Cardinals must be razor sharp vs. future HOFer Tom Brady, Buccaneers
TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s New England connections continue to pop up in the second half of the season.
After facing his former Patriots head coach Bill Belichick just two weeks ago, Kingsbury now has the task of going up against ex-teammate Tom Brady.
Kingsbury wasn’t around the Patriots long — about a year and a half before his eventual release — but he certainly gained insight from his fellow signal caller and got a master class on how to work at the highest level of competition.
And while Brady’s regimen didn’t rub off on Kingsbury as a QB, the future Hall of Famer left a lasting impression on his fellow signal caller in another way.
“I think watching him work and how almost maniacal he was about it, that that’s what it takes at that position to be that good,” Kingsbury reminisced on Wednesday. “At times, I probably was trying to just run around with Tom Brady instead of trying to be Tom Brady going up there to Boston. I just think when you look back it’s such a short window, such a small opportunity looking back that (I) definitely could have put more into it. I think, you’ve just got to live with that regret.
“When I decided to go full speed ahead into coaching, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t have any regrets as to how much I put into it, how fast I could try to climb the ranks and become the type of coach I thought I could be,” the head coach added. “That definitely was kind of a second opportunity to try and take advantage of a really good opportunity I had getting into the college ranks right out of my playing career really.”
Brady and the Buccaneers (6-8) head to State Farm Stadium on Christmas Day looking to keep pace over messy NFC South. The Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons are all 5-9.
Coming off back-to-back losses, there’s certainly a sense of urgency from Brady and Co. to right the ship with the regular season winding down and playoff berths getting clinched.
But while the record doesn’t look all that impressive, Brady is still doing his thing.
Entering Week 16, Brady sits third among NFL signal callers in passing yards per game with 278.4. He’s one of 13 QBs with 20 passing touchdowns or more and has accounted for all but five of Tampa Bay’s 25 total touchdowns in 2022.
Not bad for a 45-year-old hurler in his 23rd NFL season.
“Tom’s a guy you can’t fool with looks, he’s obviously seen every look in football,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday. “He’s never confused, never confused. He has answers to every single play. If players give him any kind of tell, he is going to find it and expose it. That’s Tom, that’s made him great.
“It was never his physical tools — obviously, his arm talent has always been there — but his mind is special. Watching the tape is scary because he has answers for every single look, every coverage, every max drop, every cover 2, 3, he knows where the ball’s going right now. That’s been his trait his whole career.”
But even the “GOAT” can get caught off balance from time to time.
Sporting a career-low 50.5 quarterback rating, Brady has his fair share of mistakes in 2022.
In the last three games alone, Brady tossed five interceptions combined, nearly accounting for all of his picks (seven) this year. He also coughed up the football twice in the team’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
When it comes to equalizing Brady, it’s all about getting the QB out of rhythm — whether that’s speeding him up or slowing him down — and making the stops when they count: in the red zone and on third down. This season, Tampa Bay has converted 37.8% (20th) of its third downs and 53.7% (18th) of its red-zone trips successfully.
But no matter how rough the Buccaneers’ offense and its dead-last rushing attack (74.3 yards per game) might look at times, you can never get too comfortable with Brady on the opposite sideline.
“He’s seen everything, so it’s not like you’re going to be able to try to confuse him, because of course he’s been in the league for 20-something years — mostly longer than guys have been alive,” safety and Pro Bowler Budda Baker said Thursday.
“For us, it’s about being very detailed in whatever the call is — pre-snap, post-snap — and just being as detailed as we can with whatever call VJ gives us and then we play football from there.”
Arizona quarterback Trace McSorley, who is set to make his first NFL start this Sunday, on Brady: “He’s the GOAT, and there’s no two ways to put that. I’ve just got to focus on what I can control. I’m going against their defense, not against him, so that’s kind of the way I try and look at it. But it is cool to kind of look back and realize that I’m starting against him the first time.”