Cameron Brate: 'I couldn't come through when we needed it'
Eduardo Encina, Tampa Bay Times, published 22 December 2019

As the Bucs locker room began clearing out, tight end Cameron Brate sat motionless, staring at his locker. With Pro Bowl receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin sidelined with injuries, the Bucs offense had its share missed opportunities in Tampa Bay's 23-20 loss to Houston Saturday. A pass just out of Breshad Perriman's reach in the end zone. A deep ball to O.J, Howard that just missed down the sideline,

But when quarterback Jameis Winston needed a completion the most, he turned to the surest hands on the field. With the Bucs needing the convert a fourth-and-3 in the game's final four minutes, Winston found Brate open just past the first-down marker. "We're gonna make that play," Winston said out loud about the play.

The pass was there, but was dropped by Brate in mid stride. Brate stumbled to the ground, his hands on his helmet in disbelief. Had Brate made the catch, the Bucs would have had a first down at the Houston 36.

"Unfortunately, I just didn't come through for the team," Brate said. "It hurts. Obviously, that would have been a really big play for us. I take that one fully. It's fully on me. It's frustrating. I'll feel bad for it for 24 hours, and then start working on next week."

Brate has long been Winston's safety valve since the pair connected for seven touchdown passes in 2016. He entered the day with one drop in 45 targets, according to Pro Football Focus. "I think he was probably more surprised (than I was)," Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. "We were probably in field-goal range and had a chance to win the game. That was a big one. We had touchdowns wide open and going off fingertips all day."

With Evans, Godwin and rookie Scotty Miller all out, the Bucs needed other targets to step up. Winston had success throwing the ball downfield, especially with Perriman, who logged his first career back-to-back 100-yard receiving games.

Brate and Howard were expected to play a bigger role on Saturday. When the Saints shut down Evans last month, Brate caught a career-high 10 passes for 73 yards. But on Saturday, Brate and Howard combined for just five catches for 63 yards. Finding help underneath wasn't as easy. Brate had just two catches on four targets totaling 17 yards. He did have a key 12-yard third-down catch on the Bucs' 16-play that lasted 8:17 and ended with a Matt Gay field goal to tie it 20-20 late in the third quarter. And the Bucs had done extremely well when they needed to make a play, converting on third down eight of their first 12 tries. But they converted only one of their last five. The incomplete pass to Brate was the Bucs' only fourth-down attempt. "I'm not too sure exactly what happened there," Brate said. "It's frustrating because I prepare very hard and take my job really seriously. Just unfortunate I couldn't come through when we needed it."