Tom Brady capped off a tumultuous week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in fine fashion, snapping the team’s losing streak with a 21-15 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Sunday’s victory wasn’t without controversy though, as Brady and the Bucs benefited from a controversial roughing-the-passer penalty call late in the game which allowed them to hold on to the end.
Leading by six points with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett appeared to have stopped Tampa Bay’s drive with a sack on third down, giving Atlanta the opportunity to attempt to take the lead.
However, referee Jeremy Boger threw a flag penalizing Jarrett for roughing the passer; Jarrett had wrapped Brady in his arms before rolling to the ground with Brady.
The call allowed Brady to retain possession of the ball and run out the clock to seal the victory.
After the game, Boger said he hadn’t been instructed to keep a particular eye on tackles to quarterbacks following the incident with Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa which has subsequently resulted in changes to the NFL’s concussion protocol.
“What I had was the defender grabbed the quarterback while he was still in the pocket and unnecessarily throwing him to the ground,” Boger told pool reporter Greg Auman of the Athletic. “That is what I was making my decision based on.”
However, Bucs head coach Todd Bowles said he believed the call was about more than just because it was Brady.
“I saw that one being called. I saw it against Tua since he got it. I saw it in the London game this morning,” Bowles said. “So I think they’re starting to crack down on some of the things, slinging back, I don’t know. Right now, the way that they’re calling it, I think a lot of people would have gotten that call.”
Jarrett refused to talk to the media after the game – unusual for one of the Falcons’ longest serving players – while Brady said: “I don’t throw flags.”
Despite Atlanta players’ protests, Brady and Bucs were able to close an important victory for the team from Florida, ending the squad’s two-game losing skid and capping off a tumultuous week for the organization.
Having been displaced by Hurricane Ian two weeks ago, the Bucs were later emphatically beaten by the Kansas City Chiefs at home. During the game, Brady appeared to have suffered an arm injury – although he downplayed the seriousness of any potential long-term damage afterwards.
But on Sunday, the Bucs looked much more like themselves, despite the late drama and second-half comeback from the Falcons.
Brady threw a touchdown pass to Leonard Fournette and the running back also scored a rushing touchdown as the Bucs raced into a 21-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
However, two late Falcons touchdowns – an eight-yard run from Avery Williams and then a 19-yard pass from Marcus Mariota to Olamide Zaccheaus – brought the possibility of a dramatic finish.
The controversial roughing-the-passer penalty ended any hopes of a late comeback as the Bucs improved to 3-2 on the season while Atlanta slipped to 2-3.
Despite the bounce-back victory, Brady wasn’t overawed with the performance from the team. “Obviously, it’s tough to lose two straight at home, but we didn’t deserve it,” Brady told the media.
“That’s football – you’ve got to earn it. There’s no easy games; you’ve got to play good. Certainly, five games in, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re not nearly at the point we’re capable of being and we need a lot of people to step up.”
The 45-year-old added: “We just had a lot of three-and-outs. We just weren’t very good. Bad execution and it just wasn’t our best in the second half. We have to learn from it and get better.”