Inconsistent Bucs look inward with future hopes poised

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

Not the five touchdowns given to a team led by the rookie quarterback Brock Purdy in his first career start or the 209 rushing yards allowed to Christian McCaffrey & Co. — the second since coach Todd Bowles arrived in Tampa in 2019, having once led that team to a No. 1 defensive run ranking.

Even the only time the Bucs reached the end zone – an 8-yard touchdown pass from Brady to wide receiver Russell Gage – was an accident, as it bounced off the wide receiver chris godvinthe intended target, and in the hands of Gage 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’s got to mean something. … Either we want it or we don’t. We can’t care more than everyone else. In as a coach, you don’t go out on the pitch, but we were overwhelmed, so we’re not apologizing at all, we were also outplayed, as a team, as a group, we have to buckle up and decide what our destiny is in the next few weeks.”

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

“They kicked our ass,” he said bluntly.

Despite being one game under .500, the Bucs have a one-game lead in the NFC South with four games remaining. 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 showed no signs of recovery, averaging 16.69 points per game, 29th in the league. And the defense – which must be perfect to account for the lack of goals – could be even more shorthanded after a defensive tackle Vita Vea (calf fault), cornerback Jamel Dean (toe) and outside linebacker Joe Tryon Shoyinka (hip) all left with injuries. Vea and Dean wore walking boots after the game. That’s in addition to the Pro Bowl nickelback Antoine Winfield Jr.., security Mike Edwards and cornerback Sean Murphy – Bunting already seated due to injuries.

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

‘We can’t be up and down like we’ve been all year’, tight end Like Brat said. “It’s tough, man. It hurts. And a bit embarrassing for everyone to have the result we had today.”

Their game on Sunday was that way too. Security Keanu Neal sacked Purdy on the first play of the game, but was called off for unnecessary roughness. The Bucs were looking to put points on the board with a 55-yard field goal by Ryan Succop on their first possession, but it was very short. On their second practice, Brady threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver mike evansbut he was recalled for a waiting penalty on left tackle Donovan Smith, who now has a league-leading 11 penalties this season after picking up two more on Sunday. A waiting penalty on cornerback Carlton Davis also wiped out a Anthony Nelson interception.

“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 fight. Credit them. They beat us too. They have a good scheme, but we also fight. We make it even more difficult.”

Frustration also mounts.

With 5:10 left in the second quarter and the Niners up 21-0, outside linebacker Anthony Nelson shot the ball from the wide receiver Deebo Samuel with inside linebacker Lavonte David get it back, but Brady couldn’t hit Godwin or Evans in the end zone.

“We just don’t make games,” Evans said. “Games that we used to make in previous years, we just don’t make them as consistent. I don’t know what it is. We just don’t connect like we usually do.”

Brady added: “I made a shitty pitch to Mike. At the end of the day it was a terrible pitch so I have to do it.”

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

Players say it hasn’t been a function of not training together or a lack of reps. Brady rarely took days off after Bowles initially announced he would on Wednesdays. Jules Jones has been back since week 8. Gage returned last week. The only missing receiving weapon was Breshad Perriman.

“We train a lot together. We all train a lot together,” Evans said. “It’s not training. I don’t know what the others – but it’s not training. We’ve been coming here. We’ve just been very inconsistent and a very unhappy season so far. “

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

Protection continues to be an issue, only getting worse without the right All-Pro tackle Tristan Wirfs, who missed the second straight week with a sprained ankle. Although the offensive line didn’t give up a sack, Brady had a season-high eight times. His pressure ratio was 23.2% (the third highest of the season) and his off-target percentage was 26.4% (the worst of the season).

“It’s very frustrating. We need to find an answer and we need to fix it quickly. Either way. Me included,” Smith said, adding that he agreed with Bowles’ message. “He’s right. It’s all up to us. From the start, we were always told that this is our team and that we go as far as we want. It’s time for us all to step in, everyone in the locker bedroom.”

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