Speaking on his weekly Monday Night Football pregame segment, Tom Brady indirectly acknowledged what most observers deduced about the first half of the Bucs’ 31-27 win in Atlanta.
The Falcons defense came out far better prepared than Brady’s offense.
“They did a good job keeping us off-balance,” Brady told Westwood One’s Jim Gray minutes before the Bengals and Steelers kicked off. “I thought they were really a coordinated team on defense.”
The Falcons held Tampa Bay to 60 total first-half yards and sacked Brady twice en route to a 17-0 halftime lead. ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky called the Bucs’ protection plan for Brady “awful,” adding it has been that way all season.
“They have a lot of speed and athleticism, and when they decide to blitz, they can usually get home pretty quick,” Brady said. “We didn’t handle it great in the first half, but I thought in the second half we really stepped up to the challenge. We met it head on. They still challenged us with different looks, but we handled it much better.”
Indeed, Brady was sacked only once in the second half, throwing for 320 of his 390 yards during that span while leading touchdown drives on four of the first five possessions after halftime. Earlier Monday, coach Bruce Arians said Brady’s halftime demeanor remained relatively subdued as other unspecified individuals were “hollering and (ticked) off.”
“The sense of urgency in the locker room at halftime, it was very calm by him: ‘We got the ball, let’s go make a play,’” Arians said. “And we go down and score. So it lit a fire in the offense.”
Over their past six games, the Bucs have been outscored 59-7 in the first quarter. But for the season, they’re outscoring the opposition 213-114 in the second half.
“It’s just football,” Brady said. “The game doesn’t end after 30 minutes. So I thought we made some good adjustments at halftime, really locked in to what we needed to do, and came out with a much better sense of urgency in the second half.”