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If nothing else, 2022 Bucs have relieved Tom Brady’s two biggest headaches

Though only 4-5, the Bucs have redeemed themselves against the Saints and Rams.
Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis (24) celebrates his stop on Rams running back Cam Akers along with cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (23) and linebacker Devin White (45) during the third quarter Sunday.
Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis (24) celebrates his stop on Rams running back Cam Akers along with cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (23) and linebacker Devin White (45) during the third quarter Sunday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Nov. 8

TAMPA — This turbulent Tampa Bay autumn now has a redeeming quality to it, regardless of what transpires from here.

Even if they never find an offensive rhythm or playoff prosperity, even if they stumble badly down the stretch against Geno Smith or Joe Burrow, the 2022 Bucs have carved at least one noteworthy notch in their figurative belt.

At last, they have vanquished the two greatest nemeses of the Tom Brady era. In the season’s first nine weeks, they have taken down both the Saints and Rams, who previously had crushed their spirits and — in one case — their season.

“Well, the satisfaction is in the win,” coach Todd Bowles said in the immediate wake of Sunday night’s climactic 16-13 win against the Rams. “You don’t get satisfaction unless you make the playoffs and go to the Super Bowl. But for a regular-season win, to beat someone you haven’t beaten in a while, it’s a nod, it’s not a great satisfaction.”

Or isn’t it? Entering the season, the Bucs had gone a combined 1-7 against the Rams and Saints during Brady’s tenure. The lone victory: a 30-20 playoff triumph in New Orleans two winters ago, when the defense exploited Drew Brees’ bum shoulder.

Five of those defeats were decided by at least nine points, including a pair of Sunday night embarrassments against the Saints at home. Toss in the postseason loss to the Rams in January, when a last-second coverage botch propelled L.A. to the victory and ultimately the Super Bowl, and the futility had become equal parts chronic and crushing.

Bucs tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches (56) celebrates sacking Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the fourth quarter of Sunday's 16-13 triumph at Raymond James Stadium. The victory was Tampa Bay's first in four meetings against the Rams since Tom Brady became Bucs quarterback in 2020.
Bucs tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches (56) celebrates sacking Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the fourth quarter of Sunday's 16-13 triumph at Raymond James Stadium. The victory was Tampa Bay's first in four meetings against the Rams since Tom Brady became Bucs quarterback in 2020. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

This season’s Bucs, for all their flaws, have exacted revenge in double doses, albeit against two teams now struggling mightily.

They recorded six sacks of Jameis Winston and intercepted him three times in a 20-10 victory at the Superdome in Week Two, then rallied Sunday against the Rams behind a sturdy defensive effort and Brady’s NFL-record 55th game-winning drive.

In the big picture, those wins are only a couple of nifty brush strokes, far from a playoff triumph or even a division title. As the first 59 minutes of Sunday’s game revealed, significant issues remain on offense. Should the Bucs fall to the Seahawks this Sunday in Munich, Germany, the luster of those triumphs diminishes further.

“We have just not played the way we’re capable,” Brady reiterated after the win over Los Angeles.

But for now, the gratification that accompanies revenge is at least something to savor during a 12-hour overseas flight.

“You know, we just lost three in a row,” Bowles said this past Sunday night. “So this (win against the Rams) obviously cures today and we have to get ready (Monday), have the 24-hour rule and move on to Seattle.”

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

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