A promising Raiders drive stalled late in the first half Sunday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leaving them no choice but to punt from their own 45-yard line faced with a fourth-and-15.
The punt pinned the Buccaneers at their own 12-yard line, less than ideal field position with 2:19 to play in the half.
Except there was one problem. They left far too much time for time for Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady, who might as well have trademarked the two-minute drill at this point in his illustrious career.
“He’s the best at doing it,” said Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller, who had six receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown. “We just run our routes and let him work his magic.”
Brady was indeed magical on that drive, covering the 88 yards in 13 plays and finding Miller in the back corner of the end zone with a picturesque pass to secure a 21-10 lead with 17 seconds left in the half.
He also managed to pass Drew Brees as the NFL’s career leader in TD passes. He now has 559 to Brees’ 558.
“We had a decent day and glad we won on the road,” Brady said, once again downplaying his dominance. “None of it matters next week. There’s a lot of football left to play.”
Brady had his fair share of struggles earlier in the season while adjusting to a new coach in Bruce Arians and new personnel with the upstart Buccaneers, who haven’t won a playoff game since Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003. He threw three TDs and three interceptions in a 1-1 start and would appear flustered in the pocket while missing open receivers.
But he seems to be comfortable now. A little too comfortable for the Raiders, who couldn’t so much as manufacture a semblance of a pass rush during that two-minute drive.
Or on any of Tampa Bay’s other nine drives.
“We got behind the down and distance a few times too and overcame some third downs,” Brady said.
Brady in has last five games has 15 TD passes against one interception, and his team is 4-1 — emerging as one of the best in the NFL, with four-time All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown set to arrive by Week 9.
Arians says Brady is “knowing the guys better, knowing the system better” at this point in the season.
“Everything that we change each week, there’s such good communication of what we’re trying to get done, where the ball should be going versus each coverage,” he added. “It’s just total growth in the offense.”
Brady spread his 33 completions across nine receivers, favoring Miller, Chris Godwin (nine receptions, 88 yards and a TD) and old reliable Rob Gronkowski (five receptions, 62 yards and a TD).
The Raiders didn’t sack Brady and didn’t so much as go near him, allowing ample time for him to scan the field and find his receiver of choice.
Wait until the Buccaneers add Brown.
“Bruce (Arians) has had tremendous patience with me, watching me grow in the offense,” Brady said. “I totally appreciate that and respect that.”