Inconsistent bucs look inward with future hopes balanced

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Nothing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prepared Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers went as planned in a humiliating 35-7 loss that dropped them to 6-7 and botched quarterback Tom Brady’s homecoming in the Bay Area, only the second time he has played there in 23 years.

Neither the five touchdowns conceded to a team led by rookie quarterback Brock Purdy in his first career start nor the 209 rushing yards conceded to Christian McCaffrey & Co., the second-most since coach Todd Bowles came to Tampa. in 2019, after once leading this team to a No. 1 defensive ranking against the run.

Even the one time the Bucs got into the end zone, an 8-yard touchdown pass from Brady to wide receiver Russell Gage, was an accident, ricocheting off wide receiver Chris Godwin, the intended target, and off the balls. Gage’s hands and required extensive review by officials.

“We have to decide which team we want to be,” Bowles said. “We can’t be one set of Bucs and another set of Bucs. It has to mean something … We either want it or we don’t. We can’t care more than the rest of us. As a coach, you “Don’t take the field, but we got beat in training, so we’re not excused from this at all. They also outplayed us in the game. As a team, as a group, we have to buckle up and decide where our fate lies in the coming weeks.”

Brady, who had been 7-0 against rookie quarterbacks making their NFL debut, suffered the third-biggest loss of his NFL career.

“We got our asses kicked,” he said bluntly.

Despite being a game under .500, the Bucs hold a one-game lead in the NFC South with four games to go. They are only the eighth team in NFL history to have a losing record and lead a division after Week 14, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

But the offense has shown no signs of recovering, averaging 16.69 points per game, 29th in the league. And the defense, which should be perfect to account for the lack of scoring, could look even shorter after defensive tackle Vita Vea (calf strain), cornerback Jamel Dean (toe) and outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (hip) all suffered injuries. Vea and Dean were in walking boots after the game. That’s above Pro Bowl nickelodeon Antoine Winfield Jr., safety Mike Edwards and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting who are no longer playing due to injuries.

Only twice this year have the Bucs managed to win back-to-back games.

“We can’t be up and down like we have been all year,” tight end Cam Brate said. “It’s hard, man. It hurts. And it’s kind of embarrassing for everyone to have the result we had today.”

His game on Sunday was also like that. Safety Keanu Neal sacked Purdy on the first play of the game, but was called for unnecessary roughness. The Bucs looked to put points on the board with Ryan Succop’s 55-yard field goal on their first possession, but it fell short. On his second drive, Brady threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Evans but was returned for a holding penalty to left tackle Donovan Smith, who now has a league-leading 11 penalties on the season after receive two more sunday. A holding penalty on cornerback Carlton Davis also wiped out an interception by Anthony Nelson.

“They’re devastating because we’re playing the Niners and we’re playing the Bucs,” Bowles said of the penalties. “We can’t beat two teams. We’re beating ourselves. We give them credit. They beat us too. They have a good scheme, but we’re also beating ourselves. We’re making it even harder.”

Frustration is also increasing.

With 5:10 left in the second quarter and the Niners up 21-0, outside linebacker Anthony Nelson fumbled wide receiver Deebo Samuel with inside linebacker Lavonte David recovering it, but Brady was unable to hit Godwin or Evans in the second quarter. end zone.

“We’re just not making plays,” Evans said. “The plays that we used to make in years past, we’re just not making them as consistent. I don’t know what it is. We’re just not connecting like we normally do.”

Added Brady: “I threw a shitty pitch to Mike. At the end of the day, it was a terrible pitch, so I’ve got to get it done.”

When it was pointed out that the throw to Evans would have been a touchdown and was executed near perfection, Brady said: “Yeah, but… Yeah, but… There’s been a lot of that this year.”

The players say that it was not because they did not practice together or because of a lack of repetitions. Brady has rarely taken days off after Bowles initially said he would take it on Wednesdays. Julio Jones has been back since Week 8. Gage returned last week. The only receiving weapon missing has been Breshad Perriman.

“We practice a lot together. We all practice a lot together,” Evans said. “It’s not practice. I don’t know what other people are, but it’s not practice. We came out here. We’re very inconsistent and we’ve had a very unlucky season so far.”

Added Brate: “It’s been tough this year. The execution on game day hasn’t been where it needs to be. Obviously we’re a different team than we’ve been the last two years, different strengths and weaknesses, we’ve just got to find a way. to move the ball consistently on offense. It’s been a struggle for us. We just have to figure out how to do it.”

Protection remains an issue, made worse without All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs, who missed the second straight week with a high ankle sprain. Despite the offensive line not allowing a sack, Brady was hit a season-high eight times. His pressing rate was 23.2% (3rd highest of the season) and his off target percentage was 26.4% (Worst of the season).

“It’s very frustrating. We have to find an answer and we have to fix it fast. Whatever it is. Me included,” Smith said, adding that he agreed with Bowles’ message. “He’s right. It’s all up to us. From the beginning, it’s always been said that this is our team and that we’re going to go as far as we want to go. It’s time for all of us to step up, all in the locker room.”

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