Tom Brady’s physical gifts are matched and perhaps exceeded by his mental acumen under center.
The New England Patriots quarterback is widely considered the greatest of all time, and his body of work obviously speaks for itself. He’s won six Super Bowls and still is in the process of rewriting the NFL record book. Still, it’s always interesting to hear his contemporaries try to describe what’s made Brady so good for so long.
Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard has squared off with Brady and the Patriots a couple of times in his young career with varying levels of success. His first encounter was a forgettable one coming back in 2018 when Brady carved up the Tennessee defense. Byard had a strong performance, but Brady was way too much for the Titans, completing 35 of 53 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns.
For Byard, it was quite the introduction to the future Hall of Famer.
“That was my first time playing him, and they got him running out of the tunnel with the Jay-Z music, and it was like ‘Aw, man, this is real,'” Byard said on Bleacher Report’s “The Lefkoe Show” podcast. “And it’s funny because our defensive coordinator back then, Dick LeBeau, I think it was maybe Tom Brady’s eighth or ninth time playing against him and I think he probably went back to some old film back when they were playing the Steelers back in the day. It seems like he had our number every single time. It was almost like he knew exactly what we was gonna run — switching the run this way, screen this way, dump it off here, touchdown. It’s just like, aw man, here we go again.”
Byard explained Brady’s advanced knowledge of the Titans’ defensive scheme and tendencies was what really made slowing down the Patriots so difficult.
“He just has a way, he knows mismatches and he understands how to get running backs on a linebacker and get all these different things,” Byard said.
Byard and the Titans earned a little bit of payback this past season, though. Brady had arguably his worst game of the season in Week 10 at Tennessee where he completed just 21 of 41 passes and was sacked three times in a 34-10 Titans win.
“We were able to get good success against him, we were able to confuse him a little bit, confuse the offensive line,” Byard said. “We got a couple of sacks on him, had him ducking a little bit last year.”
Byard, however, wasn’t willing to predict any sort of decline for Brady moving forward — even after Patriots legendary tight end and Brady security blanket Rob Gronkowski retired earlier in the offseason.
“I think they’ll still find a way,” Byard said. “Knowing Tom Brady, he won Super Bowls before Gronkowski. So I think he’ll find a way. I think they’ll retool their offense a little bit, and he always knows how to get those mismatches. If he’s gotta throw it to the running back 100 times, James White, if that’s what he has to do get the chains moving, I think he’ll do that.”
Sounds about right.
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images