Still dressed in full uniform, even after several of his teammates had already departed for the night, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady stared dejectedly at the floor of his locker Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium.
With his arms folded and his face flushed, Brady still very much wore the sting of the Bucs’ 27-22 loss to the Baltimore Ravens — their fifth loss in the past six games — which dropped him to 3-5 as a starter for the first time in his storied 23-year NFL career.
Backup Blaine Gabbert sat next to him, offering words of comfort, while fellow quarterback Ryan Griffin and quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen took turns patting him on the back.
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“I know he’s really hard on himself,” right tackle Tristan Wirfs said across from Brady’s locker. “We’re all really hard on ourselves. We’re gonna do our best to get this thing fixed cuz this ain’t a fun feeling right now.”
“Nobody’s pointing the finger at Tom Brady,” wide receiver Mike Evans said. “It’s a whole team. A team game. The ultimate team game. It’s not just one player. It never has been.”
Moments later, Brady took the podium.
“I don’t think you can erase what happened the last eight weeks,” he said. “We’ve gotta dig deep, see what we’re all about, come to work, try to improve and give ourselves a better chance to win.”
At 45 and in the last year of his contract with the Buccaneers, this could be his last NFL season, having already retired once for 40 days this offseason. It’s a reality his teammates are all very much aware of, making the Bucs’ rash of losses in 2022 devastating.
“I hope he plays as long as he can,” Wirfs said. “I’d love to play with him forever. I love Tom. I wish everything was going as perfect as possible for him, if it is the last year for him, or whatever. We’re just trying to ball, and it’s frustrating when stuff’s not working and you don’t have the answer in front of you.”
Evans added, “He’s the best to ever do it. I mean, he hates losing. That’s all he knows is winning and being 3-5 is not good enough, so we’ve gotta turn it around and soon.”
They’ve been unable to put points on the board all season. They managed to score on a 1-yard touchdown run on the opening drive — their first opening-drive TD all year — and grabbed a 10-3 lead in the first quarter. But they wouldn’t find the end zone again until 53 seconds left in regulation, when Brady found Julio Jones on an 8-yard strike. It was the pair’s first touchdown of the season, with Jones, who was supposed to play a big role in their offense, missing the past three games with a knee injury.
Brady (26 of 44 passing, 325 yards, 1 TD vs. the Ravens) has thrown for an NFL-high 2,267 yards with nine touchdowns and an interception on the year, but his QBR of 49.5 ranks 18th in the league.
Defensively, things unraveled in the second half after top outside linebacker Shaq Barrett left the game with an Achilles injury, which sources told ESPN the team fears will end his season. The Bucs surrendered three touchdowns after that, and the offense couldn’t keep pace.
“It’s definitely tough,” linebacker Lavonte David said of losing games with Brady. “Just the things he’d won over his career. The type of guy he is, the type of man he is, the type of football player, the type of leader he is – definitely hard. He’s feeling all the same emotions we feel. We definitely gotta try to turn this thing around because we’ve got the guys to do it. But it’s gotta come from somewhere.”
The Bucs will have a long weekend to regroup and coach Todd Bowles said the team would mull possible changes.
“We are going to talk about everything this weekend,” Bowles said. “When you are not playing well, everything is on the table for us, and we will discuss it as a staff.”
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