Down one point with 1:13 remaining in regulation, the Buccaneers needed Tom Brady to be the “Comeback Kid” to close the game with a victory.
What came next was an ending filled with confusion rather than celebration.
Situated on his own 41-yard line and in need of six yards to keep the drive alive, Brady took a shot down field to tight end Cameron Brate on fourth down. After the pass fell incomplete, the veteran signal-caller looked around and flashed four fingers, giving the impression that he believed the Bucs still had another down to go. A turnover on downs ensued and the Bears held on to a 20-19 win, sparking questions regarding whether Brady was aware of the situation.
“Yeah, I knew we needed a chunk and I was thinking about more yardage,” Brady explained after the game. “It was bad execution. We had a great opportunity there. Just didn’t execute when we needed to.”
When asked again if he knew what down it was, Brady instead took the blame for the approach he decided to take on that last play.
“Yeah, you’re up against the clock. I knew we had to gain a chunk so I should have been thinking more first down instead of chunk,” he said.
Coach Bruce Arians was a little more forthright with his response when asked, flatly telling reporters, “Yeah, he knew, he knew.”
The thought of Brady being unaware of the circumstances during a key moment of a game sounds almost blasphemous. The 43-year-old signal-caller has displayed time and time again during his career the ability to be calm, cool and collected in the midst of a game’s most pressure-filled moments.
Against Chicago, Brady faced pressure of a different sort in the form of Khalil Mack (two sacks) and the Bears pass rush. The Bucs offensive line struggled all night to contain the blitz and accrued several costly penalties in the process. At one point, a frustrated Brady gave the group an earful on the sidelines. He said after the game that mistakes proved to be Tampa’s undoing.
“I think turnovers, penalties, field position, all those lead to points. When it comes down to third down, that area, ultimately you’re trying to score more points than the other team,” he said. “Turnovers are a big part of that, penalties are another big part of that, because you’re not possessing the ball if you’re in third and long yardage. You need to have clean games where you stay ahead on down and distance, you can get some rhythm, some momentum and we obviously have to do a better job of that.”
Even with the errors — 11 penalties for 109 yards — the Bucs had a chance to steal one. Rather than leave the Windy City with his 47th career game-winning drive, Brady will search for answers ahead of a high-profile clash against the Packers in 10 days.
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