Five weeks. That's how long it took Florida to ruin Tom Brady. Like the Borg, the Buccaneers have made him part of their collective. A hive mind in which you lose all discipline, situational awareness and the ability to count the fingers on one hand, minus your thumb. Though there seems to be some humanity still left in him. At least he's still capable of feeling shame.
How embarrassing was the mistake? So bad that Bruce Arians - the same Bruce Arians who has blamed Brady for interceptions and just said the perfect quarterback is Andrew Luck - covered for him like a political spokesman:
I have caught hell lately from the small subset of people who A) Are Bucs fans, and 2) Have Twitter, for saying that Tampa is the most undisciplined, badly coached team in football. They say I'm just butthurt and tell me to get over him leaving and point to the Bucs' record. And they have a point about all three. But once again I ask you to stop me when I say something that isn't true.
Tom Brady started 324 games in New England, postseason included. Let's call it an average of 11 possessions per game. That's 3,564 times he led drives here and I defy anyone to point out one example of him forgetting what down it was. That might happen to the Ravens at the end of the AFC championship game when their kicker wasn't ready (which John Harbaugh tried to blame on the Patriots), but not to a fully prepared, highly engaged quarterback and one of the most cerebral players ever to put a helmet over his big brain. At least not when that helmet has Flying Elvii on the sides.
Of course I'm still butthurt that he left. I am learning to deal with it, but it's a process. Sure, I sometimes still look up at the moon and wonder if Brady's looking at it too and thinking about us the way I am. And no matter how little I care about Tampa Bay, I'm hoping he does well. I just won't forgive the team or him if they turn him into a failure who can't see the middle aged men in the striped smocks holding big poles with bright orange "4"s on top standing 25 yards away.
The mental mistakes may have ended with that one, but they didn't begin there. Senseless, boneheaded, costly boo boos are as much a part of the culture of Tampa as "Cash for Gold" places in strip malls and and seedy, depressing nudie bars. The Bucs' possession after they took a 17-16 lead went like this:
- 1 yard pass
- 20 yard strike from Brady to Cameron Brate
- 10 yard penalty for holding
- 10 yard penalty for OPI negates a 16 yard completion
- Sack with a holding penalty offset by a defensive penalty
- 15 yard penalty for a headbutt negates an 11 yard pass to Jaydon Mickens
- 7 yard completion
That's it. I didn't leave any snaps out. Two Brady completions as the bread in a thick, meaty, New York deli sandwich of fuck ups. And sooner or later those are going to spread. So by the end of the 4th quarter, the GOAT himself was testing positive for the dumbassery virus too.
The damned shame of it is, he was playing out of his mind for large stretches. I find myself saying week in and week out with this guy is that he looks like vintage Brady, in total command of his offense like you're watching a deep fake video where someone digitized Tampa uniforms onto some 2011 game footage. He spread Chicago out and looked for matchups. Motioned guys to make the Bears tip their hand on the coverage. At one point, he killed a call, checked to another, the Bears then dropped a safety back and brought the other one up. And it was one of those plays you'd seen a million times where you just know he knows exactly where he's going with the ball and then … a false start call blew it dead. Mixed in were some gorgeous throws. A 14 yard comebacker to Mike Evans against deep Cover-4 that set up a go ahead field goal. Hitting Gronk in a zone-busting seam route into the middle hole for the final field goal that put them up 19-17. And one early on that was a play action where he turned his back to the defense to sell the handoff, then delivered a perfect strike to Tyler Johnson for 35. Brady barely had time to locate his receiver; it was just one of those plays where he saw the play developing in his Professor Xavier mind's eye and knew where everyone would be when he turned back around. Just uncanny.
But at some point, he and Nick Foles switched places. In the 1st half, it was Foles missing the throws. Like that Darnell Mooney post-corner route that got him socially distanced in the Bucs secondary and Big Dick Nick missed him by a good five yards. And I was wondering if the Lions would fire Matt Patricia just for letting this guy roll all over him in the Super Bowl three years ago. In the 2nd half, Foles got into one of his legendary streaks and Brady turned into him. On Chicago's final drive, a perfect Foles lob pass to David Montgomery over the coverage that was set up by a perfectly executed rub route by Allen Robinson Jr. went for 17 and basically sealed the win. Meanwhile Brady was bouncing throws. Took a brutal sack or two and started getting rid of the ball before anyone was into their routes. Had a 3 & out that took all of 0:27 off the clock. It was a weird "Freaky Friday" like body swap, with Foles making the clutch plays when it mattered most. Go figure.
How and why is that Tampa Bay Rob Gronkowski is suddenly able to draw DPI penalties that New England Gronk couldn't? For about an eight year stretch here, defensive backs could beat him with Vulcan pugil sticks and there was a 90% chance he'd be the one getting flagged for interference. But last night Buster Skrine got called for rolling his eyes at him.
What I need to figure out now is how Tampa Bay has so many skill position guys. I can name more wideouts and tight ends on their roster than on any team in the league. Including my own. And yet they still they produce these bodies like a skill position factory on "How It's Made." Chris Godwin was out Scotty Miller was active and I saw him but he was never a factor. And still there's all these people to throw to. They've got like 12 guys with numbers in the 80s (I know that's mathematically impossible but I'm rolling). Meanwhile the only Patriots tight end with a target through four games is Ryan Izzo. In a way it makes me glad Brady is in Florida because he would be miserable up here. Last season he was a city dog who now gets to live in the country and run around outside all day. So I guess I'm happy for him?
He's also on a team that's 3-2. And if the Patriots can take care of business against Denver on Monday Evening Football, Belichick will have one of those too.