Week 15 of the NFL season felt great. Not because there was a ton of good football on television, but rather because of how poorly Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played. Brady was shut out for just the third time in his career, a 9-0 loss at the hands of the New Orleans Saints.
It always feels great to clown on the GOAT. We know he’s great and we know he’s had way more good games than bad games this season, but still, it feels good to be able to make fun of Brady every once in a while. Why? Because it’s highly unlikely we’ll be able to clown on him after this weekend as the Bucs (10-4) face the 5-9 Carolina Panthers on the road.
Since 2005, Tom Brady has started 14 games where his team scored 15 or fewer points. Brady has a 12-1 (two of the games happened in the final week of the regular season: 2014 & 2015) record the following weeks, while averaging 34.3 points per game. Even in the two games that couldn’t be counted, when Brady went up against those teams the following season, he went 2-0, averaged 37.5 points per game, and combined for 742 yards and six touchdowns. He does not like to get embarrassed twice in a row.
Yes, he will likely be without his two Pro Bowl-caliber receivers, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but Brady has managed to do great things in the past with less talent surrounding him than he currently has on the Bucs. Remember 2015, when the Patriots’ leading wide receiver played in just nine games and the second-leading wide receiver posted only 648 receiving yards? All Brady did that year was throw for over 4700 yards, 36 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions. Aside from Gronk, Brady had virtually nobody to throw to for nearly half the games and still managed to put up MVP-caliber numbers (actually finished tied for second in MVP voting that year).
Plus, Brady likely won’t be totally without help. The Bucs’ No. 3 receiver, Antonio Brown, returned to practice yesterday and will probably play for the first time since Week 6 given how desperately the team needs outside threats with Evans and Godwin out. Brown hauled in at least seven passes in each of his last three games played. He even drew more than ten targets per game during that span, so we know Brady trusts him to lead the Tampa Bay offense when necessary.
As fun as it would be to mock Brady for a second consecutive week, he still has his outstanding offensive line protecting him. He still has Bruce Arians calling his plays. He will likely be getting Antonio Brown back, and he’s still playing the Panthers. With the Bucs a full game back of the Packers for the NFC’s top seed, Brady will have to pull out all the stops if he wants a chance at that bye week. We should never expect Brady to fall flat twice in a row.