TAMPA — One of the most baffling occurrences this season has been the dissolvement of chemistry between Tom Brady and Mike Evans.
This is their third season together, and yet the Bucs quarterback and his No. 1 receiver don’t seem to be on the same page of the playbook lately.
That was never so evident as last Sunday in Cleveland, when Evans was targeted nine times but produced only two catches for 31 yards, with 28 coming on one play.
Why have Brady and Evans’ chemistry suddenly eroded?
“That’s a good question,” coach Todd Bowles said. “Some of them were defensive calls. Some of them we just missed it here and there. We’ve got to get that fixed. We’ve got to get them back on the same page. That struggle, it showed up (against the Browns), and it showed up a few games before that. We’ve got to get that taken care of. That’s crucial for our success.”
Brady may have seen this coming, and not just with Evans.
One complaint he has had recently is that the Bucs stopped doing competitive one-on-one passing drills in practice.
As Brady argued, it’s the best way for him to develop trust in a receiver and to be able to make sight adjustments.
Those drills largely had been absent from practice for about two years. But three weeks ago, the Bucs reinstituted the practice on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
“I think the more we can do in practice to simulate what goes on in the game, the better we do and the more we gain confidence in one another,” Brady said. “I think the passing game is certainly about confidence and anticipation, and you get a lot of those reps in training camp, and you get into the season and I think there’s always a balance between keeping guys fresh, and certainly a guy like Mike and I, we have a lot years together now and I’ve thrown him a lot of balls, so I have a lot of confidence.
“He and I, I have a lot of confidence in what we can do and what we’ve done, and we’re just going to keep working at it.”
Evans’ catch percentage has fallen to 62.2%, which is much better than his 57% catch rate prior to Brady’s arrival. Over the previous two seasons, Evans had 144 receptions on only 218 targets, a catch percentage of 66.1. That was a nine-point boost over his career percentage prior to Brady’s arrival.
“Obviously practice helps,” Evans said. “We’ve been getting some good reps in, but it’s a game of inches. Everything matters. I have to be better. I’m used to getting 2 or 3 yards separation on most of my routes. I’ve got to get back to that.”
Brady has to take some responsibility here, too. For personal reasons, he missed about 11 days during training camp and skipped a Saturday walk-through to attend the wedding of Patriots owner Robert Kraft. But confidence is everything in sports, however you can capture it.
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“Football is a very humbling game for all of us,” Brady said. “You can’t ever take anything for granted. There are times when I walk in and I feel like I’m the worst quarterback that ever played, and that’s just the way it is. You try to go out there the next day and do a better job, and you get it back. It’s just the way football goes.”
Bowles’ cause: Autism Speaks
The “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign allows players and coaches to customize footwear and even auction them off to benefit a charitable endeavor that is close to their hearts.
For Bowles, that means calling attention to the Autism Speaks advocacy organization.
Bowles’ 11-year-old son, Tyson, has autism, so raising awareness and understanding is important to him.
“I don’t think a lot of people know about autism, because it doesn’t really show physically most of the time,” Bowles said. “To have that and try to bring awareness to that and try to bring people more involved in understanding what that is, is important to me.
“There are places to go. You can go on Autism Speaks, and they have places for you to go and find out more about it and for the kids to play with more kids that are like them and understand them going that way. I think there’s a lot of areas that you can go in once you go on Autism Speaks.”
Bowles was asked what he would want the general public to know about autism.
“It’s tough, because they look normal and you can’t really tell — none of us are skilled enough in that area that hasn’t been around it. You’ve got to be careful and try to see people as they are and not worry about them jumping to conclusions every time you see somebody do something wrong or something strange.”
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