Everything was going so well for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coming off a dramatic last-second win last week over the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay rolled into Munich for the NFL’s first-ever game in Germany with heat. Through the first half of the game, Brady looked like the Touchdown Tom of old, and Tampa Bay looked ready to shake off the grime of their ugly first half of the season.
Brady staked the Bucs to a 14-0 lead over the Seattle Seahawks on two early possessions, and the Bucs looked more sleek and relentless than they have all season. Midway through the third quarter, Tampa Bay was mounting yet another drive deep into Seattle territory. Another touchdown would have extended the Bucs’ lead to three possessions and all but ended the game.
And then, in one of the stranger play calls of the entire season, the Bucs lined up with Leonard Fournette at quarterback and Brady split wide. Usually in these situations, the quarterback is a decoy, but Fournette actually targeted the well-covered Brady. It, uh, did not go well:
Brady slipped before the ball even reached him, carving a deep divot in the Allianz Arena turf. That allowed cornerback Tariq Woolen to make perhaps the easiest interception he’ll ever have. Brady compounded the catastrophe by attempting to trip Woolen, a perfect ending to a perfectly awful play.
Seattle capitalized on the unexpected momentum shift by crafting its best drive of the day, digging deep into Tampa Bay territory. But Geno Smith picked a bad moment to have a very bad moment, fumbling the ball on the Tampa Bay 13 and giving the ball — and the momentum — back to the opponent. The Bucs wrapped the third quarter up 14-3 and driving away from the scene of a playcalling crime that could have been so much worse.
Smith, who had been enjoying a career renaissance, finally started playing like he had all season, drawing the Seahawks to within five thanks to a drive that included two fourth-down conversions. But Brady went full Brady to close out the game, keeping Seattle at arm’s length and chewing up the last of the clock to preserve a 21-16 victory.
Brady isn’t quite playing at MVP levels, but as long as he doesn’t play receiver, he and the Bucs ought to be in solid shape for the rest of the season.