The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell on the road to a Pittsburgh Steelers squad that had lost four straight games, was starting a rookie quarterback in Kenny Pickett and missing major pieces in the secondary.
After Sunday's defeat, head coach Todd Bowles bluntly assessed his team's inability to pull out the W.
"We didn't take them lightly, No. 1. No. 2, I think guys that are living off the Super Bowl are living in a fantasy land," Bowles said, via ESPN. "You've gotta get your hands dirty and go to work like everybody else. We've been working hard and we've gotta work harder. Nobody's gonna give us anything. Nobody's gonna feel sorry. We've gotta go back as coaches, as players -- the time for talking is over. You either gotta put up or shut up."
Asked to clarify if players or coaching were living in that "fantasy land," Bowles said he was speaking generally.
"I didn't say we were," he said. "I'm just saying -- you get patted on the back so much, you gotta relive ... Every year and every week, you've gotta go out there and earn your pay and earn your keep. If you don't live like that, it's gonna be a result like today."
Despite facing a defense that was missing star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and its top three corners, the Bucs couldn't consistently make chunk plays.
The Bucs have been held to 21 or fewer points in five of six games this season, tied for most such games in 2022 entering Monday night (Colts, Steelers, Dolphins). Tampa scored 21 or fewer points five times in the previous two seasons with Brady at the helm (two in 2020 and three in 2021).
"We didn't earn it," Brady said of the loss. "We didn't earn the win. It's a game of earning it and it's a game of playing well and performing well and we're just not doing a good job of that. I don't think we've done it for six weeks. I think we're all playing less than what we're capable of. We've all gotta look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out why."
Brady was off the mark on a host of passes early as the Bucs' offense got stuck in the mud. Tampa was particularly putrid in the red zone, settling for field goals and finishing 1-of-4 on red zone drives and 0-of-2 in goal-to-go situations.
The 3-3 record is the worst start through the first six games of a season for a team with Brady as the starting QB since the 2012 Patriots started 3-3, and only the fourth time in Brady's career that he has started .500 or worse through the first six games of the season (2002, 2005, 2012, 2022).
Fortunately for Tampa, the rest of the NFC South is similarly in the pits. The Bucs are tied with the Falcons at 3-3 with the Saints (2-4) and Panthers (1-5) trailing.