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More questions than answers for Tampa Bay Buccaneers following shutout loss

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered Sunday night’s game against the New Orleans Saints with a chance to keep pace with the Green Bay Packers in the NFC.

The defending champs sat at 10-3 on the campaign, and clearly in play for a first-round bye in the playoffs. What followed was a disaster of epic proportions for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

Star receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin went down with injuries in the first half. They were joined on the sideline by running back Leonard Fournette in the third quarter.

Without his stars in the mix, Brady looked very much like the 44-year-old quarterback that he is. The seven-time Super Bowl champion completed 26-of-48 passes for 214 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception.

He also lost a brutal fumble in the second half with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking to drive for the lead. Playing in front of an offensive line that had allwoed 16 sacks in 13 games heading in, Brady was also hit seven times and sacked a total of four times in what ended up being an ugly 9-0 loss.

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Injuries mounting for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

tampa bay buccaneers injuries: chris godwin
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Entering Week 15, the Buccaneers were already without veterans Antonio Brown (injury, suspension) and Richard Sherman (Achilles). The likes of Rashard Robinson, Giovani Bernard and Curtis Riley also find themselves on injured reserve.

Nothing that we saw in the Buccaneers’ ugly 9-0 loss to New Orleans helped matters in this regard. Chris Godwin suffered a sprained MCL in his knee and will now miss multiple weeks. Pending the outcome of an MRI on Monday, this could end up being a long-term injury.

Fellow star receiver Mike Evans injured his hamstring in the first half and was almost immediately ruled out for the remainder of the game. Leonard Fournette also went down with a hamstring injury of his own, and was also ruled out. As you likely already know, hamstring injuries have a way of lingering.

These are the Buccaneers’ top skill-position options to go with tight end Rob Gronkowski. That’s not hyperbole.

  • Chris Godwin stats: 92 receptions, 1,054 yards, five touchdowns
  • Mike Evans: 63 receptions, 885 yards, 11 touchdowns
  • Leonard Fournette: 778 rushing yards, 62 receptions, 421 yards, 10 total touchdowns

Related: Updated NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

Tom Brady stats tell us a story

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers had won four consecutive heading into Sunday night’s game, scoring at least 30 points in all four games.

However, last week ended Brady’s streak of throwing an interception in each of his previous five outings. That span included Tom Terrific tossing seven combined interceptions. When compared to what we saw from Brady to conclude last season and open the 2021 campaign, the differences are eye-opening.

  • Past seven starts: 63.0% completion, 15 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 87.0 rating
  • Previous 11 starts: 67.7% completion, 33 touchdowns, four interceptions, 114.0 rating

We’re not ready to say that Brady has hit that proverbial wall for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Doubting the GOAT would be absolutely insane. However, there’s concern over the regession we’ve seen in recent weeks for Tom Terrific.

The NFC is no cake walk for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If the season were to end today, Tampa Bay would be taking on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Wildcard Playoffs. This is the very same 49ers team that has now won five of six while forcing 13 turnovers during that span. Defensive Player of the Year candidate Nick Bosa has to be licking his chops at the idea of going up against the immobile Brady.

That’s just one example of how difficult of a trek it is going to be for the Buccaneers if they want to repeat as Super Bowl champions. The Green Bay Packers clinched a playoff spot on Sunday and have to be seen as the odds-on favorites to earn home-field advantage in the NFC Playoffs. The Dallas Cowboys sit at 10-4 and have forced an absurd 23 interceptions on the season.

Out west, the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals have both looked like Super Bowl contenders at points throughout the season despite some recent struggles. This doesn’t even take into account bottom-end playoff contenders in that of the New Orleans Saints, Washington Football Team and Minnesota Vikings — all of whom could present issues for Tampa in the postseason.

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