeat as Super Bowl champions, but while the 2020 Tampa Bay team enjoyed very good fortune in terms of roster health, the 2021 team has fought its way through a long list of injuries. The most pressing concern now, as the postseason looms, is a set of offensive skill-position players that has grown noticeably thinner in recent weeks. Chris Godwin is out for the season with an ACL tear, Leonard Fournette is on short-term injured reserve, Mike Evans is coming back from a hamstring injury and Ronald Jones has a fresh ankle sprain that is keeping him on the sideline. And, of course, Antonio Brown is no longer in the picture after his release on Thursday.

The Buccaneers are still 12-4 and division champions and could head into the NFC playoffs with as high as the second seed. They'll start this postseason run at home, unlike last year. They won't be getting Godwin back and they won't be able to find someone to fully replicate his contributions. The backfield is thin this week. Practice squad wideout Cyril Grayson is suddenly a key cog in the offense. The Buccaneers simply have to find new ways to win if they're going to be champions again.

"I think there's a lot of different traits that make great teams great teams," said Brady. "It's not just physical skill. I've been a part of a lot of teams that weren't the most physically gifted but found ways to get the job done. You get them done different ways. Sometimes it's a little more defense, sometimes it's a little more offense, sometimes it's a little more run game, sometimes it's a little more pass game, sometimes it's turnovers, sometimes it's red area stops, sometimes it's kicking game."

The Buccaneers have won 75% of their games this year by throwing the ball a whole bunch, scoring a ton of points, pressuring quarterbacks on defense and forcing a lot of turnovers…at least until recently in that last category. Tom Brady has thrown the ball more than any quarterback in the league and has and NFL-leading 4,990 yards and 40 touchdowns to show for it. Tampa Bay is second in the NFL in points with 29.4 per game, is fifth in the league with 45 sacks and has a plus-eight turnover ratio.

Maybe that formula holds for five more games, or maybe the Bucs will have to find other strengths to balance losses elsewhere. In last year's postseason, it was really a ferocious pass rush that made the difference in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl. The Bucs will only find those solutions if they are resilient, disciplined and tough every week from here on out.

"The goal is to get the job done and win the game," said Brady. "That's what we're here to play for. We're here to win. However you win – whether it's 3-0 or whether it's 43-40, that's what we're playing for. We'd love for every game to be 55-0. That's not the reality of sports or football. You're not going to win every play, you're not going to win every quarter, you're not going to win every half. It's a lot of determination and resilience. I think a lot of people discount those things because they look at physical skill and think that's the only thing that matters. I think a lot of the intangibles you see are equally important as how physically gifted you are or the scheme you'll run. Resilience, determination, discipline, mental and physical toughness are critical to winning games."

The Buccaneers may soon get Fournette and Jones back, and Evans was able to play more than 50 snaps last Sunday. The defense may have Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David back in the mix for the playoffs. For now, however, the Bucs have won more win to chase in the regular season and a chance it will earn them the coveted second playoff seed.

"Like I said, I think every year you have different challenges and adversities," said Brady. "I think the point is no two years are ever the same. As much as you would love to think, 'Hey, let's just do it like we did last year,' it never is the case. You've got to work differently. We've had a lot of different injuries this year on defense, some on offense, guys in and out. You just try to figure out different formulas to win each week. This is a unique week. Last week of the year. Different guys are king of stepping into different roles and doing the best job they possibly can."

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