By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Monday night was not a great one for the Tompa Bay Buccaneers. They struggled all night against the lowly New York Giants, actually trailing in the fourth quarter and kind of leaning on some suspect officiating to squeak out a 25-23 win in the Meadowlands.
A win is a win, sure, and the Bucs are now 6-2 and sit a half-game back of the Seahawks for the best record in the NFC. But coming off blowout wins over the Packers and Raiders, people expected more.
As for the quarterback — an ol’ gunslinger by the name of Tom Brady — it was likewise an unspectacular night on several fronts. His statistics don’t pop, the offense didn’t dominate, and so many folks might be liable to say that Brady was not very good.
In terms of statistics, they’d be right. Brady was 28-for-40 for 279 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. His 106.1 passer rating was very shiny, but averaging under 7 yards per attempt isn’t going to make anybody giddy. (Even though the Giants have the fifth-best defense in terms of yards allowed per pass play this year. Nobody cares.)
Yet, from a sheer physical standpoint, Brady used the Monday night national spotlight to show that at age 43, he can hurl that pigskin with as much velocity as ever. He can chuck the rock with the force of a man half his age. He can fire it away like a regular JUGS machine out there. He can sling it like a cyborg.
What I’m trying to say is that Tom Brady throws very hard.
Maybe that’s not a remarkable achievement for a professional quarterback, but I do feel it is important to provide occasional reminders that basically nobody has ever played quarterback well at the NFL level after the age of 41. It’s been physically impossible.
Brady, though, is very different. And despite being written off — for “declining arm strength,” for his “noodle arm,” and for his “overcooked fettuccine” arm being “toast” — several times over the past five or so years by people who claim to be football analysts, the quarterback just keeps delivering rockets in NFL games. (What’s with the pasta obsession, though?)
Let’s watch some.
Opening Drive: 19-yard completion to Scottie Miller
Nothing special there, but a deep out would figure to be the area where a 43-year-old QB’s lack of arm strength shows. (Did you watch Peyton Manning’s final years? Are you watching Drew Brees throw those to his right?)
Nobody’s benefited from Brady’s move to Tompa more than Scottie Miller, by the way. A sixth-round pick out of powerhouse Bowling Green, Miller caught 13 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown last year. In half of a season in 2020, he’s got 22 catches for 365 yards and two scores. Brady can expect a nice card from Mr. Miller this holiday season.
Opening Drive: 10-yard completion to Cameron Brate on third-and-2
Brate was draped by linebacker Blake Martinez, but Brady fired a steamer to the perfect spot to turn either a 51-yard field goal attempt or a punt into a sure scoring drive.
Brady was getting warm out there.
Incompletion Montage, Part 1: There are such things as GREAT incompletions.
“Mike,” you might say. “That’s an incompletion. It’s an 0-for-1 in the stat book. What are you doing, you fool?”
“Harsh,” I’d reply. “So harsh.”
This one made the list because Brady threw the perfect pass to Mike Evans here. The defender — cornerback James Bradberry — simply made an incredible play to break it up.
Considering Brady’s a week removed from throwing arguably his best deep ball touchdown since 2007 last week (a bomb to Miller dropped into a bucket in the back of the end zone), it seems like the right time to note that Brady has made notable improvement to his deep ball in 2020.
On this one, as the broadcast noted, it’s too bad that Evans was running a corner route instead of a go route, because it would’ve gone for six.
Incompletion Montage, Part 2: Back Shoulder No-Go
A perfectly thrown back-shoulder ball to Miller here. Jabrill Peppers got an arm on it though. Football is hard. Nice throw.
Incompletion Montage, Part 3: Another Perfect Deep Ball
Brady entered the game with the best tight-window passer rating in the NFL, and that success this year likely inspired him to feel good about trying to fit in passes against well-covered receivers. In this case, the QB delivered another perfect deep ball, over the corner and away from the safety.
But Isaac Yiadom ran with Miller and — without looking — broke up the pass. Kind of a crazy good night for that Giants’ defensive backfield.
Defenses: Do not do this!
This isn’t an arm strength throw. It’s just in here as a reminder to defenses: Don’t rush three against Tom Brady, unless you can get home. Otherwise, you’re just giving the coolest customer in the business all day to wait around, buy some time, and make the right pass. This one was on fourth-and-2. Don’t do it.
SIDE NOTE: Jaydon Mickens caught six passes for 77 yards in his first three NFL seasons, from 2017-19. He caught five passes for 36 yards on Monday, when Chris Godwin was out due to injury. The Tom Brady Effect, people.
Nothing Special: Just too easy
Rob Gronkowski, Weeks 1-4: 9 receptions, 88 yards, 0 TDs
Rob Gronkowski, Weeks 5-8: 17 receptions, 233 yards, 3 TDs
Time to start covering him.
The touchdown was notable, only because the pass was tipped at the line but that somehow didn’t disrupt the connection.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 3, 2020
(Patriots and Giants fans no doubt must have thought about the infamous Malcolm Butler-Odell Beckham Jr. end zone PBU back in 2015 in that stadium. Right? Right.)
Fourth Quarter: One more to Gronk
This play rocked. The receivers ran crossers. Gronkowski ran a little interference over the middle. When the crossers weren’t open, Brady stepped up in the pocket, and Gronk gravitated toward a soft spot in the D. A bullet followed, for an 18-yard gain.
Fourth Quarter: An underrated dart to Mickens
It’s an out route. Big whoop, right?
Well, maybe. But that puppy was sizzling. Perfect placement. A perfect pass to beat near-perfect coverage.
Fourth quarter: Touchdown to Mike Evans
This one is 90 percent Evans. No doubt.
But on a night where Brady launched several perfect passes with nothing to show for it, he deserved getting the check in the stat book on this one. Great placement.
So that’s that.
Brady was pretty good on Monday night. There will be no “noodle arm” analysts popping out this week.
Fortunately for all of us, Brady and the Bucs are back on national TV, potentially with Antonio Brown in uniform, and maybe with Chris Godwin back on the field, going up against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football.
Suffice it to say … we’ll all be watching that one.