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Tuesday, Oct 25, 2016
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Patriots' Brady stands alone among QBs

TAMPA - There are some moments you don't forget. The day after the 2005 Buccaneers returned home from a 28-0 loss at New England late in the season, linebackers coach Joe Barry walked past the practice field at One Buc Place. "He's the best, the best I've ever seen," Barry muttered. "There's nobody like him." Barry was talking about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who had just thrown three touchdown passes against a defense that would finish the season ranked No. 1 in the NFL.
Seven years later, nothing has changed. Brady's still the best, maybe of all time. Joe Montana's Super Bowl credentials, a 4-0 record with 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions, hasn't been topped, but the 35-year-old Brady could own virtually all the major passing marks when he's through. After dropping 59 points on Indy and 49 on the Jets in consecutive weeks, the Patriots are now on pace to score 592 points this season, which would top the all-time mark (589) they set in 2007, when Brady threw a record 50 touchdown passes. Brady's career passer rating of 97.0 ranks second all-time to Aaron Rodgers, but there's more to Brady than his gaudy numbers. A lot more. "He's a great competitor who doesn't like to lose at anything," says Bucs wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, who played six games with the 2011 Patriots. "Tom Brady works at his craft each and every day. He demands excellence from himself and from his teammates. He lifts you up as a player." Brady's 132-38 record during the regular season is remarkable enough, but he's also 16-6 in the playoffs, with three Super Bowl wins. He could easily be wearing five rings if Wes Welker had kept the chains moving with a fourth-quarter catch against the Giants in February and David Tyree had not turned in a catch for the ages in the 2008 Super Bowl. With Brady under center, prolific tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have combined to set new standards for the position. Gronkowski didn't play Thursday night, so Brady spread the ball around in a rout of the Jets that solidified New England's hold on the AFC East. The NFL average for third-down conversions is 38 percent. New England's average? Try 53.2 percent. Do you really think that's because of wide receiver Brandon Lloyd? Brady will go into next week's matchup against Miami with 189 consecutive pass attempts without a pick. That's not surprising because his career interception rate (2.1 percent) is second all-time to … you guessed it — Rodgers. The Bucs have faced Brady only twice, losing handily each time as he posted a combined passer rating of 114.9. I remember Barry talking about the accuracy Brady displayed in throwing into tight windows and his uncanny ability to read defenses, no matter how well disguised. After he flings his final NFL pass, Brady will be appreciated for the warrior he's been since taking over for an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001, following a savage hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. More than a decade has passed and the Jets are still paying dearly for that ill-fated collision. Brady seems to take particular delight in carving up the Jets as the Pats continue to cruise toward a 10th division title in 12 years. "He's a machine, yet he's a passionate and fiery leader,'' Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "You wish Tom Brady was just a machine, but his competitive side elevates his team as well. He's just a special guy."

ikaufman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7833 Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO