TAMPA, Fla. — Tom Brady's assessment of Sunday's opponent may have been a subconscious stab at his own squad. The Bucs quarterback looks at the reigning Super Bowl champs and sees cohesion, continuity, telepathy.
Traits his own offense is lacking.
"That's always important," Brady said Friday, roughly 50 hours before the Bucs (7-4) host the Chiefs (9-1) in a game that could greatly alter the home team's postseason trajectory.
"I feel continuity's the biggest, probably most critical aspect to consistent performance, because you've got to build on it year after year and not just game after game or week after week. They've been in that system for awhile, Coach (Andy) Reid's been there for a while."
As December beckons, Bucs fans generally have grown weary of the lack-of-cohesion refrain emanating from AdventHealth Training Center in the wake of each defeat. While the absence of a spring, OTAs and a conventional training camp may have served as a sound alibi for the Bucs' assortment of new offensive accessories in Week 1, it becomes grating in Week 12.
Yet that dearth of offseason reps can't be ignored against a foe like the Chiefs, whose nucleus has flourished in the same system for years.
Third-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, building a Canton-esque resume to this point, is playing for a universally respected offensive mind (Reid) in his eighth season in Kansas City. All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce (eighth season) and All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill (fifth) also are ingrained in the system.
So is veteran speedster Sammy Watkins (third). Even the center, USF alumnus Austin Reiter, is in his third season snapping to Mahomes.
"They've had some continuity on that side," Brady said. "With that system, with those coaches, a lot of their key veteran players."
By contrast, Brady signed with the Bucs in March, roughly a month before former Patriots teammate Rob Gronkowski was lured from a one-year retirement. Five months after that, running back Leonard Fournette arrived. New wideout Antonio Brown played his first game Nov. 8.
"We've only really had ... the past couple of of weeks where we've had opportunities to really practice with our guys out there on the grass," offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said.
"I know that doesn't seem like a lot, but when you didn't have a summer, didn't have OTAs and you've got new guys in the huddle, it's always good to have as much trial and error as you can to work through things."
Now, it appears the offensive line could be a practice in trial and error Sunday.
Left guard Ali Marpet, absent the last three games, practiced Friday but remains in concussion protocol, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. Also questionable is left tackle Donovan Smith, who will test his injured ankle before Sunday's game. Arians confirmed veteran A.Q. Shipley's career is over after an MRI revealed his neck injury — initially believed to be a stinger — is more serious.
Suddenly, the Bucs are bleeding whatever continuity they possessed.
Even as the Chiefs brandish it.(c)2020 Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC