It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game. Tampa Bay improved to 2-0 with a wild, 48-25 win over Atlanta at Raymond James Stadium. Quarterback Tom Brady threw for five touchdowns, including two each to Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans, while safety Mike Edwards had a pair of pick-sixes in the victory.
2 BIG STATEMENTS
Table of Contents
STATEMENT 1: Bucs QB Brady On Pace To Throw 76 TDs, Smash Records
Over the next two weeks, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady will become the NFL’s all-time leading passer, surpassing New Orleans’ Drew Brees’ mark of 80,358. After completing 24-of-36 passes for 276 yards and five touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s wild 45-28 win over Atlanta, Brady is exactly 500 yards away from breaking Brees’ record.
Guess when he’ll do that? Brady will break the record in Week 4 in New England in a prime time game against his former team – unless he has a Herculean performance next Sunday in Los Angeles. Brady currently has 79,859 yards and will become just the second NFL QB to throw for over 80,000 yards in his career against the Rams with just 141 yards in Week 3.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
But we saw this record coming, didn’t we? After surpassing Brees last year for the most passing touchdowns in NFL history – now at 590 and counting – Brady hitting the all-time passing yardage mark this year was inevitable as long as he stayed healthy.
What no one saw coming was Brady throwing an NFL-high nine touchdown passes in two games to start the season. This puts Brady on pace to throw for 76 passing touchdowns in 2021, which would smash an NFL record. Brady’s good friend Peyton Manning threw 55 touchdowns, which is the current record, in Denver in 2013.
That sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it?
But is it?
Okay, so throwing an average of 4.5 touchdowns over the next 15 games seems a little far-fetched? Well if Brady averages just three touchdown passes per game he’ll wind up with 54 passing TDs, including the nine he’s already thrown. That would put him just one shy of Manning’s record.
Brady had seven games where he threw three or more touchdowns last season as he was learning Bruce Arians’ offense. Now that he’s mastered it, we’ll likely see plenty more games with a trio of TDs – or more – from Brady.
“It’s light years – I mean, he didn’t know the plays last year,” Arians said of Brady’s growth in the scheme. “I mean, he knows them all now. So, that’s pretty good.”
With 655 yards passing through two games, Brady is also on pace to throw for 5,567 yards, which would set a new Tampa Bay single-season passing record and break Manning’s single-season passing record of 5,477 yards set in 2013. Of course having an extra regular season game in 2021 will help make that happen, but there are also four other QBs in contention. Brady’s 655 yards currently ranks fifth in passing behind Justin Herbert (675), Patrick Mahomes (680), Kyler Murray (689) and Derek Carr (817).
With his second five-touchdown performance as a Buccaneer, Brady became the first Tampa Bay QB to throw five touchdowns in a game multiple times. He also had five TD tosses in a win over the Chargers last year.
Saints QB Drew Brees and Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
Brady now has 95 games with at least three passing touchdowns, which trails Brees (97) by two. That record should also fall. And Brady has 35 games with at least four touchdown passes in his career, again trailing Brees (37) by two. Given his current pace, I expect him to smash that record this year as well.
Brady’s nine TD passes through two games ties Brees, Manning and Russell Wilson for the second-most behind Patrick Mahomes’ 10 TDs in 2018. That was the year Mahomes won the NFL MVP and threw a career-high 50 touchdowns.
Time will tell if Brady will throw for an astounding 76 touchdowns this year. But the guess here is that he will top 50 and threaten Manning’s record of 55.
“What I think – and I’m sure other guys feel the same way – is I think we could do better,” Brady said. “I really do. I think we have the opportunity, the way that the games are flowing and the opportunities we’re getting with the ball, we have even more opportunities. We’re a little loose with the ball – some penalties at different times that have knocked us out of some scoring drives – some missed throws that I’ve had, some missed reads – certainly wish that I made a few better throws tonight. But again, good to get the win – 2-0 and there’s a lot to build on and just good to beat a division opponent. We have to go on the road against a really good team next week.”
STATEMENT 2: Gronkowski, Bucs’ Point Production Continues To Amaze
While Brady is wowing everyone with nine touchdown passes to start the season, tight end Rob Gronkowski has been on the receiving end of nearly half of those scores. With another two-touchdown game against the Falcons, Gronkowski now has three consecutive games with two TDs, dating back to Super Bowl LV. That ties Ben Coates’ NFL record for most consecutive games with multiple scores and set a new Bucs franchise mark.
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“He’s got great hands, great instincts, awareness,” Brady said. “I think what people don’t realize is he’s an elite blocker and what he does in terms of [red zone], third down – blocking in the run game. You run behind him. Every run is available because you can run behind him. Catches the ball down the field, catches the ball short, run after catch, incredible hands. That’s why he’s got one of those maroon jackets for one of the best 100 players in the history of the game, and it’s just a real privilege to play with him.”
Gronkowski and Brady now have connected for 88 touchdowns in the regular season, which ranks one behind Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates (89) for second all-time behind Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison (112). With 19 multi-touchdown games, Gronkowski is just two multi-touchdown games from tying Gates (21) for the NFL record for tight ends.
“He’s the best tight end of all-time for a reason,” Evans said. “So big and strong. He can do everything – run after the catch, go up and get it, get the rock and high-point it, block. I mean, him and Tom have a great connection. One of the better connections I’ve seen.”
