Brady, slow-starting Buccaneers on verge of playoff berth
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - For one half the Tampa Bay Buccaneers look like playoff pretenders, for the next they look like Super Bowl competitors.
Bruce Arians is as baffled as anyone by his team's enigmatic slow starts, the inconsistency the coach says, and will continue to pursue them against more intense competition.
The Bucs (9-5) secured their first winning season since 2010 when they beat the Atlanta Falcons after 17 points behind in the second half and approached their first playoff spot in Tampa Bay in 13 years.
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Another win and the Bucs are there.
Tom Brady came to the rescue and threw 320 yards after half to make another double-digit comeback against the Falcons, who have never beaten the six-time Super Bowl champion.
The reality, however, is that Tampa Bay has not done nearly as well this season in overcoming slow starts against opponents they might encounter again in the postseason.
"I talked to them about that," said Arians after the 31:27 win in Atlanta on Sunday.
"We lost to the Chiefs and the Rams by three. They discovered both games (points) and played like that," added Arians. "You won't beat these good teams that play like this."
The Bucs were beaten 59-7 in the first quarter of their last six games.
Somehow they still managed to win 3-3 along the route, with wins over three Sub-500 teams (Carolina, Minnesota, Atlanta) and three losses to division title contenders (New Orleans, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas) City).
"We have to figure out how to do our best for 60 minutes instead of 30 minutes," said Brady.
"My comments to the team after the game:" If we can play 30 minutes like this, why the hell can't we play 60? "Arians added," It's frustrating. "
The coach isn't sure what the Bucs can do differently to avoid slow starts.
"It's almost like stopping talking about it and maybe it will change," said Arians.
Brady led scoring drives on five direct possessions to begin the second half against the Falcons. He finished the season with the best 390 yards and two touchdowns with no turnover. Tampa Bay also ended up with just one penalty for 10 yards.
"Our discipline is paying off for us," said Arians. "We dig holes, but we stay disciplined and find ways to win."
WHAT NEEDS HELP?
After Ronald Jones was eliminated, the Bucs averaged just 2.8 yards per carry rushing and gained 51 yards on 18 attempts. Leonard Fournette led by 49 yards on 14 runs but scored a goal on two 1-yard runs.
Receiver Antonio Brown had five catches to a season high of 93 yards and scored his first touchdown since joining the Bucs after being banned from eight games for violating the NFL's Code of Conduct.
Though the defense stiffened against Atlanta in the second half, Arians wasn't happy with the way the unit started the game or allowed the Falcons to drive 75 yards to reopen a 17 point lead after Brady had launched the offensive at the start of the third quarter.
Cornerback Carlton Davis, who leads the team with four interceptions, left the Falcons game with a groin injury. Arians did not provide an update on Monday.
1 - The win had to end in double-digit wins for the first time since 2010 when the Bucs went 10-6 but failed to make the playoffs.
The Bucs can secure a place in the playoffs by winning in Detroit on Saturday.
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