HOUSTON – After seven Super Bowl wins and more than two decades in the NFL, Tom Brady remains a student of the game.
On Saturday after he wrapped up his 22nd preseason by leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a victory over the Houston Texans, he reflected on how important it is each time he steps on the field.
“Every time you play, you learn something," he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time, but you (can't) ... take anything for granted."
Brady threw for 154 yards and a touchdown in just more than a quarter in the 23-16 win.
It was by far his most extensive work this preseason after the three-time NFL MVP played just six snaps in a loss to Cincinnati two weeks ago and sat out last week against in a loss to Tennessee.
Brady got off to a slow start, throwing two incompletions on his first drive before a punt by Tampa Bay. He got going on the next possession when he completed seven consecutive passes, capped by a 24-yard touchdown throw to Chris Godwin. The extra point was blocked to put the Buccaneers up 6-0.
Brady stuck with Godwin to start the next drive, connecting on a 32-yard pass on the last play of the first quarter. Tampa Bay extended the lead to 13-0 on a 13-yard run by Ronald Jones II and Brady was replaced by Blaine Gabbert after that.
“It was good to get a couple of good long drives in," Brady said. “We really haven’t played that much ... so it was just good to spread the ball around and get into a little flow and it was good to score and get the win."
Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians was disappointed with the first drive, but said he is very happy with where his team is overall as the regular season approaches.
“We’re healthy," he said. “I like the game speed in which we played this ballgame and we still have some guys that are catching back up, but I think we're going to be fine."
Tyrod Taylor failed to move the offense effectively for Houston in three drives, going 6 of 9 for 31 yards. He’s expected to be Houston’s starter this season with star Deshaun Watson’s future with the team in question after 22 women filed lawsuits alleging that he sexually assaulted or harassed them.
Houston police and the NFL are investigating the allegations, leaving Watson's future with the team uncertain. Even before all that Watson requested a trade earlier this year. Watson was not seen on the sideline Saturday.
Houston’s defense scored the team’s first points when DeMarcus Walker sacked Gabbert in the end zone for a safety that made it 13-2.
The Texans recovered two fumbles and had an interception Saturday to give them 10 takeaways this preseason. Houston was last in the league with nine last season, and new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith has made it a priority in camp to improve that number.
Third-round draft pick Davis Mills replaced Taylor after three possessions and was 10 of 27 for 106 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His 11-yard pass to Nico Collins cut the lead to 16-10 in the third quarter and he found Jordan Veasy for a 9-yard score that got Houston within 23-16 early in the fourth.
“We gave it up way too many times," coach David Culley said. “It doesn’t matter how many you get on defense, when you turn it over on offense your chances of winning are very slim. And that was very disappointing."
Second-round pick Kyle Trask finished the game for Tampa Bay and threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Corey McElroy between the two TD passes by Mills.
Tampa Bay DL Ndamukong Suh was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday and did not travel to Houston.
JUST KICKIN’ IT
Houston K Kaʻimi Fairbairn was held out for a minor injury, leaving safety Justin Reid, who often practices extra points and field goals before practice for fun, to kick off Saturday.
Reid handled three kickoffs and they were for 65, 61 and 48 yards. The second one was impressive because Reid made the tackle with Rasul Douglas after his kick.
The Texans did not let Reid attempt a field goal despite campaigning to do so. They went on fourth down six times and attempted 2-point conversions on both of their touchdowns.
“If we got to the plus-24 yard-line, he was going to kick a field goal," Culley said. “That was his distance. He was going to kick a field goal, and he was excited about that. Unfortunately we didn’t get down there when we needed to get down there late in the game.”
Reid is a former soccer player who kicked in high school and was the emergency kicker at Stanford but never got to kick there.
“I had the time of my life," he said. “I’ve been looking forward to this moment for so long."
Tampa Bay: hosts Dallas in the NFL season opener Sept. 9.
Houston: hosts Jacksonville and No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence in the opener Sept. 12.
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