It took heading to Germany for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense to find their legs this season.
During Sunday's 21-16 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the Bucs offense finally looked something akin to what we expected entering the season. The ground game finally got going behind rookie Rachaad White (105 yards), and Brady threw darts to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.
If not for a bizarrely called Leonard Fournette pass that was picked off and an uncharacteristic Brady interception, the Bucs would have won going away. The offense's ability to move the ball Sunday, a week after struggling in a late win against the Los Angeles Rams, is a positive sign for the Bucs.
"I think we're in a better place obviously than we were five quarters ago," Brady said Monday on SiriusXM's "Let's Go!" podcast. "And, you know, we found a way to beat the Rams, which was a great win for our team. And then to go to Germany and win to get to 5-5 before the bye was a big goal for all of us. So, look, I think it's a challenging year in the NFL.
"I watched a lot of the games, highlights from yesterday and, you know, there's a lot of teams that are -- some that are just playing very, very well -- Minnesota to go into Buffalo, that's a very tough thing to do. The Eagles have played very consistently all year. I think the Chiefs have played very consistently all year. So, you know, other than that it's kind of a hodgepodge of wins and losses and good games and bad games and which defenses show up, which quarterbacks show up."
The Bucs sit at 5-5, leading a woeful NFC South by one game over the 4-6 Atlanta Falcons. After the bye week, Tampa faces the three-win Browns and the three-win Saints before a collision course with the 49ers. With one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NFL, the Bucs could coast to the postseason despite their early-season struggles.
"It's been a unique year to watch," Brady said. "And I think the most important thing when you look forward is how do you play your best football? And if you play your best football you've gotta believe that you're capable of winning every single week. It's just the challenge is how do you do that?
"And I always come back to preparation, to your process. Are you doing the right things to be able to prepare ourselves to play and ultimately get to game day and then be at an emotional level where you can play very well and you can play very free and you can play with a lot of excitement like we did yesterday. So that was more of a template for winning for our team yesterday than it has been all year. Played very good defense. Offense was a little bit better. Now we've got to see if we can continue to improve from here."
We've seen Brady-led teams struggle early in the season and get it together down the stretch for a deep playoff run. The Bucs certainly own the talent to make noise when everything goes right. The last five quarters might have saved the season. The next seven games will define it.
Oh, and about that Fournette pass to Brady, during which the QB slipped like an uncoordinated high school freshman, TB12 was able to laugh it off following the win.
"I think the thing about it was when the ball was in the air, I obviously knew I wasn't gonna catch it, but I tried to go up to at least tackle and try to keep the ball, and then I fell on my face," he said. "So in a lot of ways, you know, embarrassment and shame at the same time on the same play. I won't forget that play. And I haven't had many receptions in my career, so I thought it would be pretty cool to get one in Germany. But it only seems right that the country with no speed limit on the Autobahn got to see me run routes as a wide receiver, which was very, very slow."