Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady: There's No Quit in the Buccaneers

The Buccaneers know their ultimate goals for 2022 are still within reach with four games left in the regular season, and QB Tom Brady insists he and his teammates are still fighting as hard as ever to achieve them

The 2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 6-7 in mid-December, which is not exactly where a team with reasonable Super Bowl aspirations expected to be. Even more unexpected is the fact that a 6-7 record is good enough for a one-game lead in the scuffling NFC South.

The Buccaneers head into the four-game stretch run fresh off their most lopsided loss of the year, a 35-7 drubbing administered by the 49ers in San Francisco in Week 14. Quarterback Tom Brady, who led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl championship in his first season in town and a league-best 13-4 regular-season record last year, knows there is a lot of football still to be played, and the Bucs intend to fight to the end.

"It's a long race," said Brady. "It's not over in Week 13. That's why you play all [18] weeks. So that's what we're doing. We'll see where we're measured at the end of the year but there's no … quit, there's no lack of fight. Guys are practicing their ass off. We're trying to work hard to make the right improvements. Every day you're challenged in this sport. You get up every day and your body feels a certain way, and your mind and your confidence. Now you've got to go coordinate that with everyone else's body and confidence and attitude. You're trying to string together special teams, offense, defense – there's a lot to do. And it's really rewarding when it pays off. And when it doesn't play off it sucks."

Just behind the Buccaneers in the NFC South standings are the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, both 5-8. Until recently, the division looked like a two-team race between the Bucs and Falcons, but the Panthers have won two straight and are actually in slightly better shape than Atlanta at this point. The Buccaneers and Panthers are both 3-1 in divisional play (with the Panthers defeating the Bucs in Week Seven) and both can "control their own destiny," which is a somewhat dramatic way of saying they will definitely win the division if they win out over the next four weeks. That's true only because the Buccaneers and Panthers meet in Tampa in Week 17.

If the Buccaneers can hang on to their division lead through Week 18, they will almost certainly be the fourth seed in the NFC playoff field and will start their postseason with a home game against the top Wild Card team, which is currently Dallas. In 2020, the Buccaneers were the fifth seed in a seven-team seed and went all the way to victory in Super Bowl LV. That four-game run started with a visit to the home of a division-winner, Washington, that had finished the regular season below .500. Led by un upstart Taylor Heinicke, the 7-9 Washington Football Team took the heavily-favored Bucs down to the wire before falling 31-23.

Like Washington in 2020, the Buccaneers won't be considered Super Bowl favorites by many even if they win their division. But they will have a shot at their ultimate goal, and the fact that it is still out there, ahead in the distance, possible, the Buccaneers are still fighting.

"I think the one thing about football is you get what you deserve," said Brady. "You've got to go earn it. The Rams won the Super Bowl, they were the Super Bowl champions last year; this year they're not having the kind of year they want. It's a competitive league. Everything brings you back to .500. You get some…you don't play the right way, you don't execute the way you're capable. It's a challenge and you just try to figure out the challenge."

As Brady noted on Thursday, it's not as if the NFL world as a whole feels bad about the Buccaneers struggling more than expected. As he put it, no one is feeling sorry for the Bucs. Brady also pointed out that "no on outside the locker room can do much about it." But the men inside that room can do something about it and remain determined to do so. Brady noted that Head Coach Todd Bowles has made it clear this week that the players' goals are still within reach and they are the ones who are going to have to grab them.

"Believe me, you wish it was going great every week but that's not our reality and we've got to dig our way out of it," said Brady. We've got to come together and we've got to do it ourself. I think I really appreciate what Todd is doing. He's putting it on us to fix it, and that's what are responsibility is to do."

View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Week 15 practice at AdventHealth Training Center.

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