Tom Brady is still a winning record artist, and time remains a flat circle
One game in the 2021 NFL season, and you know who could be a key player this year? Tom Brady.
Ho hum. Time is a flat circle. I’ll be back with you in a few decades, see where we are then.
The Buccaneers beat the Cowboys 31-29 Thursday night, with a last-second field goal from Ryan Succop to cap Brady’s 49th career victory. It’s important that we don’t just go through this number as if it were a normal or even human number: 49 career winning drives. Only Peyton Manning (54) and Drew Brees (53) have more. With seven rings to his name, Brady doesn’t really need record book validation. But if he wanted to, he could count the winning practices as another record for hunting this season unhindered by his retired contemporaries.
With another Pro Bowl selection, Brady would have 15, which would break the tie with Manning, Tony Gonzalez, Bruce Matthews and Merlin Olsen for most of all time. With 32 goals against the Cowboys, Brady is now just 332 off Brees’ record of 7,142 – he is set to break that record by the end of the season. With 775 yards separating him from Brees’ all-time record in passing yards, he’s poised to beat him maybe by the end of the month (maybe at Foxborough). Brady has already passed Brees in total number of attempted passes and touchdowns, of course; it’s old hat at this point. Only Manning’s five MVP awards seem unattainable (Brady is tied for second with three), but hey, two good seasons are enough, and Thursday night Brady looked like he had a few more under his belt.
Brady’s legendary skills seemed more enduring than ever against the Cowboys. While other aging quarterbacks have seen their arm strength deteriorate and limit their passing plays to a shorter range of the field, Brady is not following a similar arc. He pushed the ball through narrow windows with the same zip he showed off in the mid-2000s; and he dropped deep rainbows in buckets on what could have been highlight touches.
Arm strength has never been Brady’s hallmark. It’s its precision, its pocket management, its competitiveness, its… OK, that’s a lot of different things. You don’t get all of these records without being good at a lot of things. But even if Brady’s arm was never his problem solver, as it is with players like Josh Allen and Carson Wentz, you’d think a decrease in strength would start to hamper his surgical play. We saw it across the field at Cowboys QB Dak Prescott. Prescott had a spectacular night, despite functioning significantly below 100% following a shoulder injury at camp. Like Brady, Prescott is one of the league’s best pocket managers and transformers, and one of its most fluid operators under pressure. And he used those skills to craft an efficient, high-volume passing attack despite struggling to drive the ball anywhere in the field. This is how Manning and Brees have done it throughout the course.
So this style of play is tenable, if not ideal, for every time Brady gets there, but that’s the silliest part. He’s not even almost there yet. It may have seemed, for a brief moment in 2019, that the descent was near. But as Brady’s one-season, one-game tenure with the Bucs proved, that 2019 regression had a lot more to do with the plays that surrounded him in New England than with a drop in his. physical abilities. In his first season with the Bucs, Brady finished fourth in the league for average depth to target (9.6 aerial yards per attempt), while throwing the ball out in 2.41 seconds on average, the fifth-highest mark. league fast. Fifteen percent of his passes were over 20 yards in the field, behind only Joe Flacco and Drew Lock; in the eight weeks of football after the Bucs’ farewell, that number has risen to nearly 20 percent. No quarterback is supposed to throw so much into the field while getting rid of the ball so quickly – and they certainly aren’t supposed to at 43.
Well, Brady did it at 43, and he does it at 44, too. Brady’s 9.7 ADOT against the Cowboys was almost exactly his average last season; his 2.34 second throw was even faster than last year. He backed up 50 times and didn’t take a bag; and his two picks came on an angled bullet drill and a Hail Mary pitch that looked suspiciously like Brady was just trying to prove how far he could throw the ball.
Even with another attack in Tampa Bay, Brady is still Brady. Always ready to hammer an advantage, he avoided the big-on-big game between Mike Evans and Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs in favor of games in which his receivers had an advantage. He targeted outside corner Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis corner 10 times each. Collectively, those two allowed 14 catches, 203 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie linebacker Micah Parsons, who was thrown deep by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, also allowed five catches on seven targets for 41 extra yards. And just as Brady’s cruelty has remained, so has its intensity. With 24 seconds on the game clock, no downtime and more distance needed for a comfortable placement attempt, Brady received a play call, turned to the sideline and said, “No.”
Instead, he targeted Chris Godwin – the same player who missed out on the goal line victory in previous practice – and set up the match-winning basket on a nice completion, though physical. It’s not just veterans stuff; that’s Brady’s stuff.
Everything remains the same about Brady, until the hairstyle of the end of the 90s which he sports in his new portrait. He plays with both the physical abilities and zeal of his youth – and combined with his unprecedented history on the pitch, he has created a never-before-seen mix of ability and experience that allows him to break the conventions of the game. NFL quarterback. and middle-aged men simultaneously. As Brady himself put it last night with a wry chuckle when told about the game’s 49th winning practice, “I’ve been playing for a long time. It’s a lot of football. And there is still more to come.