Banged-up Broncos brace for Brady, Bucs
Tom Brady coming to the Mile High city used to indicate a clash of two of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. But that was when Brady was with New England and Peyton Manning wasn’t on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Those epic battles between Brady and Manning, including two AFC Championship games in Denver, are memories. While Manning retired after the 2015 season, Brady has kept going. At 43, Brady is with a new team but has the same title aspirations with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brady leads Tampa Bay into Denver to face the Broncos on Sunday in a Week 3 matchup.
The Buccaneers (1-1) are coming off a 31-17 win over the Carolina Panthers while Denver (0-2) is coming off a game that was more painful than just a 26-21 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Broncos lost quarterback Drew Lock in the first quarter, and his favorite target last season, wide receiver Courtland Sutton, went down with an ACL tear. Two weeks into the season Denver has lost its best defensive player, linebacker Von Miller, a star running back in Phillip Lindsay and now adds two more significant injuries.
Miller and Sutton are expected to miss the rest of the season while Lock (strained right rotator cuff) is likely out three-to-eight weeks. Lindsay (turf toe) is hoping to be back after the bye week and play against the Patriots on Oct. 11.
The Broncos didn’t place Lock on the short-term injured list with the hope he could return sooner than eight weeks.
“There’s a chance he may not have to miss three games,” Denver coach Vic Fangio said of Lock. “But there’s a chance he could miss four or five.”
Backup Jeff Driskel came on and nearly led the Broncos to a win at Pittsburgh, and he’ll get the start Sunday with Brett Rypien as the backup. Denver brought in Blake Bortles, and the quarterback started the mandated COVID-19 protocols to be cleared. He would likely be the emergency quarterback.
The Broncos have been dealing with other injuries. Cornerback Davontae Harris (hamstring) sat out the first practice of the week while wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (ribs) and defensive lineman Shelby Harris (neck) were limited in practice on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay got good news when wide receiver Chris Godwin cleared the concussion protocol and was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.
Godwin gives Brady another weapon to use against Denver as he gets more comfortable with coach Bruce Arians’ offense. Arians was critical of Brady’s first game, a 34-23 loss to New Orleans, after he threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns but also tossed two interceptions.
He completed 23 of 35 passes for 217 yards with one TD and one pick against the Panthers.
In his first two games he has completed 46 passes but only two have gone to tight end Rob Gronkowski, both of which came in the first week. Gronkowski, who was one of Brady’s primary targets in New England, came out of retirement to join the Buccaneers and has not yet put up the numbers he did with the Patriots.
Arians isn’t worried about Gronkowski’s targets.
“We brought him in to just play tight end. If that means no catches, that means no catches,” Arians said. “If it means 10 catches, it means 10 catches because he’s open and that’s where the ball goes.”
–Field Level Media