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Can Bucs rectify their red-zone issues Sunday in New Orleans?

Tom Brady and Co. managed one touchdown on three red-zone trips vs. Dallas.
Tom Brady and the Bucs scored one touchdown on three red-zone trips Sunday night against the Cowboys.
Tom Brady and the Bucs scored one touchdown on three red-zone trips Sunday night against the Cowboys. [ RON JENKINS | AP ]
Published Sep. 16|Updated Sep. 17

As five days of Bucs-Cowboys dissection has revealed, Tampa Bay’s season-opening romp at AT&T Stadium wasn’t bereft of kinks.

Red-zone efficiency, for one, was lacking.

“I can do a better job of putting us in position to have more success down there,” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said Thursday. “That’s really how I see it.”

The Bucs came away with one touchdown in the 19-3 win, Evans’ one-handed snag of a Tom Brady spiral on a 5-yard fade route, in three trips inside the Cowboys 20-yard line. Ryan Succop made a 29-yard field goal and missed a 36-yarder on the other two opportunities.

Brady’s scoring toss was his only pass to the end zone during those three trips, though he was sacked twice.

“Everything needs to be cleaned,” Brady said. “I think you’re in Week One, so we’re far from a finished product.”

The struggles stand in glaring contrast to 2021, when Tampa Bay ranked second in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, scoring 45 touchdowns on 68 trips (66.2%). The previous season, the Bucs ranked seventh at 68.9% (42-for-61).

Perhaps not coincidentally, tight end Rob Gronkowski was an offensive staple in both those seasons. In his absence after his latest retirement, tight ends accounted for one reception Sunday: a 7-yard catch by Cameron Brate.

“We’re not where we’re going to be at, where we’re going to be in a couple months,” Brady said.

“There’s still a lot of new players. You’re looking at that field the other night: Julio is new, Rachaad (White) is new, Cade (Otton) is new, Ko (Kieft) is new, Kyle (Rudolph) is new, Robert Hainsey is new, Luke (Goedeke) is new, Shaq (Mason) is new. I mean, it’s a different team, so it takes awhile.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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