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The Saints confuse Tom Brady early, but the veteran QB has the last laugh

You can only fool Tom Brady for so long, and the Saints found that out the hard way Monday night

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in his career, it takes a lot to really fool Tom Brady.

Especially for four full quarters.

However, the New Orleans Saints seem to be better at that than any other team. They almost pulled it off again against Brady, but in the closing seconds, the quarterback did just enough to shock the Saints, and the NFL world.

However, we need to lay a strong foundation for what happened at the end of the game by giving this contest some context. Since joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints have been the kryptonite to Brady’s Superman. Entering Monday night, Brady had faced New Orleans in five prior regular season games while with Tampa Bay.

In those five games, Brady had completed 117 of 196 passes (a completion percentage of 59.7%) for 1,227 yards, 7 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Brady did fare better against the Saints in his one playoff appearance against them, completing 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards and a pair of scores.

Embedded in those five regular season games were perhaps two of the worst games of Brady’s career. Last season, Brady completed just 26 of 48 passes for 214 yards and an interception in a 9-0 loss to the Saints in Week 15, a shocking result that put a serious dent in Tampa Bay’s hopes of attaining the first-overall seed in the NFC. That game saw Brady finish with an NFL Passer Rating of just 57.1, which was the 18th-worst single-game mark of his career.

Another game against the Saints was even worse. Back in 2020, his first year with the Buccaneers, Brady threw three interceptions in a Week 9 loss to the Saints that saw Tampa Bay blown out by a final score of 38-3. In that game, Brady posted an NFL Passer Rating of just 40.4, which to date is the third-worst of his career.

How have the Saints frustrated Brady over the years?

By doing the unexpected.

Take this interception from his other meeting with the Saints last year, that saw him throw for four touchdowns, but also two interceptions, in a loss to New Orleans on Halloween. Brady is going to try and throw the out route to Chris Godwin, which is the route drawn in red. But keep an eye on Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who is highlighted by the red box:

The Saints are in Cover 1 on this play, which is man coverage with a free safety deep. Gardner-Johnson aligns in the slot, across from Tyler Johnson. Johnson runs a straight vertical route, and Gardner-Johnson sticks on him in man coverage.

Brady has every reason to believe that Godwin is going to break open on his out route, and the QB throws in that direction. But while Gardner-Johnson is covering Johnson’s go route, he still has his eyes on Brady. So he sees the QB throw the out route, and peels off Johnson to jump Godwin for the interception.

He does the unexpected, and Brady pays the price.

Fast-forward to Monday night.

Brady and the Buccaneers are looking to put points on the board before halftime, but linebacker Demario Davis has other ideas:

Brady is looking to target Godwin on a quick in-cut, but Davis does something unexpected. As tight end Cade Otton releases off the line, Davis turns towards the rookie TE, and it looks like he will carry Otton’s shallow crossing route across the field. Brady sees that, and believes there is a window to hit Godwin.

But as Brady is releasing the ball, Davis peels off Otton and slides right into the throwing lane. The result? Instead of an easy completion to Godwin, the pass hits Davis right between the 5 and the 6 on Davis’s jersey.

Something unexpected from the Saints, creating an interception from Brady.

But while the Saints were able to confuse and frustrate Brady early, the night was not finished. Not by a long shot.

And the stage was being set for the veteran to enjoy the last laugh.

After struggling for over three quarters, Brady and the Tampa Bay offense did manage to reach the end zone, finding Otton to cap off a 10-play, 91-yard drive for a touchdown. But that came with three minutes left and only cut the Saints’ lead to 16-10.

It was Tampa Bay’s longest touchdown drive of the year to date.

Then it was the defense’s turn. Tampa Bay forced a quick three-and-out, and the Saints were able to burn just 31 seconds off the clock. The Buccaneers got the ball back after a punt on their own 37-yard line, with 2:29 left in the contest, and a timeout at their disposal.

It was then that fans got to see some vintage Brady. He was confident in the pocket again, spreading the ball around, putting throws right where they needed to be, and quicky the Buccaneers were in the red zone. One of the big plays on their ensuing possession was this third-down conversion to Scotty Miller:

Another big play? It came on this throw along the sideline to another veteran, Julio Jones, to set the Buccaneers up with a 1st and goal:

It looked like the Buccaneers were in the lead, when Brady connected with Godwin on first down, but the touchdown was nullified by a holding penalty on Donovan Smith. That pushed the Buccaneers back to the 15-yard line.

And the clock was becoming an issue.

An incompletion, followed by a nine-yard catch to Godwin, put Tampa Bay into a 3rd and goal at the Saints’ 6-yard line with eight seconds remaining in the game. Brady still had a timeout to work with, so the entire field was open to the offense.

They used it:

Brady found running back Rachaad White in the flat, and he was able to punch through the traffic and get into the end zone, to tie the game. The ensuing extra point gave Tampa Bay the 17-16 lead.

It would be just enough.

Many have wondered, and questioned, why Brady came back to play another season. At 45 years old, why put yourself through the punishment of an NFL season? Especially when you have accomplished so much, with seven Super Bowl trophies to his credit?

For nights like this.

For nights when it seemed like everything was going against him, and his team. For nights when it seemed for over three quarters that his decision to return to the NFL was a mistake, and that the game had passed him by.

For another chance to silence the doubters.

After the game, Brady acknowledged his struggles against the Saints, and talked about how the offense overall was close in both the run game and the passing game. He pointed ahead to next week, when the Buccaneers will square off with the San Francisco 49ers, a defense that Brady called the best in the league when speaking with Lisa Salters after the game.

Sounds like yet another chance to silence those who still have questions.