By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports staff writer
The hot pick heading into last week’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Chicago Bears matchup was the former by many national analysts throughout the country and seemingly for good reason.
The Buccaneers were coming off an improbable 38-31 victory over a tough Los Angeles Chargers team led by rookie quarterback sensation Justin Herbert. Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady was coming off by far his best game of the season, throwing for over 360 yards and five touchdowns in the victory. Could the Buccaneers pull off four in a row?
Almost but no cigar for the Buccaneers, as inconsistency on the offensive line along with the inability to make plays in the secondary led to a 20-19 loss to the Bears. Tampa Bay drops to 3-2 on the season and now has a home date this Sunday when they welcome into town the undefeated Green Bay Packers, who sit at 4-0.
Without having receivers Chris Godwin, Justin Watson, and tight end OJ Howard, who is now out for the season due to an Achilles rupture, Brady was having to throw to many unknowns early on. Brady was able to connect with wide receivers Tyler Johnson and Jaydon Mickens, who primarily handles kickoff and punt return duties for the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay (3-2) started off the game well on a couple of Ryan Succop field goals and Brady hit Mike Evans on a touchdown pass, giving the Buccaneers a 13-0 advantage. That lead ended up evaporating in the second half, as Brady’s counterpart Nick Foles guided the Bears on multiple touchdown drives right before intermission. Down 14-13 heading into the third period, Brady and the Bucs took the lead back on another Succop field goal, going up 16-14.
Both teams continued to tradeoff field goal makes throughout the second half, but penalties started to become an issue for Tampa Bay’s offensive line in the third quarter. Drives became stalled due to the inability to negate holding and personal foul penalties. Nonetheless, Tampa Bay did have an opportunity to win the game as they had the ball last with just under two minutes.
Considered a time when Brady plays at his best, the signal lost track of downs on the final drive. With Tampa Bay facing a 4th and 6, Brady fired a pass intended for tight end Cameron Brate into the ground and looked around believing it was only third down. Holding four fingers up thinking they had one more down to go, officials had to let Brady know the drive was over.
Now the Buccaneers must turn their attention to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who have yet to lose a game this season. The last time Brady faced Rodgers was in 2018 when he was with the New England Patriots, with the Patriots defeating the Packers that season. This upcoming game begins a stretch in which they face the Packers, Las Vegas Raiders, New Orleans Saints, and then the Carolina Panthers.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.