Tuesday, January 31, 2023
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‘There’s no lack of fight’

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Through one of Tom Brady’s toughest seasons to date, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback knows the stark reality of his and his team’s situation.

“No one’s feeling sorry for us,” Brady said Wednesday. “No one outside the locker room can really do much about it. We’ve gotta come together and do it ourselves.”

He’s right about that. But there are still factors that work in the Buccaneers’ favors with the playoffs fast approaching.

The Buccaneers still lead the NFC South, despite a 6-7 record. Two of their four remaining games come against teams that recently made quarterback changes. Arguably the two most important games remaining, against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and the suddenly hot Carolina Panthers, are at Raymond James Stadium.

“I don’t know how we’re still in first place, but we are,” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. “We’ll take it. Lot of people would love to be in first place sitting (at) this point.”

But there’s also the reality of being below .500 well into December, having lost 35-7 last week to the San Francisco 49ers and first-game starter Brock Purdy. Nearly every victory the Bucs have had this season has been a laborious effort. The offensive struggles have been at the forefront of the team’s middling season, averaging a mere 17.2 points per game and scoring more than 22 points only once this season.

“You don’t play the right way, you don’t execute the way you’re capable of, it’s a challenge,” Brady said. “And you just try to figure out the challenge. It’s a long race. It’s not over in Week 13. It’s why you play all 17 (games).”

On the bright side, Brady said, the Bucs haven’t mailed it in amid the struggles.

“There’s no lack of fight,” Brady said. “Guys are practicing their asses off. We’re trying to work hard to make improvements.”

Leftwich said he doesn’t see any reason to change course, at least not in the big picture.

“The great thing for us is everything that we talked about in May, June, July is still in front of us,” he said. “I know it might not feel like that way to people outside (the team facility), but in that locker room, everything that we said that we wanted to do this year is still in front of us.

“That’s a blessing in itself to be honest with you. So we’re just gonna understand that, be aware of that, make sure we don’t miss the moment, make sure we don’t hear too much of the noise.”

Although there appears to have been some tension between Brady and the Bucs’ coaching staff this year, the quarterback credited head coach Todd Bowles and his approach to fixing things.

“I think I really appreciate what Todd is doing. He’s putting it on us to fix it,” Brady said. “That’s what our responsibility is to do.”

That starts with Sunday’s game against the Bengals, followed by games at Arizona (without Kyler Murray), home against the Panthers and lastly, away in Week 18 against Atlanta. If the Bucs take care of business, they’ll have a home playoff game. If not, they’ll be home for the playoffs – with Brady’s NFL future very much in question.

“That’s not our reality, and we’ve got to dig our way out of it,” Brady said.

Image & Story Credit: nfl.com

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