Tom Brady and Bruce Arians usually get dished the blame for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ woes of late, but one NFL reporter disagrees.
“Can’t we pin the blame on Antonio Brown?,” CBS Boston’s Michael Hurley wrote Friday.
Hurley went inside the numbers and showed that Brady’s production dropped markedly after the addition of the star wide receiver in October. Brady completed 66.2 percent of his passes, threw for 2,189 yards, 20 touchdown passes, and four interceptions before Brown’s arrival. Since Brown joined, Brady’s completion percentage dropped to 60.8 percent, and he threw for 766 yards, five TDs, and five interceptions in three games.
Tampa’s biggest team stats impacted by Brown standout, too. The Bucs went 6-2 before Brown and 1-2 since. The offense dipped from 31 points to 24 points per game, Hurley noted.
Brown didn’t tally any of the 24 points per game in his contests with the team.
He has18 catches for 157 yards and no TDs. Arians ironically mentioned that Brady has missed opportunities with Brown amid Brady’s other struggles of late per NBC Sports’ Mike Florio.
“Well, he was open,” Arians said regarding Brown in a Nov. 24 press conference according to Florio. “We had one go off his fingertips [and] I’m used to seeing him make that catch. We missed him last week on a ball, so it’s just a matter of hitting him. He’s doing a great job of running after the catch and within his role, I think he’s doing a really good job. It’s just when he’s going deep, we’re not hitting him.”
Both Florio and Hurley noted that Brady primarily targets Brown. Hurley wrote the number of targets for Brown increases by the week that, “Brady has locked in on Brown and forced passes that would have been better off going somewhere else.” Brown led the Bucs in targets, 13, against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 11 per Florio.
By the numbers, adding Brown hasn’t improved Brady’s game. Hurley wrote that “Brady has a 68.9 passer rating when targeting Brown, and a 96.7 passer rating when targeting everyone else.”
Tampa Bay looked like the hottest team in football before Brown’s arrival. Media personalities and outlets alike practically crowned the Bucs Super Bowl champions at midseason.
The Bucs torched the Green Bay Packers 38-10 in Week 6 and rolled past the Las Vegas 45-20 in Week 7. Despite needing an Antoine Winfield Jr. pass deflection to preserve a win, the Bus extended their winning streak to three games, 25-23 win against the New York Giants.
Brady threw like it was 2007 when he led the New England Patriots to a 16-0 regular season with monster passing stats. Hurley noted that Brady completed 69.6 of his passes, threw for 814 yards, eight TDs, and no interceptions in Weeks 6-8 this season before Brown suited up. Brady couldn’t come close to matching that in three games since Brown arrived with a nearly nine-percent lower completion percentage, almost half of the TDs, and five interceptions.
Wide receivers Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson stepped up often before Brown joined the fold.
Miller tallied four games with 70 or more yards receiving early in the season and caught a couple TDs. He has two catches since Brown took the field.
Hurley noted that Johnson, a rookie from Minnesota, emerged during Weeks 5-8 with 107 yards and two TDs on nine receptions. Johnson mustered a catch since Brown arrived.
Tampa Bay Times reporter Rick Stroud wrote Miller’s reduction occurred because he has “battled hamstring and groin injuries this season.” Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich confirmed as such.
“He was really unhealthy for a few weeks and we had to get him healthy because he wasn’t playing fast and we had to get him healthy to be able to run and do those things he was doing,” Leftwich said in a press conference last week according to Stroud. “We’ll get him back healthy and he’ll be more and more involved as we go on just because he’s a great player and he makes plays for us. He’ll be more and more involved as we move on.”
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