By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady is pretty good. He’s made a little bit of a career for himself. He’s won a few titles, received some awards, and he’s stuck around for a while. It’s impressive stuff. Some have even taken to calling him the greatest quarterback of all time.
But when the Saints are on the other side of the field these days, Brady looks … bad. At least in the regular season, anyway.
The trend continued on Sunday night, with Brady’s Buccaneers hosting the New Orleans Saints in Tampa. With Sean Payton missing the game due to a positive COVID-19 test, and with Taysom Hill at quarterback for the 6-7 Saints, it looked to be an easy win on the schedule for the 10-3 Bucs. Instead, things went rather poorly.
Though an interception on Brady’s first pass of the night was overturned via replay, the quarterback never really got going. And neither did anyone else on the offense.
Brady completed 26 of his 48 passes (54.2 percent) for just 213 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He also lost a fumble while trying to scramble for a first down in the third quarter. Brady also took a season-high four sacks, all of which came on third down.
That wasn’t totally without reason. The Bucs lost Chris Godwin to a knee injury early in the second quarter, and they lost Mike Evans later in the quarter. Leonard Fournette then departed with a hamstring injury.
Still, the Bucs looked essentially hopeless on offense, and Brady couldn’t work any magic with an offensive group that still included Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, and Tyler Johnson.
With the Bucs trailing 9-0 in the fourth quarter, Brady tried to mount a comeback drive, but he was picked off by C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who had gotten in Brady’s face after the QB’s fumble earlier in the game. Brady made a quick trip to shout a word or two at the Saints’ sideline after the INT.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson will take that!
This @Saints defense came to play.
— NFL (@NFL) December 20, 2021
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) December 20, 2021
Brady was asked what that conversation was about, but he opted to keep that to himself.
“Aw, nothing,” Brady said. “Just football.”
To say Brady was unhappy would be an understatement.
Tom Brady is not happy 😬😬
— PFF (@PFF) December 20, 2021
Including the playoffs, Tom Brady has gone 255 consecutive starts without being shut out, the 2nd-longest streak by a quarterback all-time. Drew Brees went his entire career without being shut out in a start (304).
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 20, 2021
Considering Brady’s greatness, this issue with the Saints is truly hard to believe.
Since joining the Bucs, Brady is now 0-4 in the regular season against the Saints. (The Bucs did beat the Saints in the playoffs, which was rather significant, but Brady was good-not-great in that game, too.)
Brady’s thrown for six touchdowns and eight interceptions in those four games. He has 70 touchdowns and 15 interceptions against everyone else. The Saints handed Brady the worst loss of his career — a 38-3 thumping — in Tampa on Sunday Night Football last year as well. Brady had no touchdowns and three picks in that game, which was one of the worst of his entire career.
Brady was asked what it is about the Saints that’s made it so difficult for him over the past two years.
“They’re pretty good,” Brady answered. “They’ve got a really good defense, really good scheme, tough to go against, well-coached, a lot of great players, a lot of veteran players that have played together for a long time. So they did a great job.”
The Saints have used that surge to become just the second team in the NFL with a winning record against Brady, joining the Seattle Seahawks, who are 2-1. (That, too, doesn’t include playoffs, as Brady and the Patriots had a somewhat memorable postseason victory over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.)
The loss was just the third time in Brady’s 313 NFL starts that he’s been shut out. It was the first time that he’s been shut out since 2006 — 15 years and nine days ago. And it was the first time that he’s ever been shut out at home. (The other shutout famously came in Buffalo in Week 1 of the 2003 season, aka The Lawyer Milloy Game.)
Back on Dec 10, 2006:
– Brady was 29 years, 129 days old
– No currently active defensive player had yet entered the NFL
– Drew Brees was playing his first season w/ the Saints
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 20, 2021
Tom Brady hasn't been shut out since 2006, when his Patriots lost to a Dolphins team led by Nick Saban. pic.twitter.com/ok83MnCM60
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) December 20, 2021
Tom Brady was shut out at home for the first time in his career and has lost 4 straight against a single opponent for the first time in his career.
Tampa Bay closed as an 11.5-point favorite, tied for the second-largest favorite to be shut out in the Super Bowl Era (since 1966).
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 20, 2021
Over the past two regular seasons, the Buccaneers are 0-4 vs. the Saints, but 21-5 vs. everyone else.
This one hurt, too. With a 10-3 record entering Week 15, the Bucs were in great position to finish the year on an eight-game winning streak, thanks to two matchups with the Panthers and a date with the New York Jets in the final three weeks. Considering Aaron Rodgers’ Packers already won on Sunday to improve to 11-3, the Bucs needed this win to have a chance to secure that top seed. The Packers do currently own the tiebreaker, and they don’t have the toughest schedule (vs. Cleveland, vs. Minnesota, at Detroit), so perhaps it didn’t matter.
Nevertheless, the loss might have ended that hope altogether.
Instead, the Bucs exit Week 15 in the No. 3 seed in the NFC, behind the Packers and 10-4 Cowboys but ahead of the 10-4 Cardinals. Their NFC South celebration will have to wait an extra week, but they’re still on a path to the postseason.
At the same time, Sunday’s win for the Saints lifted them into the playoff picture. While Brady and the Bucs were able to get past the Saints in last year’s playoffs (thanks largely to three Drew Brees interceptions and a Jared Cook fumble), it feels safe to assume they want nothing to do with seeing the Saints again this coming January.