The tandem of Brady and Gronk have helped the Bucs set a new NFL record with nine straight games (including postseason) of scoring 30 points or more dating back to Week 15 last year in a 31-27 win over Atlanta. Tampa Bay’s offense scored 34 of the team’s 48 points against the Falcons on Sunday, and the Bucs are averaging 39.5 points per game two weeks into the 2021 NFL season, which leads the league.
“It’s dope,” Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin said. “I think that the more we figure out each other and learn each other, the better it is going to be. It’s not easy to put up 30 points in this league. That is not only a testament to our offense but to our defense continuing to give us opportunities to go out there and score touchdowns. Any time you have a guy like Tom leading us, you’re in a good spot. All the skill players around him trust him and trust is one of the biggest things you can have in this game.”
2 PROBING QUESTIONS?
QUESTION 1: Will The Bucs Defense Be Able To Survive The Rams?
Yes, as long as Tampa Bay’s pass rush improves. The Bucs were able to get pressure on Matt Ryan at times, but missed too many sack opportunities on a statuesque quarterback with almost no mobility. The fact that the Bucs got just one sack against the Falcons’ horrendous offensive line is concerning. The defenders up front must do a better job of winning their one-on-ones in L.A.
Bucs DT Ndamukong Suh and Falcons QB Matt Ryan – Photo by: USA Today
Tampa Bay only has two sacks through two games and is capable of much more production. Getting to Matthew Stafford in Los Angeles on Sunday is paramount, as the Bucs pass defense ranks 30th in the league, allowing 342 yards per game through two weeks.
Nothing helps pass coverage like a good pass rush, and that will be paramount against the Rams, especially without starting cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting. Mike Edwards deserves to play over Ross Cockrell in the slot given his two pick-sixes and the touchdown to Calvin Ridley that Cockrell surrendered.
The problem against the Rams is that Sean McVay wants the ball out of his QB’s hands quickly with plenty of wide receiver screens and quick outs, and that makes it difficult to apply pressure. The fact that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will likely play soft zone coverage to negate the big play will also invite those quick throws. That puts the emphasis on Tampa Bay’s defense to have to tackle well, and jump some of those routes out of zone coverage like Edwards did on Sunday with his first pick-six.
But when Stafford wants to take shots downfield and drops back to hit those vertical routes, the Bucs defense needs to get to him before that can happen.
QUESTION 2: Why Do The Bucs Keep Letting Lesser Teams Back In Games?
I don’t know, but it sure is frustrating to watch. The Bucs were up on the Cowboys 14-7 and then 28-19 before allowing Dallas to take a late, short-lived lead in the fourth quarter prior to Tampa Bay’s rally in Week 1.
Against the Falcons, the Bucs had a 21-7 lead at one point in the first half and a 28-10 lead in the second half. Atlanta tightened the game to 28-25 in the third quarter, which drew Arians’ ire.
Bucs CB Ross Cockrell – Photo by: USA Today
“I am not happy with the way we played,” Arians said. “Loved the start, then we get lackadaisical. I liked the start of the second half. Then we get lackadaisical. That’s not going to work next week. I think we got a lot to learn from. It’s always better to learn it from winning. I liked the way we finished the game.”
Arians is spot on. It’s just a lack of focus from a team that knows it is more talented than its opponent.
“There’s a lot going on out there especially on days like this early in the year where it’s hot and everyone is pretty fatigued at different points,” Brady said. “We just have to find a little bit more rhythm and be a little bit more mentally tough – we have a great group of guys. Everyone has been putting the work in. We’ve actually had two really good weeks of practice – probably better weeks of practice than we’ve actually had performances on the field. So we know we’re leaving some out there, but again it’s good to take advantage when we’re doing it. We’re getting good opportunities and we’re scoring points – we just have to keep building. Again, we’re off to a decent start, but we know we can play better football.”
The Bucs won’t be able to take their foot off the gas pedal next Sunday against the Rams – a team many believe could be a Super Bowl contender this year. Tampa Bay will be in for its biggest test of the year in L.A., which is the site of this year’s Super Bowl.
“Yeah, I think we jump out, we feel good, we got them, and then we relax for 10 or 15 minutes,” Arians said. “Then we turn it back up, and then relax again. We haven’t played for 60 minutes yet. And that’s what we talked about. We are going to have to play 60 minutes to beat the Rams.”
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: Darden’s Debut In L.A.
I’m not sure if the hip injury sustained by return specialist Jaydon Mickens is serious or not, but I’m guessing that since he didn’t return to the game that Mickens might be out this week. If that is the case, Jaelon Darden, the Bucs’ fourth-round pick, would likely be active for his first NFL game this weekend to replace him.
PREDICTION 2: If RoJo Doesn’t Run Wild In L.A. There Could Be Trouble
Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The last time Bucs running back Ronald Jones II was in L.A. he rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown against the Rams back in a wild west, 55-40 shootout win by Tampa Bay. Jones, who is in a contract year and went to USC, has had a very limited role on offense so far this season and has just 41 yards and one fumble on 10 carries (4.1 avg.), and three catches for nine yards.
I get the sense that there is some frustration growing in the Jones camp with Leonard Fournette getting more than twice the opportunities to touch the ball. Fournette has 84 yards on 20 carries (4.2 avg.) and nine catches for 51 yards with a fumble and a drop. If Jones doesn’t get going in Los Angeles there could be some trouble brewing in Tampa Bay. Just something to keep an eye on.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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