By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Even now, in the year 2020, you simply cannot give Tom Brady an extra chance. At 43 years old, the greatest quarterback of all time can still absolutely kill you.
The latest group to learn that lesson (or perhaps, relearn that lesson) was the Los Angeles Chargers, who staked themselves to a 24-7 lead on the road on Sunday and likely felt awfully good about their chances of winning their football game. In an instant, it all fell apart. Brady made sure of it.
It happened after Justin Herbert handed off the football to Joshua Kelley’s shoulder pad, leading to a fumble. The Bucs recovered at the Chargers’ 6-yard line. Three plays later, Brady hit Mike Evans for a touchdown to cut L.A.’s lead to 24-14.
To make a long story short, the Chargers would score just once more for the remainder of the afternoon. The Bucs would score three more touchdowns plus a late field goal to walk away with a 38-31 win.
Of course, a comeback from a 24-7 hole requires an entire football team. But make no mistake: this win had the mark of a vintage Brady performance.
–From a statistical standpoint, Brady did something he had not done since Week 3 of the 2017 season by throwing for five touchdowns in the game. That’s 48 games without throwing for five scores.
That doesn’t even really put into perspective how rare it was, either. Going all the way back to 2010, prior to Sunday, Brady threw five or more touchdowns in a game just six times in his entire career. Only two of those six games came in 2010 or later. (Three came in 2007. LOL.)
In this one, Brady went 30-for-46 for 369 yards with five touchdowns and an interception. Pretty nice.
–From an arm strength standpoint, Brady might have been throwing the football harder than he ever has. No, we don’t have the radar gun out there, but watch these throws.
Brady’s first touchdown, a bullet to Cameron Brate:
First TD grab for Brate in 2020 ‼️
📺: CBS pic.twitter.com/9iHTL6Hb4v
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 4, 2020
Brate’s poor belly-button!
Midway through the second quarter, a humdinger to O.J. Howard:
Later in the second, a heater to Justin Watson:
(I included Brady’s pre-snap yell in that one, just to give some flavor as the to the ferocity with which he wanted to deliver the football.)
Early in the third quarter, another fastball to Watson:
As has been the case with Brady for years, it gets a bit old and tiresome to hear his age repeated over and over again. Understood. Still, it must be noted once again that this type of arm strength at age 43 is not normal. It’s not human. Nobody’s ever done it before.
And when you watch throws like that … it doesn’t seem like Brady has any plans of ever stopping.
Ol’ Speedball Tom. Kid’s playing darts out there.
–Brady also delivered some absolutely perfect deep balls. He launched a couple of earlier ones that seemed to be more of the what-the-heck-might-as-well-try-it variety. They didn’t look great.
But then this one to Howard for a touchdown:
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 4, 2020
And this one to Scottie Miller:
Hachi machi. The touch on those passes is as good as it’s ever been for Brady.
–Brady did throw an interception in this game, and interestingly enough, it was yet another pick-six. Really, it wasn’t a horrible throw so much as it was a bad read and bad decision, as cornerback Mike Davis was reading Brady the entire way.
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) October 4, 2020
Brady got played. The QB put the ball exactly where he wanted to. It’s just that Davis knew it would be there, too. And so, a pick-six.
Curiously enough, it was Brady’s fourth pick-six since the final regular-season game of last season. He threw a pick-six to former teammate Eric Rowe in Week 17 last year, he threw another one to another former teammate in Logan Ryan in January, and he threw one to Janoris Jenkins in Week 1 this year.
For someone who made it 20 years with only a dozen or so pick-sixes to his name, the sudden uptick is awfully strange.
–Brady can still take a beating, too. He almost got severed at the hip by Denzel Perryman late in the first quarter:
Joey Bosa got Brady with a whopper of a hit in the third quarter:
Brady completed that pass to move the chains and then popped up from that hit and proceeded to go 4-for-4 for 55 yards and a touchdown on the remainder of the drive.
The country has never properly appreciated Brady’s toughness, focusing more on flags he may have drawn than on the countless poundings he’s received in the pocket while just continuing to go about his work.
–Brady doesn’t really have Rob Gronkowski anymore. Not the way he did for the entirety of the 2010s, anyway. Brady seemed to begrudgingly acknowledge that reality after an incompletion up the right seam, a play on which the duo has connected 7 million times before. On this one, it wasn’t even close, and Brady’s face (and Gronkowski’s face, for that matter) after throwing the ball where he thought Gronk might be said it all:
HOWEVER! You still can’t sleep on Gronkowski, because he is one of the most incredible athletes the game has ever seen. And much like he did at the end of Super Bowl LIII to beat a different team from L.A., he dug down deep for a little extra juice on a big fourth-down gain:
Brady throw. Gronk catch.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 4, 2020
Gronkowski stole that football off that man’s face.
Watch how quickly Gronkowski got off the line on that play:
That play was only ever going to 87. Brady knew it. Brady likely made sure that Gronkowski knew it. They both acted accordingly. It’s cool they’re still doing that.
