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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Bucs X-Factor: Tom Brady targets a return to form

The signal caller should be a little more settled following an emotional Week 4 contest against his former squad.

A month into the season, I figured it’s high time to get an offensive player mentioned in one of these X-Factor pieces. Why not start with the draft horse who pulls the entire cart?

Tom Brady has largely been excellent through the first quarter(ish) of the season, compiling 1,356 yards (2nd overall), 10 touchdowns (T-3rd) and only 2 interceptions that weren’t his fault. With a grade of 91.7, the highest number of big-time throws (17) and zero (!!) turnover-worthy plays, he’s Pro Football Focus’s No. 1 rated quarterback.

However, in an emotional, rain-drenched match-up last week against the Patriots, Brady slogged through his “worst” game yet. He completed just over 50% of his passes for 269 yards and no touchdowns, but he delivered several good throws that resulted in drops, two of which that should’ve been scores. Oh, he also became the all-time league leader in career passing yards, nbd.

We can give a pass and expect better from the G.O.A.T. as the Buccaneers return home for the first time in two weeks to face the scuffling Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins’ offense has mightily struggled since losing starting QB Tua Tagovailoa, ranking in the bottom 10 of most major offensive categories outside of red zone offense, where they place 15th. Even with Tampa’s defense fighting through injuries and inconsistent play, this unit is not — at face value — one that inspires much, if any, fear.

Ultimately, Tampa’s fortunes in this game will be dictated by how well the offense gets back on track after back-to-back lackluster weeks that saw it put up less than 20 points in each contest. The weather played a significant role in the latest game, yes, but it was also easily the most disorganized, head-scratching outing from game-planning and play-calling perspectives.

Brady, Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich are now tasked with solving another Belichick disciple in Brian Flores, who spent 10 years with the Patriots from 2008-2018. Brady claims to have faced a Flores-led defense an estimated 1,500 times in practice, so the familiarity between the two will likely lead to an interesting chess match.

“(Flores) does a great job with the secondary, he’s a great play-caller,” Brady said Thursday. “They have really good pressures, a variety of fronts. They do a good job disguising coverages and they try to throw the quarterback off a bit. I’ve just been studying them all week and going back into last year, stuff last year. Obviously, I’ve got a lot of familiarity with things they’ve done in the past. I try to be prepared for as much as I can.”

As good as the Dolphins were last year, they’ve run into major issues recently. They’ve allowed 35, 31, and 27 points the last three weeks even though they’ve managed to extend their NFL-record streak of games with at least one takeaway to 26 in a row. When you give up multiple touchdowns to an ankle-less Carson Wentz, you know you’re having a bad time.

While Miami’s defense has trudged through the last few games, to put it mildly, they are capable of better and they’ll be desperate to get off the snide and pick up a statement win. For what it’s worth, the Dolphins have beaten Brady more than any other team (though Brady still owns a 23-12 record against them).

All that said, Brady needs to come out with his trademark furor and steer this ship back on its optimal course. Aside from getting the win of course, this week is about reestablishing the tone on offense.

He knows better than anyone how important it is to bury teams you’re clearly better than and be efficient while doing it. He said that the team is coming one of their best days of practice, which will undoubtedly help with that pursuit.

They all know they’re capable of better, Brady included, and they should be motivated come Sunday to prove it.

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