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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady: Bucs' Needs to Start Games Better

Slow starts on both side of the ball have at times put the Buccaneers in early deficits through the first month of the season, which has hindered the team's efforts to have a more two-dimensional attack

In their Week Four loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers executed their third and final handoff of the first half with four minutes left in the opening period. It went to Leonard Fournette, who was stuffed by linebacker Nick Bolton for a loss of two, and that drive – the Bucs' second of the game – was over almost as soon as it started. The Chiefs would score on the ensuing possession to make it 21-3.

Though the Buccaneers did get their offense going well enough to score 31 points in a 10-point loss, it wasn't through the ground game. Rookie Rachaad White got the team's three carries of the second half in a bit of unwanted symmetry and two were from the Chiefs' two-yard line going in. He did score on the second one, but the Bucs would finish the game with just three yards on six carries.

Tom Brady threw for 385 yards and three touchdowns and he did get Fournette and White heavily involved in the passing attack. He also enjoyed getting Mike Evans and Chris Godwin back into the mix and hit those two a total of 15 times on 20 targets. Since Brady's arrival in 2020, there have been more than one occasion in which a robust passing attack centered around Evans and Godwin has been enough to make up for a struggling ground game, and Head Coach Todd Bowles has made it clear he doesn't care about statistics are a 50-50 run-pass split as long as the Bucs get the win. Over the duration of a long season, however, the Buccaneers will likely need more balance in order to win consistently. The pass-game heroics were obviously not enough last Sunday night.

"I think you've always got to try to stay balanced over the course of the season," said Brady. "A few games we've done a better job. We've just been getting behind quite a bit and it's been frustrating that we haven't performed very well early in order to keep us more two-dimensional. When you're one-dimensional, it's tough."

The Buccaneers have scored on their opening drive in three of four games so far, but they have yet to find the end zone on those first possessions. Meanwhile, prior having game-long problems slowing down the Chiefs in Week Four the Bucs defense had been allowing its opponents early-drive scores before almost completely clamping down the rest of the way. The Buccaneers are looking for ways to make sure they start faster on both sides of the ball and avoid having immediate deficits take them off script.

"I think we – even last year – you kind of fall back to the pass game because you know we're successful with it," said Brady. "But at the same time, you've got to play with the lead and you've got to keep the other team playing [against] both [the run and pass]. We're going to try to work at all those things to make us a better football team, for sure."

It is not completely surprising that there are a couple areas in which the Bucs have struggled over the first month of the season. Unlike a year ago, the team is dealing with personnel transitions at multiple different positions. It was always going to take some time for an offense featuring a handful of new starters and contributors to forge its identity, and that remains a work in progress. Of course, the Bucs aren't alone in this regard and, as Brady noted on Thursday, he's seen "a lot of bad football" around the league so far this season. Fourteen of the league's 32 teams currently share a 2-2 record. Part of the process is studying what has gone wrong and looking for ways to fix it.

"Two [home] games into the year, we've lost two in a row. We can look at the film and understand why," said Brady. "You turn the ball over, you get behind, you don't play well on third down, you don't score points in red area – it's all the same stuff. It's stuff you've got to work on. I think every year the challenge in football is everyone starts at the bottom and you've got to work your way up. There's a lot of new players, a lot of transition, guys come and go, the team's strengths are different. That's why everyone tunes in to watch football every week, because you never know what you're going to get."

The 2020 Buccaneers took some time early in the season to find a groove, too, in large part because it had a new quarterback at the helm in Brady, one who had zero live game action with his new team before the season opener. That offense improved steadily and then found a new gear from December on. Brady is sure the 2022 Buccaneers are capable of playing much better football moving forward.

"Yeah, I think we feel like we certainly have not played our best football," he said. "That's very true."

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