Tom Brady ran for it.
Even in Brady's prime, running was rarely a good idea. At 45, it was just not happening. It was third-and-10 at Baltimore's 13-yard line on Thursday night. The Buccaneers were in desperate need of any spark on offense. Brady didn't have anyone open so he rolled left, then he started to run. Three Ravens were on top of him by the time he got a yard downfield.
That play summed up the 2022 Brady experience. It looks like the same Brady, but it's not. Brady presumably believes he can do practically everything that made him great the past two decades, but there are signs of his play slipping. He's still incredible for a 45-year-old quarterback, but he's still 45 and it shows sometimes. Brady isn't the same quarterback he was at his peak or even last season. It had to eventually happen.
The Buccaneers were ragged on offense again on Thursday night. The Buccaneers lost their third straight game, falling to the Baltimore Ravens 27-22. The scoreboard looked better for the Bucs when they scored a touchdown in the final minute. Before that they had eight straight possessions without a touchdown. The Buccaneers fell to 3-5.
Brady went 302 consecutive starts without a three-game losing streak, almost doubling the previous record of 155 by Joe Montana according to the Amazon Prime Video broadcast. His last three-game losing streak was in 2002, when Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was 5 years old.
This season is bringing a few firsts in Brady's 23rd season. Many of them aren't the milestones Brady was chasing when he decided to end his brief retirement.
Ravens get going after halftime
The Buccaneers and Ravens had an uneven first half. The Bucs scored on a Leonard Fournette touchdown run, the first time this season they scored a first-quarter TD. The Ravens were stuck on three points, in part because they passed on taking a chip-shot field goal on fourth-and-2, but threw incomplete on fourth down.
Another reason was the Ravens were without some of their best offensive players. Mark Andrews suffered a shoulder injury early in the game and was ruled out. Receiver Rashod Bateman left the game with an injury without catching a pass. The Ravens' offense turned into Lamar Jackson just trying to make something happen with a skeleton crew.
Jackson made it work in the second half. He found Kenyan Drake for a short touchdown pass and a 10-10 tie. Then he hit rookie tight end Isaiah Likely, pressed into more playing time when Andrews got hurt, on a pretty 10-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone to give Baltimore a 17-10 lead. A Devin Duvernay rushing touchdown on a jet sweep put the Ravens ahead 24-13 and that lead felt safe.
Baltimore's offense was on the field most of the game. That's because the Ravens want to play a ball-control style, and they do it well. It's also because, after a good start, the Buccaneers rarely sustained any drives.
Buccaneers can't answer
The Buccaneers finally got another touchdown in the fourth quarter on a long drive with about five minutes left. But the score to Cade Otton was called back due to a holding penalty on left tackle Donovan Smith. When the Buccaneers picked up some yards on third down to set up a fourth-and-goal attempt at the end zone, they had a false start push them back 5 yards. Tampa Bay settled for a field goal. That's how things are going for the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay still had faint hope after that field goal. It trailed 24-16. But Duvernay had a 33-yard kickoff return, Drake had a 40-yard run and that was more than enough for Justin Tucker's field-goal range. The Buccaneers have trouble scoring, and doing so twice in the final two minutes seemed impossible. Brady hit Julio Jones for a touchdown with 49 seconds left, but the Bucs failed to recover the onside kick.
A lot has been said about the Buccaneers' injuries this season, but those excuses are getting thin. The Ravens lost key players like Andrews and Bateman on Thursday, yet found a way. It's not the injuries holding the Buccaneers back anymore. They're just not very good on offense, and perhaps not very good overall.
Brady isn't bad this season. He's not unrecognizable on the field, like Joe Namath at the end with the Rams or Johnny Unitas with the Chargers. He's still a good, solid quarterback. But the Buccaneers got used to him being great, and they need to figure out ways to salvage their season with this version of Brady.