Trace McSorley got a chance to play both hero and spoiler in his first career NFL start, helping the Cardinals take the NFC South-leading Buccaneers to overtime in the final game of the league’s Christmas Day tripleheader. In the end, however, the quarterback’s senior counterpart, Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, got the best of the competition. Sunday night’s clash was far from a pretty game from Brady; In fact, for a while, it might have been his most uninspiring of the year. Given a late chance to come back from a 10-point deficit, TB12 delivered in crunch time, setting up Ryan Succop’s walk-off field goal for a 19-16 victory.
Here are some highlights from the Buccaneers’ win Sunday night:
Why did the bookers win?
Not because they have everything figured out, that’s for sure. For much of Sunday night, Tom Brady looked as unfocused as he has been all season, Leonard Fournette struggled to find open lanes on the floor, and Ryan Succop seemed the only one capable of consistent action. But then Arizona had to pull away, and Brady took advantage of the opportunity to dial it back in the waning minutes, leaning on Fournette, Chris Godwin and Russell Cage to score 13. If one thing worked all night, it was Todd Bowles’ defense, which hit Trace McSorley seven times and recorded five tackles for loss, especially if/after the Cardinals moved the ball into the opponent’s territory.
Why the Cardinals lost
With or without Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy, they can’t keep moving the ball. Arizona’s defense played really well, with JJ Watt putting constant pressure on Tom Brady’s face and Marco Wilson picking up not one but two deep-ball picks by TB12. But for all of McSorley’s gunslinging efforts — and the veteran backup had a couple of beautiful downfield shots, including one by Marquese Brown — Arizona never established a rhythm through the air. James Connor and Greg Dortch made the most of every touch, but others like DeAndre Hopkins were basically invisible. The “D,” meanwhile, appeared to be playing catch-up in the final minutes of action, perhaps tired of Tampa Bay eventually winning the possession battle.
Third-and-9 for the Cardinals on their own 36-yard line on the first possession of OT. McSorley had already connected with Marquis Brown for a precision third-down strike on the drive. Here, however, the left side couldn’t connect with DeAndre Hopkins in a tight window, and the officials didn’t buy Hopkins’ plea for pass interference. At that point, the ball was back to Brady and the next score was sure to win the game, and Tampa Bay was poised for another ugly but successful comeback.
Game of the game
It wasn’t a “good” play, but it was huge for the Bucks: McSorley’s quick pitch to Keonte Ingram gave Tampa Bay the bonus possession and allowed the visiting team to knot it at 16. -16 delay. It highlighted the ugliness of the entire back-and-forth, which included 11 penalties and five turnovers.
The Buccaneers (7-8) will return home for a Week 17 New Year’s Day rematch with the rival Panthers (6-9), who upset the Lions on Saturday. The Cardinals (4-11), meanwhile, will take on the Falcons (5-10), who fell to the Ravens this weekend and are now out of playoff contention.