Tom Brady did not play the Arizona Cardinals very much: A history

Feb 1, 2022, 9:49 AM

A fan holds a sign referencing the four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady of the New England...

A fan holds a sign referencing the four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots during the NFL game between the Patriots and the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. New England won 23-21. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals can’t say they dominated Tom Brady, but they sure did have the best strategy against perhaps the greatest NFL quarterback ever.

They just avoided playing the dude — with a little help from Brady himself.

The future Hall of Famer faced the Cardinals two whole times. No team other than his old one, the New England Patriots, played Brady fewer times over the course of his career.

That career ended when the former Patriots and Buccaneers quarterback on Tuesday announced over Instagram that he is stepping away from the NFL.

Arizona avoided Brady quite a bit considering he played for 22 seasons (!) and 318 games. When they did play, they split the two games against Brady, who finishes record-wise in a worse spot only against the New Orleans Saints (4-5) and Seattle Seahawks (1-2).

Brady had a winning record against every team in the NFL other than those three squads and the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams (3-3).

As you can tell, Brady had the toughest time against the NFC West, going 10-7 against the division with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 32-to-16.

But as the Cardinals showed, the best way to stop the G.O.A.T. was to not play him.

Meeting No. 1 – Sept. 19, 2004

In their first of two meetings in 2004, Brady’s fifth season, he squared off against another quarterback who stuck around for a very long time: Josh McCown.

New England won the Cardinals’ home opener, 23-12, as Brady went 14-of-26 for 216 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Arizona’s red zone defense stood up three times but was not helped by the offense gaining 167 total yards — yikes — at Sun Devil Stadium. History would prove that is not the best formula to beat Brady.

McCown went 13-of-29 for 116 yards and two interceptions without a touchdown thrown that day, and we’re guessing that no observers of the game had those two quarterbacks lasting in the NFL into the 2020 season, when McCown last played for the Houston Texans and Brady was leading the Bucs to his seventh career Super Bowl win.

Meeting No. 2 – Sept. 16, 2012

Brady didn’t meet the Cardinals again until early 2012, when it surprised nobody that a Kevin Kolb-led Arizona squad won 20-18 by way of a missed Stephen Gostkowski field goal try in the final seconds. OK, a lot of that is surprising.

Brady went 28-of-46 for 316 yards, a touchdown and a pick by the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson. Brady’s passing rating of 79.6 was not as good as Kolb’s 82.3. Again, surprising.

The G.O.A.T. had reasons for ducking the Cardinals

To be more fair to the probable G.O.A.T., the Cardinals would have played Brady twice more, if injury and suspension did not strike.

In the 2008 season opener for the Pats, he suffered ACL and MCL injuries in his knee that ended his year.

Arizona visited New England in the second-to-last game of that season. Four days before Christmas, the Cardinals lost in a snowy and sad 47-7 final.

While Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner combined to go 12-of-32 for 168 yards, Patriots backup Matt Cassel cooked for 345 yards and three touchdowns despite the inclement weather.

Then in 2016, with a season opener set at then-University of Phoenix Stadium, Brady found himself sidelined due to the Deflategate suspension, opening the door for Jimmy Garoppolo to lead New England on a fourth-quarter field goal drive to take a 23-21 victory.

And then with the Patriots lining up to land on the Cardinals’ schedule a season ago, Brady ditched the only team he’d known and traveled south to Tampa Bay.

Arizona did not play the Bucs over the past two seasons but are set to square off in 2022.

Again, Brady has found a way out of facing the Cardinals.

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