TAMPA — Tom Brady is the winningest quarterback of all time, seated on a heavenly perch from where he can look down on nearly every NFL team he has conquered.
So why has he been so bedeviled by the Saints?
Since arriving in Tampa Bay, Brady has lost four of the five games he has played against New Orleans. As a team, the Bucs have dropped six of their last seven to the Saints dating back to 2018.
Of course, the Saints would trade all those wins to wipe out the loss Brady and the Bucs handed them in a division-round playoff game during their run to a Super Bowl championship following the 2020 season.
Even so, “Tom Terrific” has been very un-Brady-like against the Saints. Not only is he 4-5 lifetime against New Orleans, he has lost all four regular-season games to the team from the bayou since joining the Bucs.
During that stretch, he has thrown six touchdown passes and eight interceptions, while completing less than 58 percent of his passes in two of those games.
The giveaways have been the Bucs’ downfall against the Saints.
“That’s probably the thing that jumps out the most, turnovers,” Brady said. “They’re a very physical team. I think they beat us up physically. Just a tough, hard-nosed team. They’re well-coached. They’ve got a lot of good players. They’ve kind of had a winning organization for a long time. They know how to get the job done.”
The Saints’ ability to consistently apply pressure has been their edge. Brady has been sacked 13 times in the four regular-season losses. New Orleans has been able to rush only four, dominating Tampa Bay’s offensive line with an aggressive front led by defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport.
Protecting Brady won’t be easy considering that the Bucs have three new interior linemen and left tackle Donovan Smith hasn’t practiced since suffering a hyperextended elbow Sunday at Dallas.
The easiest way to slow the Saints’ pass rush is to run the ball as effectively as they did against the Cowboys. Leonard Fournette rushed for 127 yards, his most since joining the Bucs.
“He was great, and the line was great, and the receivers blocked well and there was good communication,” Brady said. “We’re going to need that all year, so it was a great way to start. We’ve got to continue to build on it, and this is a good team to do that against because you’ve got to stay really balanced against these guys. I don’t think you can turn it into a pass-a-thon.”
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Points are at a premium. In two of the Bucs’ losses to the Saints, they failed to score a touchdown. Tampa Bay was shut out 9-0 in December and fell 38-3 in 2020 ― both games at Raymond James Stadium.
Dennis Allen, who has been the defensive coordinator of the Saints for all five contests and is now the head coach, seldom has blitzed Brady. He’s brought an extra attacker only 18 percent of the snaps when deploying five defensive backs.
The tight coverage on the back end with players such as cornerback Marshon Lattimore has allowed the Saints’ pass rush to get home.
“It’s a challenge, because they’re well-coached, they’re in a good position to do well,” Brady said. “They have a lot of good players, a lot of guys have been together, playing together for a long time. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They make you earn everything.
“Every third down is important. Every kicking situation is important. Every third down and low red area is important. Turnovers are important, so there are a lot of things that lead to winning and losing, and obviously we haven’t done a good job with that in the regular season, and we’re going to have play a lot better if we expect to win.”
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