Brady still holds hammer over Gruden, Raiders

Tom Brady went three-and-out in his first series Sunday. Did you really think that was going to be the case all day?

Didn’t think so.

Brady, he of the six Super Bowl titles and still wowing ‘em at age 43, found his rhythm and the Las Vegas Raiders paid a steep price. He would throw for 369 yards and four touchdowns while running one in from two yards out and led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a convincing and impressive 45-20 win over the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium.

Yes, the Raiders were able to get the better of Patrick Mahomes two weeks ago in winning at Kansas City. But perhaps the bye week, having to face on of the NFL’s all-time greats and all the coronavirus controversy surrounding the team was too high a hurdle to overcome. 

“We’ve got a lot of talent and there’s more of a comfort level each week,” Brady said after Tampa Bay improved to 5-2. “We faced a very good football team and we’re growing as a team and I’m getting to a more comfortable place. 

“That’s what it takes for a football team to be successful. You’re trying to grow and get better every week.” 

Raiders coach Jon Gruden said of the loss which snapped Las Vegas’ two-game win streak and dropped the Raiders to .500 at 3-3: “Obviously, missing (cornerback Jonathan) Abram was hard. But I’m not making any excuses. We didn’t get enough of a pass rush and if you let Tom Brady stand back there, he’s going to find open people and he’s going to beat you. He’s been doing that for 21 years.”

Trent Brown, the team’s starting right tackle, tested positive for COVID-19 and he was placed on the COVID list along with five other teammates. However, four of the five were cleared late Saturday.

The situation forced the NFL to move the kickoff from early evening to the afternoon. But it didn’t seem to faze Brady and the Bucs. They spotted the Raiders a 7-0 first-quarter lead and by midway through the third quarter, Tampa Bay was comfortably ahead, 24-10.

Gruden, who has a history with Brady going back to his first go-round as the Raiders’ coach (remember the Tuck Rule playoff game in 2002?) know what needed to be done to contain Brady. Basically, it was to keep him on the sideline next to Bruce Arians, the Bucs’ head coach.

But that meant running the ball successfully and eating up clock while finishing drives. The Raiders, who were 4-point underdogs, were unable to have any kind of rushing attack. With a patchwork offensive line in place, Josh Jacobs was bottled up by the Tampa defense and had just 17 yards on the ground in 10 carries — both career lows. As a team, Las Vegas netted only 76 yards rushing for the afternoon.

It forced Derek Carr to match Brady throw for throw. He was partially successful, finding Nelson Agholor five times for 107 yards, including the first TD, a 21-yard hookup. His other TD pass, a 1-yarder, was to his other favorite target, Darren Waller, as their third-quarter connection cut the deficit to 24-17.

Carr’s numbers were quite good. At one point late in the third quarter, he had a higher QB rating than Brady as he was given adequate protection and got the ball out quickly to his receivers. He would finish with 284 yards on 24-of-36 passing, two TDs and one interception.

But that wasn’t good enough. Brady led his team on a fourth-quarter scoring drive, converting three times on third down and then capitalized on Carr’s interception the following series for seven more points in just two plays as the Bucs extended their lead to 38-20. 

We got behind a couple of times and down and distance and that was big,” Brady said of the third-down conversions. “We made some good plays to finish it out.”

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Arians is seeing a more comfortable Brady as the season goes along.

“I think it’s knowing guys better, knowing the system better,” Arians said. “It’s just a total growth in the offense.” 

The Raiders continue to struggle defensively. They’ve allowed 30 or more points in five of their six games and it’s hard to win that way in the NFL.

“We practice great. Now we have to correlate to play great,” said Raiders linebacker Cory Littleton.

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