At this point of his career, and after resting that lower body for a full year, it doesn’t seem like Gronkowski is capable of turning in plays like that all day long, the way he did when he was an All-Pro. But man … for quick flashes now, Gronk is still very much Gronk.
Some Odds & Ends
–Do you think Brady placed this ball where he did on purpose, so that it would naturally get Miller moving upfield? I do.
Brady could see that there were no defenders in the flat. Miller couldn’t. So Brady made it so that Miller wouldn’t hesitate upon catching the ball, guiding him up the field in rhythm, leading to a seven-yard pickup on a second-and-7. That’s veteran savvy. (Or he just missed a little and I’m full of it.)
–Mike Evans played the bulk of the game with a foot injury, after he was tackled awkwardly in the first quarter. Mike Evans, it turns out, is still better than most human beings at football, even when he only has the full use of one leg. He caught seven passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.
–The touchdown pass to Evans was vintage Brady. Just pure. The QB moved his feet to keep a play alive, keeping his eyes up the field the entire time, as if he were being manipulated by a puppeteer from above. Run to space, make the defense flinch, hit the open man:
Tom Brady to Mike Evans! I love seeing this connection grow pic.twitter.com/YRRDKWbofy
— Casey Baker (@CaseyBake16) October 4, 2020
He’s done it a million times. Make it one-million-and-one.w
–Brady threw touchdowns to five different receivers. It is the first time he’s ever done that. Let me say that again:
IT IS THE FIRST TIME HE HAS EVER DONE THAT.
Any time the 43-year-old GOAT is doing things for the first time, it warrants a little extra emphasis.
–Technically he threw six touchdowns to six different receivers. But, oh, well you know, one of those players was on the Chargers, you little wisenheimer you!
–Brady also passed Adam Vinatieri for the most regular-season victories of all time, with 222. That’s kind of cool, I guess, but also, nobody this side of Venus counts kicker wins, so it’s really not particularly cool aside from the fact that the two were teammates and won Super Bowls together a generation or two ago.
With 30 playoff wins, Brady already had the total all-time wins mark over Vinatieri. But now he’s got the regular-season mark, too. Neat. Good for him. Make him a Little League-sized trophy.
–Do you know what 43-year-old absolutely do not do? BRO, they do not play quarterback in the NFL.
Here’s what Brady’s got to his name this year:
TOM BRADY: 101-for-155 (65.2%), 1,122 yards, 11 TDs, 4 INTs, 3-1 record
Here’s what other fools who deemed it worthwhile to play the quarterback position at age 43 have accomplished:
GEORGE BLANDA: 29-for-55, 461 yards, 6 TDs, 5 INTs, 0-0 record
WARREN MOON: 1-for-3, 20 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 0-0 record
VINNY TESTAVERDE: 2-for-3, 29 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 0-0 record
DOUG FLUTIE: 5-for-10, 29 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 0-0 record
It’s really absurd that Brady’s even playing, let alone playing well. That’s why we’ll continue talking about his age.
–Justin Herbert, the opposing starting quarterback, was born in 1998, when Brady was competing with Drew Henson for the starting job at Michigan. Herbert was fresh off his second birthday when Brady was drafted by the Patriots, and he was 3 years old when Brady won his first Super Bowl.
Kind of funny, that’s all!
–Ronald Jones dropped three passes. Come on, Ronald. Those 111 rushing yards are nice but imagine if you caught those passes? Even better. You know? You know.
–Just going to drop this one in with no added commentary:
Tom Brady, at 43 years old, just put together a second-half performance that included 15 of 17 completions for 263 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 INT. That’s a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Still got it.
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) October 4, 2020
–Adding to the “Research That Other People Did For Me” department, Sunday’s win was the fifth-largest comeback of Brady’s career.
Tom Brady career comebacks bigger than today, rallying from 17 down with Bucs to beat Chargers:
down 25 in Super Bowl vs. Falcons, 2017, won 34-28 in OT
down 24 to Broncos in 2013, won 34-31 in OT
down 21 to Bills in Jan. 2012, won 49-21
down 21 to Bears in 2002, won 33-30
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) October 4, 2020
All of those games were pretty awesome, if we are being honest with one another here.
–This has nothing to do with anything, but an official threw a flag for offsides on this play, because the fella was offside:
But then referee Brad Allen announced that there was no offsides on the play. Sir! There was.
The Chargers then kicked a field goal to go up 24-7, instead of getting a third-and-5. The domino/butterfly effect if that offside/neutral zone infraction is called properly, I can’t properly calculate. Either way, weird moment in the NFL game.
–This has even less to do with anything than that does, but this play rips:
That’s a football play right there.
Justin Herbert’s pretty darn good. Kid can play. Maybe if he works really hard, some day he can be Tom Brady. Probably not, though. Just in terms of the odds, you know?