Brady, Buccaneers seeking solutions after another upset loss

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For a second straight week, an unexpected road loss and a struggling offense has Tom Brady and Tampa Bay Buccaneers searching for answers.

The preseason NFC South favourites dropped to 3-4 following Sunday’s 21-3 defeat to a Carolina Panthers team that was starting a third-string quarterback, while being led by an interim head coach.

The Brady-led offence failed to produce a touchdown one week after not reaching the end zone until late in the fourth quarter of a 20-18 loss to the-then 1-4 Pittsburgh Steelers.

"It’s still there," said Brady of Tampa Bay’s need to self-evaluate. "We talked about execution the other day and it still comes up. I think we all just need to do our job better.

"There’s no easy way about it. They’re trying to keep us from doing our job, we’re trying to do it, and they’re doing a better job than we are. Anytime you score three points, that pretty much sums it up."

Though the Bucs still reside in a first-place tie in what’s been a weak NFC South thus far, they’ve now lost four of their past five games to place Brady in a spot he’s rarely been in during his storied 23-year career. The future Hall of Fame quarterback hasn’t been under .500 seven games into the season since the 2002 New England Patriots started 3-4, and he’s never had a losing record at any time after eight games.

"We’re not playing well," head coach Todd Bowles admitted. "We’re not playing well as individuals, we’re not playing well as a team, we’re not coaching it well. All the way around – we’re not scoring enough on offence and we’re not stopping them enough on defence.

"We have to wear this on our sleeve. They’ve got to be grown men. We’re going to see what we’re made of, (see) how many people can handle adversity, and this is about as dark as it’s going be right now."

While a defence that’s now gone three straight games without forcing a turnover and surrendered 173 rushing yards to the Panthers has played in a role in Tampa Bay’s tough stretch, much of the focus has been centred around the offence’s continued problems to consistently generate points. The Bucs were held under 20 points for the fourth time this season in Sunday’s loss; they scored fewer than 20 only three times while going 13-4 and earning the NFC’s second seed in 2021.

"We’re plenty capable of making plays, we’re just not making them consistently enough to score points," said Brady, who’s averaged a mere 6.0 yards per pass attempt during the current two-game losing streak. "We make a big play, make a bad play, make a big play, make a bad play. In football that’s just not good enough.

"You can’t play like that. You’ve got to string enough good plays together to get the ball into the red area and score points."

With a Thursday night home game against Baltimore next on the schedule, the Buccaneers will have a short time to try to find solutions to their current problems.

"We’re going to see what we have going forward," said Bowles. "See how many crumble in the dark and see how many people step up and start playing better, and start coaching better."