Little has worked out for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.
Despite their struggles, they could repeat as National Conference South Division champions and guarantee a home game in the postseason if they beat the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
“It always means something when you’re playing for something important at the end of the year,” coach Todd Bowles said after the Bucs (7-8) turned around to retain a one-game lead in their division by beating Arizona 19-16 in overtime.
“You want to play good Football in December and play meaningful games,” Bowles added. “Next week, they need it and we need it, so it’s going to be a good fight.
Had the Bucs not rallied after a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to the Cardinals, they would face possible elimination this week when they host Carolina, which won the previous meeting between divisional rivals 21-3.
At this point, a win over the Panthers (6-9) will lead the Bucs to back-to-back divisional titles for the first time in franchise history.
With a loss, Tampa Bay is not eliminated, but Carolina would tie them in wins and would be in a position to clinch the divisional title for the first time since 2015 with a win the following week in New Orleans.
“This team has great resiliency,” admitted Brady, who bounced back after his poor game in which he allowed Arizona to go up 16-6 before tying it in the final minutes of regulation time for the quarterback to orchestrate his 58th game-winning drive in overtime.
“We fought hard – 7-8, that’s not where we want to be,” Brady added. “We have a chance to win a championship game next week.”
The Bucs have struggled to run the ball consistently and rank dead last among the 32 teams. However running back Leonard Fournette had a spark against Arizona, rushing for 72 yards and gaining another 90 on a team-high nine receptions. Rookie Rashaad White did his best with the fewest opportunities and averaged 5 yards per carry on seven attempts and caught four passes for 17 yards and a touchdown in the final period.
The Bucs, who are averaging few points this season, totaled 396 yards in offense but produced just one touchdown against the Cardinals. They went 6 of 17 on third down, which has been common for the team.