Tom Brady didn't come out of retirement just to lead a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team to an under-.500 record through seven games. If the NFC South wasn't so poor, the Buccaneers would currently be out of the playoff picture.
This is the situation Tampa Bay faces after an embarrassing 21-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers Sunday. The Panthers were starting a third-string quarterback in P.J. Walker and had traded their best offensive playmaker in Christian McCaffrey earlier in the week. Carolina was a 13-point underdog. Yet the Buccaneers defense allowed 173 rushing yards and 6.9 yards per play to a team that entered the game 27th in the league in scoring and 32nd in yards per game.
The Bucs offense wasn't impressive either. Tampa Bay went just 2 of 12 on third down and had just 322 yards of total offense, scoring just once on 11 possessions (a field goal in the fourth quarter).
This isn't what Brady came back for.
"No one feels good about where we're at, no one feels good about how we've played or what we're doing," Brady said after Sunday's loss. "We're all in it together. We've gotta go pull ourselves out of it."
Tampa Bay leads a poor NFC South at 3-4, the only reason the Buccaneers are in the playoff picture after seven games. The Buccaneers hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Atlanta Falcons for the division lead, with the Panthers and New Orleans Saints a game out of first at 2-5.
Brady has thrown just one interception this season, the fewest in the NFL this season among quarterbacks with 100-plus pass attempts. His streak of 271 pass attempts without an interception is the longest in the NFL and in franchise history.
Yet something is off with the Buccaneers. The run game is arguably the worst in the NFL, having just 46 yards in Sunday's loss. Tampa Bay hasn't rushed for over 75 yards in any of its last six games. The Buccaneers averaged 31.4 points per game last season, but that number has dipped to 17.7 this year. The run defense has allowed 118.3 yards per game in 2022 compared to 92.5 in 2021.
Bucs coach Todd Bowles will take the blame, as the path to a Super Bowl appearance keeps getting harder to envision.
"We're not coaching well. All around," Bowles said. "We're not scoring enough on offense. We're not stopping them enough on defense. So as a result -- we have to wear this on our sleeve. We've got to be grown men.
"We're going to see what we're made of -- how many people can handle adversity? This is as dark as it's going to be right now."