Brady focused on winning, not Arians’ critique

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady was asked Thursday if he was surprised coach Bruce Arians pointed out his mistakes after Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, a move that has drawn criticism this week and which was considered a no-no during Brady’s time in New England.

Brady didn’t let on to how he was feeling, but he quipped, “He’s the coach. I’m a player. Just trying to win a game.”

Offensive coordinator Bryon Leftwich has been on the receiving end of Arians’ criticism before, and was even cursed out for something Ben Roethlisberger did when he was his backup with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arians was offensive coordinator.

“It’s B.A. being B.A,” Leftwich said. “All we can worry about is getting to practice, work, get better [and] try to fix our mistakes so we can go out there and try to win football games.”

What Brady did let on to Thursday is his growing impatience. Winning is his singular focus right now; everything else is just in the way.

“I think that’s just his competitive fire. It really comes out when we’re losing, when stuff isn’t going good at practice. It comes out because that’s not who he wants to be and that’s not who he wants us to be as a team,” wide receiver Scotty Miller said. “We want to be great, we want to win football games.”

The Bucs didn’t do that Sunday. And losses overall haven’t happened much in Brady’s career — he’s 219-65 all time, with a higher winning percentage (.771) than any other quarterback in NFL history. But when they do, Brady historically has rebounded.

Since 2001, Brady has gone 48-13 (.787) after a regular-season loss, second only to the Seattle SeahawksRussell Wilson, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. It’s why Arians said, “I would expect him to show a bit more grit and determination this week.”

Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule gushed over Brady’s 25-point comeback in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons, a game he watched as a fan.

“We know we’ll have our hands full,” said Rhule, whose Panthers travel to Tampa, Florida, on Sunday. “No one is better at bouncing back from a loss than Tom Brady.”

The first order of business has been improving communication. Throughout Sunday’s game, the offense looked out of sync. Brady’s first of two interceptions was the result of him and Mike Evans not seeing the same coverage on an option route, with the receiver bending his route instead of going downfield, believing he was seeing Cover-2, while Brady, whom Arians said saw the correct coverage, saw quarters coverage.

“I think that’s part of just working on things and being on the field at the same time and communicating though ’em, so it’s like anything — the longer you’re together, the less you’ll have to say certain things because you’ll already have experienced them, you’ll have talked about them, you’ll have worked through ’em,” Brady said. “There’s a lot of black and white in football and there’s a lot of gray. The problem is, when there’s too much gray — I thought one thing, you thought another — whoever’s right and wrong, it doesn’t matter.”

In Evans’ case, some of the miscommunication stemmed from him missing three days of practice last week due to a hamstring injury. Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Godwin is in the concussion protocol this week, which could create additional challenges, as he led the Bucs with 79 receiving yards Sunday.

Like Brady, Evans also has a knack for rebounding. In games after he’s finished with one catch or less, Evans has averaged six catches and 85 receiving yards, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

“The reality is, bad plays happen. And when bad plays happen, you put yourself in a nonadvantageous position,” Brady said. “We’ve gotta eliminate as much as we can, ‘Oh I thought this, you thought that, oh you thought this, I thought that’ and one time you’re right, one time you’re wrong. The reality is, the other team can’t come away with the ball. That’s gonna keep us from scoring points, it’s gonna keep us from winning games.

“The whole issue is we’re here to win games. That’s why we’re playing football, so we’ve gotta put ourselves in a good position on every play to figure out exactly where we’re gonna be so that we can play with confidence and anticipation. You can practice them, and I think that leads to great execution, you have confidence in one another. Once you have confidence in one another, you can really anticipate and make good plays.”

And some of those plays did happen.

Evans was shut out most of the game, but he and Brady managed to connect on a 2-yard touchdown pass with 2:41 left in the game. There was also the 9-yard touchdown pass to O.J. Howard that Brady threw right after he was pick-sixed by Janoris Jenkins. And the QB sneak on the Bucs’ opening drive.

“He’s the best for a reason,” Leftwich said of Brady. “The way that his mind works, the way that he sees the game — he’s a special guy, he’s a unique guy, because the way he sees football. I don’t expect nothing different from him. I expect him — he’s gonna come in, do what we can, bring energy, bring excitement to the game, to the team, and do all the things possible for us to execute at a high level.”

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