It was a dramatic offseason for quarterback movement in the NFL, but there was no bigger transaction than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signing Tom Brady.
The six-time Super Bowl winner left the New England Patriots after 20 years and now, at the age of 43, is bidding to lead his new team to the promised land.
The Bucs’ Raymond James Stadium will host the Super Bowl on February 7 and if they go all the way it will be the first time a team has won the Vince Lombardi Trophy on their own turf.
With the first quarter of the 2020 season in the books and Bruce Arians’ team set to face the Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football, we have used Stats Perform data to scrutinise how Brady and the Bucs have fared so far.
I’m so grateful to all the players and coaches and organizations that have made this possible. Nothing in football is achieved as an individual…I’m so thankful to be playing a game I love and so lucky to have made so many friends along the way. https://t.co/3qVN5kXWt2
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) October 5, 2020
THE BIG PICTURE
The Bucs will be reasonably pleased with where they sit in the standings through four weeks.
They lost to divisional rivals the New Orleans Saints in Brady’s debut but have responded with wins over the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers to reach 3-1.
That puts them one game clear of the Saints in the NFC South and although there is a long way to go, the early signs point to the Bucs making the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
As for Brady, he has thrown for 1,122 yards across the first four games with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has a completion percentage of 65.2 and a passer rating of 99.4.
Those stats put him fourth in the NFL for touchdowns, ninth in passing yards, 14th for passer rating and 22nd for completion percentage, but box score numbers only tell part of the story.
HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO NEW ENGLAND?
Comparing the numbers with how Brady started each of his seasons with New England produces a mixed picture.
For passing yards, completion percentage and passer rating, the 2020 season ranks as the ninth-best of Brady’s career has achieved through four weeks.
However, only three times did he ever throw more than 11 TDs in his first four games of a season with the Patriots, and this is his best return since 2016.
Brady also threw five touchdowns to five different receivers to lead the Bucs’ comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers last week – and that was a career first, highlighting the stellar supporting cast he has in Tampa.
Tom Brady was effective passing to all levels of the field, finishing 4/7 for 149 yards & TD on deep passes (20+ air yards).
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 4, 2020
On the negative side, his four interceptions are tied for the third-worst he has had through four games. Only twice did he have more with New England, way back in 2003 and 2011.
Of those interceptions, Brady has had two high-profile pick-sixes in the opening quarter of the campaign – one each against the Saints and Chargers.
With New England, he never had a full 16-game season with more than two passes intercepted for a touchdown and only twice (his first year as a starter in 2001 and in 2015) did he even reach two.
That total has already been matched with the Bucs through just four games, making it a concerning trend to watch.
BRADY HAS IMPROVED THE BUCS
While Brady’s numbers are not the same as they were at his peak – unsurprising given his age and the decline he displayed towards the end of his stay with New England – what is clear is his positive impact on the Buccaneers.
Four picks in four games may be unusually high for Brady, but in the last eight seasons it is the second-best tally in that category for the Bucs (three in 2017 being the best).
That is key, as the 14-time Pro Bowler’s ability to look after the football was one of the main contrasts cited when Tampa Bay signed him to replace previous starter Jameis Winston.
43-year-old Tom Brady has set the all-time NFL record as the oldest player to have 3+ pass TD in back-to-back games.
He breaks the record previously held by … Tom Brady, who had also done so at age 41 in Weeks 4-5, 2018
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) October 4, 2020
His passer rating is the second-best Bucs return through four games since 1997. Only in 2018, when Ryan Fitzpatrick (108.9) jumped out of the gate with some sensational performances, have the Bucs had a better start from a passer over that period.
EARLY TRENDS IN TAMPA
The sample size may still be small, but there are some interesting trends developing with Brady as a Buccaneer.
Wide receiver Chris Godwin has only played in two of the opening four games but the indications are he and Brady are poised to form a fruitful partnership.
Godwin has caught 11 of his 13 targets from Brady for 143 yards and a touchdown, good for a passer rating of 138.1 when targeted.
Scotty Miller, who fits the mould of some of the QB’s favourite targets in New England, has also emerged since his arrival, catching 15 of 21 for 250 yards (127.1 rating).
Tight end O.J. Howard being out for the rest of the season comes as a blow after he hauled in two TDs, so Brady may need to get close friend Rob Gronkowski more involved – he has been targeted just 14 times (88 yards and one pick when thrown to for a 52.1 rating).
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 6, 2020
His start with star wideout Mike Evans has been productive (230 yards, five touchdowns and one pick) but also extremely volatile. Evans has followed up two games of under five yards receiving with 100-yard performances, the most up-and-down stretch in the NFL since James Jones for the Green Bay Packers in 2010.
Brady is famed for his clutch play and has made a positive start on third down for the Bucs – he has four touchdowns and zero interceptions with a 113.4 rating, which is on track to be his second-best performance on third down in the last five years.
Playing in Arians’ aggressive offense brought intense debate about whether Brady could adapt to throwing the ball down the field more often than he did in an efficient Patriots system.
The early signs are good – he has completed six passes travelling 30 or more yards downfield, already equal or better than his totals over full seasons in New England for 10 of the previous 11 years. His passer rating on such throws (129.9) is tracking to be the best of his career.
Overall, the Bucs are competitive again and Brady has made a solid start adapting to a new offense, one that he and Arians should be able to build on as he gets more familiar with the system and his team-mates.
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