As Marge Simpson once said to Homer, “It’s very easy to criticize.”
Replied Homer, “Fun, too.”
There’s no fun in subjecting the greatest quarterback of all time to criticism. But it’s fair and appropriate to comment on his current quality of play, and on the unique trends surrounding his team. He’s lost three games in a row for the first time since 2002. He’s two games under .500 for the first time in his entire career. He’s never lost five of six games. And but for a phantom roughing-the-passer penalty called on Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, the Bucs and Brady quite possibly would be in the midst of a six-game losing streak.
At times, he looks ordinary. He misses throws. He hurries them. He seems jumpy. He no longer consistently glides around a muddled pocket the way he once did. His deep ball, while still impressive to watch sail into the sky, is losing a little oomph. Multiple long passes were underthrown last night, one to Mike Evans (the defensive back only “caught up” because the ball fell short of the mark) and one to Scotty Miller, drawing a pass-interference penalty.
After the game last night, I was sharing with my wife some of the basic realities of Tom Brady‘s 23rd NFL season. She said in response, “He’s still Tom Brady.”
She’s right, in more ways than one. Set aside the money and the fame and everything else that has worked out well for him since 2001 (if he truly did a Damn Yankees-style deal with the devil, he got more than full value for his soul), and there’s still a quarterback with a sense of fire and resolve who will be dangerous if/when the Bucs get to the playoffs.
Brady was unflappable when the Bucs were trying to dig out of a double-digit hole in the fourth quarter. Closeups of Brady showed a player who was calm, urgent, determined. In a single-elimination setting, that will serve Brady and the Bucs well.
They’re in the worst division in football. If the Panthers beat the Falcons on Sunday and the Saints beat the Raiders, all four teams will be 3-5. Who wouldn’t pick the Bucs to emerge as the champions of the NFC South?
And if Tampa Bay wins the division, the Bucs will be the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs. They’ll host a team like the Giants or Cowboys. Win, and the Bucs will travel to Philadelphia or Minnesota or maybe Seattle or San Francisco. Who wouldn’t give Brady an edge when it comes to dealing with the pressure of winning in the postseason against Jalen Hurts, Kirk Cousins, Geno Smith, or Jimmy Garoppolo?
That’s the thing to remember as the next nine regular-season games unfold. If the Buccaneers make it to the playoffs, the first postseason game they play will be Brady’s 48th. That won’t make the Bucs favorites to run the table, but it will serve them well — especially as quarterbacks with far less playoff experience begin to feel the heat at a time when Brady will always stay cool.
Tom Brady and the Bucs can still be dangerous in the postseason originally appeared on Pro Football Talk