Before the Buccaneers and Tom Brady could beat the Packers this past Sunday and before they could dismiss the Saints a few weekends ago, they first had to handle the Washington Football Team on Wild Card Saturday. That's precisely what they did, too.
In that matchup, the beyond-legendary quarterback benefitted from sound protection that kept the likes of Chase Young and Montez Sweat away from him, and thanks to all that time, he was able to dice up the Burgundy and Gold's secondary to the tune of 381 yards and a pair of scores.
During a radio interview with 106.7 The Fan's Grant and Danny on Tuesday afternoon, Jack Del Rio got the chance to look back on how his unit fared versus Brady and the Bucs. And though he was pragmatic about falling short against the Hall of Famer, the coordinator also lamented the loss.
"He knocked us out, he's been knocking people out for a long time," Del Rio said. "There's no shame in that. I don't think we played our best game that night. It's unfortunate. We played better in spurts throughout the season."
Tampa Bay's output — 507 total yards, nearly a 50-percent third-down conversion rate and 4.9 yards per carry to go along with what Brady posted — do nothing but reinforce Del Rio's statement.
In the playoffs, there's essentially no room for an off performance. In the playoffs and in a showdown with a guy who's one victory away from putting a seventh ring on his hands, meanwhile, there's literally no room for an off performance.
Especially when, according to Del Rio, the 43-year-old hasn't lost much of his ability late in his career.
"Just watching him warm up, he's still throwing the ball as well as just about anybody," the coach told 106.7. "So that's amazing, really, to have a guy with that much juice left."
Since that evening, Del Rio's done some self-scouting on his group, which was a force for much of the schedule before the Wild Card tilt and ended up finishing very close to the top in numerous statistical categories.
However, as impressive as his defense was, Del Rio hopes his players focus on this key takeaway in addition to the progress they made together throughout the schedule.
"The team that knocked us out is in the Super Bowl," he said. "There's a little bit that you can say, 'OK, maybe you're closer than you think.' But then you realize the amount of work that needs to go in to this next season. You realize you can take some positives from this year but we've got a lot of work to do."