With 10:41 to go in the game, all hope seemed lost. Based on the head-to-head tiebreaker, it looked as if the Buccaneers would take another loss and drop behind Carolina in the NFC South.
Then the Buccaneer offense and Tom Brady came to life and scored 13 unanswered points as the Buccaneers got their Christmas miracle as the clock was about to strike midnight.
The Bucs’ offense had been unwatchable most of the night. After all the turkey, ham, and other items I devoured on Christmas day, I’ll admit watching that offense had me struggling to stay awake.
Buccaneers Continue To Struggle In Short Yardage Situations
Despite the win, the Buccaneers continued to struggle in short-yardage situations.
The series of play calls in the second quarter with Leonard Fournette was straight out of a junior high playbook. The Bucs faced a second down and one at their own 48.
Fournette had just had a 14-yard run to put the Buccaneers in good field position. Instead, they gave the ball to Fournette again for no gain. Third and one.
Again the ball went to Fournette for no gain. Now it’s fourth and one. For the third straight time, the ball went to Fournette, who again gained nothing, and the Buccaneers turned the ball over on downs.
Tom Brady Snatches Victory From The Jaws Of Defeat
Tom Brady looked every bit of 45 years old in the first 50 minutes of the game, completing 15/26 passes for 115 yards and two interceptions.
He missed a wide-open Julio Jones in the end zone and missed on passes to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin that were both intercepted.
Trailing 16-6, Brady did what he has done many times in his career. He put the team on his back and played with a sense of urgency, completing 17/22 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.
Tom Brady said that keeping it close and then great execution helped the comeback effort in the desert. “Keep it close in the fourth quarter, and you know you’ve got a shot. In the fourth quarter, we executed pretty well, broke some tackles, and ran hard. A lot of guys made plays in the passing game. The defense really stepped up. Down 10 in the fourth quarter on the road, it was good to find a way to get a win.”
No one has been able to figure out how this team, offensively, can be so dull and so stagnant for over three quarters, then go into a two-minute offense and play flawless football, score 13 unanswered points, and come back to win the game.
This is the third time Brady and the offense have mounted a comeback like this in 2022. The Bucs beat the Rams 16-13, the Saints 17-16, and now the Cardinals 19-16 in overtime.
Leonard Fournette Does It All
Leonard Fournette had his best game since he ran for 127 yards in the opener in Dallas. Fournette accounted for 162 yards in the Buccaneers’ win. He had nine catches for 90 yards and carried the ball 20 times, gaining 72 yards.
Rachaad White, who keeps getting better every game, had 36 yards on seven carries and scored the Buccaneers’ only touchdown.
After the 19-point explosion in the desert, the Buccaneers are now the fifth-lowest-scoring team in the NFL this season. The Bucs have scored 266 points and are averaging 17.7 a game.
This is light years away from their offensive output last year, when they put up 511 points and averaged 30 points a game.
I hope I am seeing the last of Byron Leftwich as offensive coordinator. The playcalling and overall execution have been an absolute disgrace this season.
Defense Continues To Play Well
Again, the defense was outstanding, as Lavonte David and Devin White were all over the field, making plays. Sean Murphy Bunting-Bunting had one of his best games in recent memory. Rakeem Nunez Roaches recovered a fumble at a critical point in the game.
Sure the defense allowed some plays, but that will happen throughout the game.
Ryan Succop had his best game of the season, kicking four field goals, including the game-winner in overtime.
Succop has been one of the Buccaneer’s most consistent players this season, and that has not gone unnoticed by Todd Bowles. “He’s done a great job. He’s been very consistent. He came back healthier than he was last year, so I think that helps a lot. The hold’s been great, the snap’s been great, he’s been doing his job, so I can’t say enough about him.”
It All Comes Down To Sunday Against The Carolina Panthers
The 8-9 Buccaneers will now play the Carolina Panthers at home on Sunday with the NFC South title on the line. The Buccaneers have the more talented roster and should win easily.
However, the Panthers are executing at a very high level, and they ran for 325 yards in their 37-23 win against the Detroit Lions last week.
The Bucs lost tackle Josh Wells to a season-ending torn patellar. Wells had filled in for Donovan Smith during his absence the last two weeks. Brandon Walton will start at left tackle if Smith can’t play this week.