Between the Giants’ Super Bowl victories over Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2008 and 2012, Justin Tuck recorded four sacks, five QB hits and a forced fumble. His disruption of the typically New England compound offense has set the stage for what remains among the deepest scratches on Brady’s resume.
Largely because of Tuck, the narrative has been that the only way to beat a Brady team in the playoffs is to apply constant pressure. So, when the Washington football team meet the Brady Buccaneers on Saturday night in the wildcard round of the 2021 playoffs, they’ll need to punch the 43-year-old for a chance to upset.
Rookie Chase Young and sophomore pro Montez Sweat will be invited to play beyond their years to hunt Brady. Young was the second pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Sweat was the 26th overall selection in 2019.
After netting a playoff berth on Sunday night, Young signaled he was up for the task, shouting as he left the field, “Tom Brady, I’m coming.” He didn’t back down later in the week when his own coach Ron Rivera said he was “creaking a bit” at the video of the trash conversation and that Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, l ‘warned to “watch what you want”.
Not many people would favor a rookie over Brady, especially when that rookie plays for a team under .500, but Young is hoping to at least make a solid playoff debut against Tampa Bay. It is not a scrub that opens the mouth.
“He’s a guy who can come in and make an impact on our football team,” Rivera said when Washington drafted Young. “Not just his position, not just the defense, but our football team.”
At Rivera, Young has an ideal defensive tutor who has helped develop stars during his career as a coordinator and head coach. Rivera’s Panthers teams made the most of Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy, and Mario Addison, among others. Rivera’s time as a player and staff member with the elite Bears defenses boosted his sharpness.
Rivera’s renowned ability to connect with young personalities like Young off the pitch is one of the main reasons Washington hired him. Urban Meyer, another well-respected footballing spirit, also mentored Young for a time at Ohio State.
Of course, Young’s natural talent, seen below in clips from his rookie season, made things easier for his coaches.
The Buccaneers have one of the best blocking units in the NFL – the group allowed the league’s fourth-fewest sacks, forcing most opponents to bring in extra bodies in order to put pressure on the quarterback while leaving secondaries exposed to an explosive array of Tampa Bay Receivers.
But the focus on Sweat, who has recorded nine sacks this year amid his rise in all-star territory, could open things up for Young despite Brady’s trusted protection. It’s the magic of having a stellar rushed combo rather than an individual troublemaker, and why many of the most dangerous defensive fronts of the past 20 years have featured at least two stars at the limit. The Giants had Tuck and Michael Strahan, then Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, then Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Colts had Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The Saints had Joe Johnson and Darren Howard (and inside, La’Roi Glover). The Cowboys had DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis.
In a few years, if the best possibilities are realized, Sweat and Young could combine for a total of bags with the best seasons of those produced above. It’s no exaggeration to consider both achieving double-digit withdrawals per quarter in a single year.
That doesn’t mean Washington fans are expected to come in on Saturday night expecting their outclassed squad to stun the Buccaneers. Not when their quarterback, Alex Smith, is a tenuous medical miracle by no means operating at the playoff level.
They can at least be optimistic, however, that Brady’s time in the pocket might be limited.
“I’m really excited to play GOAT,” Young told reporters this week. “They say the best ever. It’s about time.”