Bruce Arians was criticized for being hard on Tom Brady throughout the week (which the 43-year-old quarterback doesn't mind, anyway) leading up to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' divisional showdown with the Carolina Panthers. But after a win in a game where Brady didn't light up the stat book, Arians changed his tune on the future Hall of Famer.
Everything tastes better after a victory.
"I think he has a pretty good history of [responding after a loss]," Arians said after Sunday's 31-17 victory over the Panthers. "This game should have never gotten to as close as it did – we let them back in. I thought he played outstanding. His leadership on the sideline was great and he put us in the right play [on] a number of different audibles. He played really, really well."
Brady finished 23 of 35 for 217 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the victory, which was masked by a few drops and the Buccaneers missing Chris Godwin (concussion). Brady's numbers may have been worse if it wasn't for Mike Evans -- seven catches, 104 yards, touchdown -- as no other wide receivers or tight ends finished with more than two catches.
"Execution was a little bit better, I think we are still a long ways from where we need to be," Brady said. "I think we had the ability to make plays. I think consistency [and] dependability are going to be things that we really need. We've got to get back to work and the clock is ticking on next week. Going to get focused on next week's game and try to be a lot better next week."
The Buccaneers got off to a hot start in Sunday's win. They went three-and-out in their first series, but scored a touchdown on three of their next four possessions. After going up 21-0, Tampa Bay gained just 26 yards on its next 18 plays as Carolina crawled its way back into the game. The Buccaneers closed strong with 10 points on their final two possessions, highlighted by Leonard Fournette taking over the game with 94 of his 103 rushing yards during the stretch.
Brady went just 2 of 3 for 7 yards at the end of the game, but there was enough body of work to build off. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was the Buccaneers' offense with Brady calling the shots.
"I don't think there's any doubt. It's going to take time and with having no preseason and all those practices we missed, we're just growing day-by-day with Tom, the receivers and the entire offense," Arians said. "I think we'll just get better and better. We're nowhere near – I think – what we are in September, what I think we'll be in November."