You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Tom Brady delivers another comeback in the desert

SB Nation logo SB Nation 12/26/2022 Mark Schofield
© Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, is the site of one of Tom Brady’s greatest comebacks. Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks, perhaps most well-known as the “Malcolm Butler game.”

While Sunday night’s tilt against the Arizona Cardinals was not a Super Bowl, and it did not come against the Legion of Boom, it is another item on the long list of the quarterback’s comeback efforts.

And it might have gone a long way towards keeping any Super Bowl aspirations alive.

After Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell behind Trace McSorley and the Cardinals by a score of 16-6 in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay found a way to get the game tied, and after their defense forced a punt from Arizona at the start of overtime, Brady and the offense were able to pull out the win in OT by a final score of 19-16.

For the first three quarters of the game, Brady looked lost, and the jokes were flying on social media. The veteran QB threw a pair of interceptions, with Marco Wilson picking his pocket on both plays, and the Buccaneers offense was struggling to get anything going. In case you were wondering, the working title for this piece was “Tom Brady came back to lose to Trace McSorley? Really?”

But before we could refine that headline in the SB Nation slack, everything changed.

Facing the ten-point deficit, the Buccaneers went into hurry-up mode, and suddenly their offense showed signs of life. Tampa Bay put together a seven-play drive that culminated in their first touchdown of the night, a short throw from Brady to rookie running back Rachaad White:

The big play on the drive, however, was the first play. On this designed swing screen to Leonard Fournette, the running back picks up a three-man convoy and rips off a 44-yard gain, getting Tampa Bay deep into Cardinals’ territory:

Keep this design in the back of your mind...

The White touchdown only cut Arizona’s lead to 16-13, and that gave McSorley and the Cardinals chance to perhaps ice the game with a textbook four-minute drive on offense. But with Arizona facing a 3rd and 1, the Tampa Bay defense took advantage of an offensive miscue, getting Brady the football back:

McSorley pitches the ball to Keaontay Ingram, but the ball hits the turf at State Farm Stadium. William Gholston pounces on the loose ball, giving Brady and the offense great starting position for their ensuing possession. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, their next drive sputtered just outside the red zone. Ryan Succop managed to convert from 42 yards out to knot the game at 16, but there was time left for Arizona to perhaps pull out the win in the closing minutes.

Tampa Bay’s defense stood tall again, forcing a three-and-out on the next Cardinals possession. The stage was set for another Brady game-winning comeback.

Tampa Bay took over at the 34-yard line after the Arizona punt, and after an incompletion, Brady connected with rookie tight end Cade Otton on an out route for a even-yard gain. That set up a critical 3rd and 3. With perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history at the helm, the Buccaneers...handed the ball to Fournette.

Who was stopped short of the first-down marker.

Arizona took their final timeout with 55 seconds left, giving themselves yet another chance to steal the win in the end. A completion to James Conner — featuring an impressive run after the catch from the RB — got the Cardinals in position for a a Hail Mary, but McSorley’s desperation heave was intercepted, and the teams headed to overtime.

Arizona won the toss, and elected to receive. McSorley opened the extra frame looking to throw off of a boot-action design, but his attempt was nearly intercepted. A loss on second down pushed the Cardinals into a 3rd and long.

Brady might have started to get ready to take the field, but he would be force to sit back down for a minute. McSorley connected with Marquise Brown to move the chains. McSorley’s throw was low, but Brown was able to put it in while diving to the turf, and the Cardinals had a fresh set of downs.

Forcing Brady back into spectator mode.

However, that solitary first down is all the Cardinals could manage on offense. Arizona eventually punted, and the Buccaneers took over on their own 12-yard line, needing just a Succop field goal to pull out the win. The Buccaneers picked up a first down, and that’s when Byron Leftwich dialed up the big shot play.

Remember that swing screen to Fournette from the fourth quarter?

Brady pumps on the fake swing screen to Fournette — showing Arizona the big play from earlier in the game — before looking deep. The receivers release slowly off the line, as if they are going to block as they did earlier in the game, but then break vertically. The QB looks to Russell Gage and puts the throw on the money, and Gage hangs on through contact for the huge gain.

That was not the only big play from Brady and the offense. A few plays later the veteran quarterback put another throw on the money, this time to Mike Evans on a deep out route along the right sideline:

Brady and Gage would connect again, on a quick screen, to get the ball down into the red zone. A penalty and two runs put the football in the middle of the field, and Todd Bowles sent Succop onto the field for a 40-yard field goal.

Succop split the uprights.

The win put the Buccaneers in position to win the NFC South by defeating the Carolina Panthers next week, clinching a playoff spot. It was by no means pretty, and the Buccaneers have some flaws, but they found a way to win.

The victory mirrors two earlier wins from the Buccaneers this season, victories over the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints. On both occasions, as with tonight, the Buccaneers looked mortal — at best — for a huge portion of the game. But when trailing, the offense shifted into hurry-up mode, and suddenly started clicking.

Now, the answer to all their woes on offense cannot simply be “just run without a huddle,” but there are now three games of evidence pointing to that philosophy as something that can work in spurts for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has struggled throughout this season to find any consistency on offense, and seem to move the ball more efficiently when operating without a huddle.

Doing it on Christmas night put them in position to not just win a game, but clinch the division next week with a win over the Panthers.

And it added another item on Brady’s list of comeback victories.


More from SB Nation

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon