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Tom Brady won’t explain fourth down confusion, and neither will Bucs coach Bruce Arians

Tom Brady holds up four fingers thinking it was only fourth down after his team's final play in Thursday night's loss at Chicago.
Tom Brady holds up four fingers thinking it was only fourth down after his team's final play in Thursday night's loss at Chicago.Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

If Tom Brady lost track of what down it was on the final play of a failed comeback bid against the Bears at Chicago, the Buccaneers quarterback is keeping it to himself.

And coach Bruce Arians is steering clear of speaking for the six-time Super Bowl champion, whose fourth-down incompletion sealed the team’s fate in an error-filled 20-19 loss at Soldier Field on Thursday night.

“I don’t know how to answer it for him,” Arians said Friday, reflecting on Brady’s decision to try to move the Bucs closer to field goal range rather than attempt a shorter throw to pick up a first down on fourth-and-6 from the Tampa Bay 41.

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“We all knew it was fourth down,” the coach added. “I think he saw what he saw.”

After the throw intended for tight end Cameron Brate was broken up by Bears safety DeAndre Houston-Carson, Brady raised four fingers in the air and appeared to be surprised Tampa Bay had turned over the ball on downs with 33 seconds remaining.

If the potential winning drive ended with Brady mistakenly thinking he had another down to try to keep his team’s hopes alive, it wasn’t the only miscue on offense that affected the chances for what would have been a fourth consecutive win.

Brady was sacked three times and knocked down another eight by the Bears (4-1), who overcame three deficits to take the lead for good on Cairo Santos’s 38-yard field goal with 1:13 remaining. The Bucs also hurt themselves with a first-half fumble and accumulated 11 accepted penalties for 109 yards.

Arians, who on Thursday night initially said Brady knew it was fourth down, pinned the loss on poor coaching.

While Brady talked about the need to correct mistakes and eliminate turnovers and costly penalties, the 43-year-old quarterback did not say if he lost track of what down it was on Tampa Bay’s final offensive play.

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“I knew we needed a chunk and I was thinking about more yardage. It was just bad execution,” Brady said.

“You’re up against the clock. I knew we had to gain a chunk, so I should have been thinking more first down instead of chunk in that situation,” the quarterback responded when asked a second time about the final play.

The Bucs were the NFL’s most penalized team last season. They’re on course to rank among the league leaders again.

“Just gotta do a better job of coaching. It all falls on the staff — mistakes that we’re making in ballgames that shouldn’t be made,” Arians said. “And they’re not every week ... That was one of those games where there were a bunch of them. Penalties, technique errors, things that we should have coached better.”

Garoppolo to start Sunday

Jimmy Garoppolo will return as starting quarterback for the 49ers this week after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Garoppolo will start Sunday at home against the Dolphins. Shanahan wanted to see how Garoppolo made it through a full week of practice before making his decision.

“Each day he got better,” Shanahan said Friday. “Never felt too sore the next day. So, we needed to hear that today and see him out there today and we feel good to go.”

Garoppolo had hoped not to miss any time with the injury, having played through ankle sprains before. But this was a more severe high ankle sprain which made it impossible for him to move well enough to avoid danger in the pocket.

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He was able to show he was healthy in practice and will provide a needed spark for the 49ers (2-2), who lost 25-20 at home last week to Philadelphia.

“Ankle is feeling really good right now,” Garoppolo said. “Got the last couple of weeks off to get it right. The training staff, I tip my hat to those guys, they did a great job with me, just preparing me and everything. But, as far as getting out there, I mean, we’ve had the whole week to work on it. So, it’s feeling pretty good right now.”

San Francisco has a 20-6 record when Garoppolo starts, compared with a 5-21 mark with any other quarterback since Shanahan arrived in 2017.

Injury report

The Colts will face the NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense without one key starter, linebacker Darius Leonard.

They could be without middle linebacker Anthony Walker, too.

On Friday, coach Frank Reich ruled out Leonard and left tackle Anthony Castonzo for Sunday’s game at Cleveland, and acknowledged Walker’s status was still uncertain.

On the Browns' side, they will be without one of their best defensive players as tackle Larry Ogunjobi will sit out with an abdominal injury.

Rookie Jordan Elliott, a third-round pick from Missouri, will take Ogunjobi’s spot.

▪ Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith is having season-ending neck surgery, another blow to a Dallas offensive line that will be without both starting tackles for the rest of the year.

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▪ The Jaguars could be without three defensive starters at Houston Sunday. Coach Doug Marrone listed defensive end Josh Allen (knee), linebacker Myles Jack (ankle) and rookie cornerback CJ Henderson (shoulder) as questionable.

▪ Dolphins rookie left tackle Austin Jackson went on injured reserve because of an ankle injury, a blow an offensive line that has been improved this season. Defensive end Shaq Lawson (shoulder) and tight end Durham Smythe (knee) were also ruled out of Sunday’s game at San Francisco.