TAMPA ― In a matchup of Tom vs. Time, the clock isn’t supposed to expire.
But that’s what happened to the Bucs and their 45-year-old quarterback in a 14-12 loss to the Green Bay Packers in front of a record crowd of 69,197 in their home opener Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Tom Brady was a two-point conversion away from sending the game into overtime. After overcoming another frustrating performance on offense, he led the Bucs 89 yards for their only touchdown on a 1-yard pass to Russell Gage with 14 seconds remaining.
On the conversion try, Brady broke the huddle with about 12 seconds remaining on the play clock. Three receivers were stacked to his left. Tight end Cameron Brate was lined up to his right, with Leonard Fournette in the backfield.
With about six seconds remaining, Brady motioned receiver Cole Beasley, who joined the team for his first practice on Wednesday, to move a few steps closer inside the formation. With three seconds left, Brady clapped his hands for the snap that never came.
Instead, the Bucs were penalized for delay of game. On the final play from the 7-yard line, Brady fired incomplete to Gage in the end zone for a failed conversion attempt.
Three games into their first season with Todd Bowles and not Bruce Arians as head coach, the Bucs have scored one offensive touchdown in each game.
Granted, they played the Packers without their three top receivers: Mike Evans (suspended), Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee).
But suffice to say Brady never has never had this much trouble scoring since joining the Bucs, who averaged 30.8 and 29.9 points per game in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
“It’s concerning,” Bowles said. “We didn’t have to have those guys to win this ballgame. We just needed to play smarter. We weren’t waiting for anybody to come onto the field and save us. We had chances to win this game.
“Talent had nothing to do with the way we shot ourselves in the foot.”
The Bucs lost two fumbles in the game, one by Gage and one by Breshad Perriman. There also was a botched exchange between Perriman and Scotty Miller at midfield that cost the Bucs 12 yards on second down and essentially killed that drive.
Meanwhile, the Packers started much faster, with Aaron Rodgers throwing touchdown passes to Romeo Doubs and Allen Lazard in the first half to make it 14-3.
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It could’ve been more. Running back Aaron Jones caught a pass at the Tampa Bay 2-yard line but fumbled when he was hit by Vita Vea. Safety Logan Ryan, who also intercepted Rodgers in the second half, recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.
Brady didn’t want to go into detail about what happened to cause the delay-of-game penalty on the two-point conversion try. After the whistle, he handed the ball off to Leonard Fournette, who may have scored if the play had not been blown dead.
“I just looked up and we had … just a bad execution,” Brady said. “That’s really what it is.
“ .. There were a lot of other times we had bad execution, and I think the reality is when you do that, you don’t have the opportunity to score points. There were too many plays when we were behind the sticks and not good on third down. Penalties, turnovers and missed opportunities. The defense played great. We’ve got to play better on offense.”
The Bucs were bad in nearly every situation. They were 2-of-11 on third down, with both conversions coming on third-and-1. As for Brady, he was sacked twice on third down, when he was 4-of-7 passing for 23 yards.
Even though this team was never out of the ballgame, Brady attempted a season-high 42 passes, completing 31 for 271 yards and one TD. The Bucs only had 14 rushing attempts, averaging 2.4 yards per carry.
Brate was asked if players are getting frustrated with the lack of production on offense.
“How could you not be?” he said. “You’re not going to win a lot of games scoring a touchdown a game.
“We have plenty of talent to score points, and when you’re not doing it, it kind of just snowballs. You feel the pressure. It’s hard. We’ve just played terrible on offense the first three games. ... The defense played well again (Sunday). ... I’m sure they’re frustrated with the offense. We’re not pulling our weight, so we’ve just got to figure it out.”
They won’t have long to find answers. The Bucs host Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday.
Evans will be back. Bowles said that Jones, who reportedly has a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his knee, should play. It’s hard to know Godwin’s status.
Even without them, the Bucs had a chance to win Sunday.
“We got a delay-of-game,” Bowles said. “We didn’t get set up fast enough. It’s something that can’t happen.”
Brady isn’t supposed to lose to the clock. Not when he’s beaten it for 23 years.
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