By: Michelle Sabin
Sports Talk Florida – Bucs reporter
What a difference a week makes or, in this case, all seven.
It was clear on Sunday the Buccaneers have made huge improvements on offense, particularly with communication and timing. According to Head Coach Bruce Arians, it has been “total growth on the offense.”
Arians explained, “it’s knowing the guys better, knowing the system better, everything that we change each week, there’s such good communication of what we’re trying to get done, where the ball should be going versus each coverage.”
Earlier this year, it had been tough for Quarterback Tom Brady to find time to practice consistently with his receivers. Between a virtual offseason, limited snaps in training camp, and a canceled pre-season, the team was having difficulty connecting on offense with its new quarterback.
Brady explained, “We put a lot of new people together and we got to figure a lot of things out in a short period of time. We are fighting against a lot of continuity from a lot of other teams.”
The issue was compounded by injuries to key players early in the season, including Chris Godwin and running back Leonard Fournette. These injuries meant limited or missed practices which further reduced the time Brady had with his receivers. Throughout the season, this setback translated to critical mistakes including dropped passes, missed routes and fumbled handoffs.
Brady explained, “Bruce [Arians] has had tremendous patience with me . . . I totally appreciate that and respect that, and feel like I’m getting to a more comfortable place.” He added, “it is a lot of work ahead; none of it magically happens. We realized that early in the season.”
And although their opening drive against the Raiders fell short with three and out, on the next drive they shifted gears. The Buccaneers showed off a new level of consistency and communication throughout the entire game. This translated to not just a win but also putting up 45 points on the board.
The Buccaneers scored six touchdowns and a field goal, including Brady’s second rushing touchdown of the season. He also capped off the win by becoming the NFL’s All-Time Passing touchdown leader with his pass to Tyler Johnson at the end of the fourth quarter.
Not to be outdone, Tight End Rob Gronkowski had his 80th career touchdown pass from Brady. This happened to fall on National Tight End Day (yes, that is a real thing).
However, it was Scotty Miller’s touchdown at the end of the half that helped maintain the momentum of the game. Brady dropped a perfect pass into Miller’s hands in the back corner of the end zone giving the team an 11-point lead. As Arians explained, “we knew the way they were going to play Mike [Evans], Scotty was going to have a game.” Miller finished the day with 6 catches for 109 yards.
Chris Godwin, who finally returned last week after recovering from an hamstring injury, had 9 receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. Arians praised Godwin’s abilities saying, “he’s a deep threat when he’s healthy; he is the ultimate football player, he blocks like a tight end, runs routes like the best wide outs in the league… he’s so valuable to our offense.”
Brady echoed this sentiment saying, “[Godwin’s] doing an unbelievable job. We’re growing together every day.” He added, “I have so much respect for him as a player, his style of play, how he complements Mike [Evans] and Scotty [Miller]. That whole receiving group has done a tremendous job for us.”
Running back Leonard Fournette finally returned this week after recovering from an ankle injury. He was in for one snap last week, but had 11 rushes for 50 yards against the Raiders, including a 24-yard burst after getting a block by Gronkowski.
The Buccaneers defense, number 1 in the league, also had a consistently strong night. It is worth spotlighting rookie Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. who has already had a breakout season, including 2 sacks, added his first career interception to his resume.
Winfield’s fourth quarter turnover led to a rushing touchdown by Ronald Jones II two plays later. The Buccaneers scored two touchdowns in less than a minute expanding the lead to 18 points.
The Buccaneers are currently 1 of only 4 teams in the league to score on each red zone possession.
With clear growth and consistency by the offense in week 7, and a dominant performance by the defense week after week, some may argue the Buccaneers are now one of the strongest teams in the NFL.
The team remains focused at the task at hand, as you are only as good as your last win. In order to meet this challenge every week, Brady explained, “we are going to need everybody’s best and we are going to expect everybody’s best.”
They will carry this philosophy into week 8 for Monday Night Football against the New York Giants.
THE VIDEO USED IN THIS STORY WAS PROVIDED BY THE TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS YOUTUBE CHANNEL – BE SURE TO CHECK IT OUT.