With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin both back on the field together healthy for the first time this season, and Rob Gronkowski seeing an increased role in Bruce Arians' offense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense showed glimpses of how dangerous it could become. Evans caught a pair of touchdowns and Godwin caught one in the first half in the Bucs' 28-10 widn over the Denver Broncos.
But for the second straight week, the offense -- for as much as it wowed in the first half, struggled to regain its rhythm in the second, scoring only three points (Shaquil Barrett's safety contributed an additional two). In the first half of Weeks 2 and 3, the Bucs have outscored opponents 44-10 with six touchdowns and a field goal in the first half. But in the second half of those games, the Bucs' offense mustered only 13 points (a touchdown and two field goals).
That worked against a Panthers squad with a new head coach and quarterback, and against backup quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien and a Broncos squad decimated by injuries in Week 3. It might even work against rookie Justin Herbert in Week 4 and a Chicago Bears squad that benched quarterback Mitch Trubisky in Week 5. But in Week 6, the Bucs must have these second-half deficiencies worked out when the Green Bay Packers come to town, the Bucs' next big test in the NFC.
QB breakdown: Brady completed 25 of 38 passes for 297 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions -- his first Bucs game without a pick. He spread the ball around to eight different receiving targets, including Gronkowski, who had a breakout game catching 6-of-7 targets for 48 receiving yards after mustering only two catches last week. Brady was also throwing into tight coverage and seemed to trust himself and his receivers more. On Evans' two TDs, both came when he was lining up opposite Justin Simmons, one of Denver's top defenders.
Eye-popping NextGen Stat: Brady showed that his arm strength and touch haven't fallen off -- he threw an absolute dime to tight end O.J. Howard for 33 yards (26.6 air yards), with just 0.53 yards of separation between the defender and Howard when the pass arrived, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Since the NFL began tracking this stat in 2017, Brady has had only one other completion of 25 or more air yards and 0.5 yards or fewer of separation.
Brady also fired a 47-yard pass (42 air yards) to Scotty Miller, working one-on-one against Simmons with just 0.83 yards of separation – the first time since Next Gen began tracking that stat that Brady has completed a pass of 40 or more air yards with less than a yard of separation. The last time Brady completed a pass of 40 or more air yards was in Week 1 of last season, and he was 0-for-5 on such passes entering the day.
Promising trend: After giving up 17 second-half points to the Panthers last week, the Bucs' defense pitched a second-half shutout in Denver. The defense finished with six sacks -- two from Barrett, one of which was a safety. They also got interceptions from Lavonte David and Mike Edwards, who stepped in to fill Antoine Winfield Jr.'s safety spot while he replaced injured Sean Murphy-Bunting at nickelback (Murphy-Bunting suffered a hamstring/groin injury). The only hiccup on defense came when they allowed Driskel to go 6-for-6 for 74 passing yards and a touchdown running the hurry-up just before halftime. Tacking on their five sacks and four takeaways from last week, this group is doing everything it can to keep the team in games as the offense catches up.