For a moment, let’s dispense with the manufactured duel. While hype is sure to continue festering over Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, the pair never will be on the field at the same time Sunday.
The more literal matchup in the NFC title game at Lambeau Field will involve Rodgers against Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and Brady versus Packers coordinator Mike Pettine.
As far as the latter pairing goes, well, Bucs fans should be beaming.
Pettine, whose journeyman coaching career has taken him to six different NFL teams, has lost his last eight meetings against Tom Brady either as a head coach or defensive coordinator. The drought dates to the 2011 season, when Pettine served as Rex Ryan’s coordinator with the Jets.
While winning three of five against Brady’s New England teams earlier in his tenure on Ryan’s staff (including a playoff triumph in 2010), Pettine lost his last four to Brady and Co. while with New York. He also lost both games against New England as Bills defensive coordinator in 2013, and has lost twice to Brady-led teams while Packers coordinator.
He never faced Brady in two seasons (2014-15) as Browns head coach.
“I know the kind of team they are and what they’re capable of,” said Brady, who last lost to a Pettine-coached defense in the AFC divisional playoffs nearly a decade ago (a 28-21 defeat on Jan. 16, 2011). “Really talented defense, really well coached.”
Yet that extended skid prompted one reporter to ask Packers coach Matt LaFleur if Green Bay’s defense will alter its “profile” for the latest encounter with the six-time Super Bowl champion on Sunday.
“I’ve got full confidence that our staff is going to put together the best game plan possible,” LaFleur said. “Whether that’s playing to a profile or not, I think you’ve always got to be cognizant of what you’re asking your guys to do.
“And certainly, you just don’t want to come up with a new scheme. You’ve got to do what you do to some regards, but you can definitely make tweaks...in your preparation in terms of the plan that you’re going to give the guys. But for the most part, I would say it’s going to be pretty consistent.”
In two meetings against Green Bay during Pettine’s tenure, Brady has thrown for 460 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. In addition to a 38-10 Bucs home triumph in October, Brady’s 2018 Patriots team topped the Packers, 31-17 at home in November 2018.
“I think that we’re going to have to do a great job of mixing things up versus Tom because he does such a good job of being able to dissect different coverages and what not,” LaFleur said. “So you’ve got to try to keep him kind of off-balance somehow, some way. And that is always the challenge.”