Why Tampa Bay Buccaneers have put the smile back on Tom Brady’s face
There was a moment just before half-time in the game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night that showed how well Tom Brady is holding off father time.
The play in question saw Brady step away from the pressure of the rushing defenders, and loft a ball over the Raiders defence. The pass came down in the left-hand corner of the endzone where Scotty Miller hauled it in on a dive, touchdown.
There was something special about the pass, something that only a few players in the league can do, and all of those are much younger than the veteran quarterback who turned 43 in the summer.
But it’s not just this play that shows how well TB12 is defying time.
Since Brady’s arriving in Tampa, I’ve avoided the hype train, but watching this game on Sunday night, something occurred to me, something that has been missing from Brady’s career for years. His smile. It signalled genuine enjoyment of the game.
It seems silly to say about a man who has six Super Bowl wins, numerous divisional titles and over 550 career touchdown passes. Yet, since he arrived in Florida, there has been a renewed energy about his play, about the way he appears in press conferences and even on social media.
In New England, the team is governed by Bill Belichick, a man who presents an outwardly sullen demeanour, and almost makes his team play under the same darkened cloud.
In Tampa, the team has Bruce Arians, an outspoken, honest and forthright coach smiling through his goatee. Google Belichick and it’s a game of spot the smile.
It’s more than the head coach though. For the first time in, possibly 15 years Tom Brady has a complete supporting cast.
The quarterback’s statistics show that he is having one of the least productive seasons of his career through seven games. In fact, in the last ten years, he’s only had two seasons with lower yardage.
But yardage isn’t everything. This year, through the first seven games Brady has 18 touchdown passes, a completion percentage of 65 per cent and a quarterback rating of 97.8. These stats are better than he has achieved in eight of the last ten seasons.
In New England Brady always had some weapons and a stout defence but suddenly in Tampa, he has an embarrassment of riches. He has two running backs fighting for time in Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette.
The receiving core includes his old ally Rob Gronkowski, Chris Goodwin and Mike Evans who are both had 1000 yards receiving last year, Not to mention yard leader on Sunday, Scotty Miller.
So it’s no wonder Brady looks like he’s having fun this season. He has all the tools he needs to win another Lombardi trophy, a coach who seems ready to let his personality show and not to mention the Florida sunshine.
Tampa Bay triumphed 45-20 against the Raiders but Sunday produced seven games where a team won by less than one score. None was more dramatic than the match in Atlanta where Matthew Stafford led Detroit down the field, before completing a pass with no time left to beat the Falcons 23-22.
In another close finish, Seattle Seahawks finally succumbed as the Arizona Cardinals kicked a field goal to tie the game before repeating the feat in overtime. With the Seahawks loss, the only other undefeated teams met in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers hosted the Tennessee Titans and lept out to a 27-7 lead. Despite a strong comeback from the Titans they fell just short, losing 27-24.
Rookie Joe Burrow continued his hot start to the season as he passed for 406 yards and three touchdowns while also running in one of his own, but despite his efforts, his Cincinnati Bengals lost the battle of Ohio to the Cleveland Browns.
Green Bay Packers bounced back from last week’s humbling loss to Tampa with an Aaron Rodgers masterclass. The quarterback threw four touchdown passes on the way to a 35-20 win over the Texans.
The New York Jets continued their winless season, but at least scored a touchdown this week. The Jets held the previously praised Bills offense to field goals but still lost 18-10. There were also wins for Washington, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Kansas City.
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