Tom Brady took the Patriots to 13 AFC Championship games, went to the Super Bowl with them nine times, and won six rings. He’s now 1-on-1 in NFC championship games with the Buccaneers, taking Tampa Bay to a home game in Super Bowl 55.
Brady can’t match anything he’s done in New England in a year. But given how difficult it comes with the new challenges – a virtual offseason and no preseason while starting somewhat from zero to 43 – this latest NFL playoff series is bigger than anything we’ve got. seen before of the greatest of all time.
Brady ended up looking less pretty and tougher on Sunday, edging Aaron Rodgers and the Packers 31-26 at Lambeau Field. But despite three interceptions, Brady was very efficient (20 passes for 36, 280 yards, three touchdowns, 7.6 yards per attempt, 108.6 scores) and made all the winning plays needed – including his legendary 39 strike. yards against Scotty Miller. just before half-time.
The game played out much like most of Brady’s first regular season in Tampa. There were frustrating errors, including faulty passes, missed connections with receivers performing unstable routes and drops. The racing game was inconsistent. The defense stopped the run as usual and delivered a strong passing thrust, but they had gaps in coverage all over the field.
Like in the regular season, in which the Bucs went 11-5 to earn a No.5 seed as Brady’s wild first team, the Buccaneers put it all together in the right situations. Like their previous two road playoff games with Brady, they found a way to close the door in the fourth quarter with some complementary football.
Brady didn’t come to the Bucs expecting them to go through the heaviest NFC, as many of his Patriots teams did in the often weak AFC. There was a lot of ignorance, both for him with his new coaching staff and for his young teammates with him. There wasn’t the three-phase automatic discipline he loved so long with Bill Belichick, or an offensive playbook that had become second nature under Josh McDaniels.
With New England no longer the right place to support his talent, he had to choose a team he believed had the potential to break through and win championships. To say he chose wisely with the Bucs is one of the biggest understatements in NFL history.
Brady’s 2020 season has been one of his brightest statistically (40 TD, 12 INT, 7.6 yards per attempt, 102.2 rating), tied with his three MVP campaigns. Along the way, he had to combine his Patriots quick-release, short-to-mid-range sensibilities with aggressive downline passing play with the Buccaneers.
The Bucs had no doubts about Brady’s arm strength, and he took every calculated opportunity to show it, especially with wide receivers on the pitch as talented as Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and Miller. But when he needed different types of chain and scoring play, he went to his old reliable tight end, Rob Gronkowski, and his new reliable tight end, Cameron Brate. Through it all, slots ace Chris Godwin – when in good health – was his favorite guy and rookie Tyler Johnson was his secret weapon.
This is how Brady made a Bucs minus Brown offense to a tee against the Packers, also knowing that Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones took turns like the hot hand in the rushed offense. Its offensive linemen exceeded its targets as they continued to protect the GOAT.
There was a lingering question whether the Patriots dynasty was more Belichick or Brady. The Belichick Patriots miss the AFC playoffs while Brady’s Buccaneers won the NFC Championship doesn’t end that argument, but it does confirm the kind of winning energy Brady carries and gives to a team.
The Bucs have proven that there is a lot of talent around Brady. Many of their big defensive chunks in 2020 also played a key role in 2019, and the remaining receivers and tight ends were big attractions even before Brady signed Gronkowski and Brown to put them on top.
Brady has also been an intermediary with head coach Bruce Arians and an extension of general manager Jason Licht. He rose to the challenge of motivating and empowering a whole different group of players on and off the pitch.
At the same time, he played at a very high level and responded to those in doubt, including the Patriots, if he could still do so while growing a year old. Brady went through Drew Brees’ No 2 Saints and Rodgers No 1 Packers in their buildings, and his Bucs went much further than Russell Wilson’s No 3 Seahawks.
These are the other three active Super Bowl winners and future NFC Hall of Famers. Brady pushed the Buccaneers to be better than all of these teams in the end, much like he owned Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco all those years in the AFC.
It was as if Brady had wrapped 20 seasons with the Patriots in this momentous run with Tampa Bay, inventing the “Buccaneer Way” and perfecting it in a much shorter period. He did it all with a chip on his shoulder and a smile on his face, to go with a rejuvenated mind and body.
When it looked like Brady had passed the torch to Patrick Mahomes and other young guns, he dug deep to find another way to impress us and fill his resume. With the Patriots, things started to look easy with the eternal Super Bowl trips. With the Buccaneers everything was a lot harder, and it still didn’t matter – the GOAT got its typical impressive results.