Tom Brady delivers with the deep ball for a change
In the ruthless realm of the NFL, a league bereft of consolation or moral triumph, perception is reality. But at least there's some depth perception to that reality for the Bucs offense today.

The downfield passing game, clearly the most ineffective component of the Tampa Bay offense in recent weeks, resurfaced periodically in Sunday's 27-24 loss to the Chiefs. For the game, Tom Brady finished 4-for-8 for 152 yards on deep passes (20 or more yards in the air) with a touchdown and interception.

He entered the game having completed only one of his previous 19 deep throws. "Honestly, I don't know if much changed," receiver Chris Godwin said. "It really just comes down to execution."

Brady's play-action-propelled deep throws Sunday included a 44-yarder to Godwin, 29- and 48-yarders to tight end Rob Gronkowski, and a 31-yard scoring strike to Mike Evans early in the fourth quarter. By contrast, the Bucs' longest play from scrimmage in last Monday's 27-24 loss to the Rams covered 18 yards.

"We didn't get quite enough explosives," coach Bruce Arians said. "We got a bunch, but when you're playing this team, we needed about two or three more explosives to shorten that field and get more points."

Like seemingly every other facet of the game plan, the deep ball didn't start clicking until dusk nearly had settled on Raymond James Stadium. Brady's first two deep throws - including a catchable one to Evans' outstretched hands - fell incomplete before he connected with Gronkowski over the middle for 29 yards late in the second quarter.

The next play, Ronald Jones hauled in a short Brady throw on an underneath route and tip-toed the Bucs sideline for a 37-yard score. Gronkowski finished with six catches for 106 yards, his first 100-yard receiving game since 2018.

"We have to do a better job in the first half of just executing all the way around," said Godwin, who finished with a team-high eight catches (on nine targets) for 97 yards. "We've got to play complementary football, but we started to kind of put it together in the second half; it was just too little, too late. But we'll get to work, we'll fix it."

Critics will continue to insist Brady remains far more effective with a methodical passing attack, as evidenced by the Bucs' final scoring drive, when he went 7-for-9 for 55 yards with no completion longer than 11 yards. They'll also point to his underthrown second-half deep ball to Scotty Miller as his pocket collapsed, resulting in a Bashaud Breeland interception.

But as Brady likes to reiterate, complementary football is key. For a change, the deep ball returned to complement the dinks and dunks. "Just better execution, you know," Brady said. "I think we can hit every throw. If we miss it, we miss it, but we're going to keep taking them."

Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times, published 30 November 2020