The Buccaneers are now 3-1 on the season for the first time since 2011. They've won three straight games after dropping their season opener in New Orleans and look to be improving each week - both in tangible ways and more intangible ways. The come-from-behind victory over the Los Angeles Chargers was the latest example of that. Despite being down by as many as 17 points, Tampa Bay never gave in.They scored 21 unanswered to take them into a shootout in the third quarter against an impressive rookie quarterback in Los Angeles' Justin Herbert. By the fourth quarter, thanks to a collective effort to turn it around in all phases of the ball, the Bucs were able to come out with the win.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Sunday's home victory in front of the home fans for the first time.
1. The Bucs demonstrated resiliency on both sides of the ball.
The ability to overcome adversity is what good teams do in the NFL and the 2020 Bucs seem to be well equipped in a year that may include more obstacles than ever before.
It was said by Arians following the game and echoed by Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles on Monday morning. "I don't think we were mature enough to win this game a year ago."
Arians said they would have gotten their you-know-whats beat by 20 points. Instead, Tampa Bay emerged victorious to celebrate their third-straight "Victory Monday" and remain atop the NFC South. And they did it despite being down as many as 17 points.
The Buccaneers rallied from the end of the second quarter on, sparked by a big forced fumble by defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh that was recovered by inside linebacker Devin White right before the half. The Tampa Bay offense was able to capitalize with a touchdown before time expired and went into the half trailing by just 10 instead of 17.
"It created some momentum for us," said Suh after the game. "Tom and the offense did a great job punching it in, getting a touchdown and allowed us to build off of that. That is what we have to do as a defense – make sure we give them as many opportunities to score points because we know we have plenty of fire power over there. It is just about getting opportunities and getting the job done."
"That was one of the plays of the game," said Bowles. It shifted the sails in the Buccaneers' favor just as the offense started to hum. The Bucs' 17-point deficit is tied for the second-largest the team has overcome in franchise history. They last did it in 2011 against Minnesota. Coincidentally, 2011 is also the last time the Bucs started the season 3-1.
"I think that was the big thing," said Arians of being able to fight back. "We knew we had played poorly and it was just a show of character [in] what the second half was going to show. I can honestly say had this been last year, we'd have gotten our [butts] beat by 20 [points]. This team has a ton of character and playmakers. We started making plays and you can see when we don't beat ourselves, we're going to be a tough team to beat."
It marked the latest team in 2020 to overcome a deficit of 16 or more points and win. It's the first time in the history of the league a team has done so in each of the first four weeks of the season.
Overcoming adversity may just be the theme of 2020.
2. Tom Brady being Tom Brady led to the best offensive performance the Bucs have seen this season.
Comebacks, on the other hand, are nothing new to one quarterback Tom Brady, nicknamed, "The Comeback Kid," after all. He may have been intercepted in what turned out to be pick-six in the Bucs' second drive of the game, but he went on to have a career day and propelled the offense to 21 unanswered points to take back the lead.
"We put ourselves in a pretty good hole and we were going to have to dig our way out of it," said Brady. "That's just the way football works sometimes – just have to tighten some things up. Glad we came back – defense made a big play for us before the end of the [first] half and that got us ignited a little bit. We made some plays in the third quarter and made some good plays in the fourth quarter. Started the game well [and] finished the game well – that middle part – we have to figure out how to play 60 minutes well."
Brady navigated a back-and-forth battle in the third quarter and finished with an impressive 30 pass completions on 46 attempts for 369 yards and five touchdowns. That was the 34th time he has led a comeback of 10 or more points, which is by far and away the most in NFL history.
"We all know his track record and his résumé," said wide receiver Mike Evans of Brady. "It speaks for itself. We need him to play like that week-in and week-out if we want to be the special team that we think we are capable of being. We have to utmost confidence in Tom [Brady]. He had a hell of a game today."
View the top photos of Tampa Bay's Week 4 matchup against Los Angeles.
It was also his seventh career game of throwing for more than 300 yards and five or more touchdowns, which now ties Peyton Manning for the second-most in NFL history. His 93 games with over 300 yards passing also tied Manning for the second-most in league history.
Brady hit nine different receivers in the game and his five touchdowns all went to different players. He now has the most passing touchdowns through four games in team history, tying Ryan Fitzpatrick from 2018 with 11.
With the Bucs win, Brady now has the most regular season wins in NFL history with 222. He also owns the most total wins (regular and postseason) with 252.
3. The defense gave up big plays for the first time this season – but stayed stout against the run.
First, the not so good. The Bucs' defense uncharacteristically gave up a couple big plays and a 97-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown for the Chargers. Credit rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, who played with the poise and aggressiveness of a player much more experienced than his three NFL games would suggest. Los Angeles' biggest play perhaps came at the end of the third quarter just as Tampa Bay had finally reclaimed the lead, up 28-24, after Brady hit wide receiver Scotty Miller for a collective 63 yards on two passes that resulted in a touchdown. Herbert traded a big play right back, hitting wide receiver Jalen Guyton for a 72-yard touchdown. All of a sudden, Los Angeles was back on top.
But that would be the last time the Chargers would hold a lead. The entire fourth quarter, the Bucs' defense shut Los Angeles down, allowing the Tampa Bay offense to pull ahead and stay there.
"Yeah, we were a little more aggressive in the second half to put more pressure on them and give them different looks," said cornerback Carlton Davis, who had the game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter. "From then we just had to play ball. We had to play better. We had to read our keys. We had to be more disciplined in our coverage. Halftime we made some adjustments and it worked."
Here's the thing. There's a reason the Bucs were beat on a couple plays by players you probably hadn't heard of before this game. They were gameplanning for guys like running back Austin Ekeler and wide receiver Keenan Allen. That's all you can do as a defense, especially early in the season. Well, Ekeler was knocked out of the game with an injury after getting only 14 yards on five carries, while Allen had 62 yards on eight receptions but was kept out of the end zone.
Tampa Bay held the Chargers to just 46 net yards rushing overall, marking the third time in team history that the Buccaneers have held consecutive opponents under 50 rushing yards. The last time was in 2007. It was the second-straight week that the Bucs' defense held opponents to under 50 yards on the ground, which marks only the third time in team history the team has done so, the last time also coming in 2007.
Shutting down the run game makes an offense one dimensional, which quite simply makes it easier to defend.
"It's very important to us," said Bowles on Monday, speaking on being able to maintain the team's success against the run. "We know what teams are trying to do to us as far as the pass game. Once you shut down the run, it's just a matter of making plays so those guys up front understand that and they do a good job trying to stop it."
It was an all-level effort though throughout the game, though. Suh's forced fumble turned the tides and it was Davis' interception that gave the Bucs the ball back with 2:22 to go in the game, preserving the Bucs' seven-point lead and the win. The Bucs got pressure on Herbert from all levels again with both outside linebacker Shaq Barrett and safety Jordan Whitehead recording sacks. Suh and fellow interior lineman Will Gholston recorded two quarterback hits. Lavonte David again had a tackle for loss and broke up a pass from Herbert.
The cylinders are firing, but now it'll be a matter of having them fire for a full 60 minutes along with the offense.