SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)Tom Brady relished the rare opportunity to come back to the Bay Area to play his boyhood favorite team in front of family and friends.
Too bad he couldn’t give them much to cheer about.
Brady threw two interceptions and struggled to move the ball consistently against San Francisco’s stellar defense and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 35-7 to the 49ers on Sunday.
”I love having everyone here and it’s nice for my family to come and I think they had a lot of people from the neighborhood come,” Brady said. ”That’s not going to change the outcome of the game, unfortunately, just because you’ve got a cheering section. …
”I wish we could have done a lot better job.”
The Bucs (6-7) did just about nothing right against the 49ers (9-4), allowing seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy to lead five TD drives on San Francisco’s first seven possessions and generating almost nothing offensively.
Tampa Bay missed a 55-yard field goal on the opening drive and then went three-and-out the next three possessions to fall behind by 21 points.
Two interceptions by Brady to open the second half led to the Bucs going down 35-0. Only a deflected TD pass from Brady to Russell Gage late in the third quarter allowed Tampa Bay to avoid a shutout.
”I think all year we just never get off to fast starts,” Brady said. ”We’re behind and it turns into a pass-a-thon and it’s hard to play football like that. … You win because you make plays and you keep them from making plays. They make plays and keep you from making plays, you lose by 28 points.”
Brady finished the game 34 for 55 for 253 yards – the fifth fewest yards by a quarterback with that many completions in a game.
The margin of defeat tied the second worst of Brady’s 23-year career, trailing only a 38-3 loss to New Orleans in 2020. Tampa Bay responded from that defeat by winning Brady’s seventh Super Bowl title but look far from that kind of team this year.
Even when things appeared to go well for the Bucs, it backfired with a holding penalty on Donovan Smith calling back a long TD pass to Mike Evans and a defensive hold by Carlton Davis negating Anthony Nelson’s interception.
”We’re not making the plays, and just unfortunate things are happening,” Evans said. ”I feel like today every big play we had got called back. Interception, called back. Touchdown, called back. It’s tough to play like that, especially against a good team.”
Despite the lackluster performance, the Bucs still have a one-game lead over Carolina and Atlanta in the NFC South and are in line for a home playoff game if they close it out.
Tampa Bay will finish the season with back-to-back games against the Panthers and Falcons that could determine the division winner.
”Decide who we want to be,” coach Todd Bowles said. ”We can’t be an up-and-down team. We’ve got four weeks left to find out what we want to be during this season and accomplish our goals.”
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