By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady was the NFC Offensive Player of the Month in October. He opened November by looking sharp as a tack in a narrow win over the Giants.
But then … Sunday night happened. And all of that positive momentum halted — suddenly and dramatically.
Brady and the Bucs hosted Drew Brees and the Saints on national TV on Sunday evening. The home team was looking for some revenge for New Orleans’ win in the Superdome back in Week 1. Instead, the Bucs had to experience an absolute nightmare of a game against the Saints.
Offensively, Brady engineered four consecutive three-and-outs to start the game. That streak only ended when … a Brady pass was tipped at the line (by two different players) and intercepted by a defensive tackle.
Tipped twice and it’s a BIG MAN INT. #Saints
: #NOvsTB on NBC
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/6yfKIAre48 pic.twitter.com/4szsJV0ixz
— NFL (@NFL) November 9, 2020
Defensively, the Bucs couldn’t stop anything, as New Orleans opened up a 28-0 lead. It could have been even worse if not for Jared Cook fumbling and turning the ball over at the 1-yard line and dropping a pass that would have set up another first down in the red zone.
In the middle of the second quarter, after each team had five possessions, Brees was 15-for-18 for 154 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Brady was 4-for-12 for 27 yards with no touchdowns and the pick.
It was … ugly.
Brady finally awoke somewhat on the Bucs’ sixth drive, coming out and going 5-for-5 for 37 yards and getting Tampa to the Saints’ 38-yard line. That included a third-and-3 connection to Antonio Brown for six yards to move the chains.
But Chris Godwin dropped Brady’s pass on third down, and Brady’s deep bomb to Rob Gronkowski on fourth-and-6 was overthrown. The turnover on downs gave the ball back to the Saints, who drove 44 yards to tack on a field goal.
Brady, looking at an ugly first-half stat line (9-for-19, 64 yards, INT) and a 31-0 deficit, was flummoxed.
Looking to mount something worthwhile before halftime, Brady came out and slung darts to Antonio Brown and Mike Evans, quickly eating up 32 yards.
But then … a pick.
A miscommunication with Brown up the right sideline led to Brady throwing the football directly to Saints safety Marcus Williams, with Brown trailing five yards behind the pass.
Tom Brady INTERCEPTADO pela 2ª vez na partida!
Marcus Williams fez a interceptação tranquila, tranquila.#Saints #NFLBrasil pic.twitter.com/NApkmqvNtf
— NFL Brasil (@NFLBrasil) November 9, 2020
Tally it all up, and Brady entered halftime like this: 11-for-22, 96 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 24.1 passer rating. It was the first time a Brady-led offense had been shut out in the first half since that fateful Monday night loss in Kansas City in Week 4 of the 2014 season. (As we know now, he and the Patriots rebounded rather well from that ugly showing.)
For Brady, that is just about as bad as it gets.
The second half opened up on a more promising note, when Shaquil Barrett forced a fumble from Brees. Mike Edwards recovered the loose ball and returned it to the 21-yard line. A 12-yard Brady-Evans connection followed by Gronkowski drawing a pass interference penalty in the end zone set up the Bucs with a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
But Brady threw incomplete on a fade to Evans on first down, Ronald Jones was stuffed at the line on second down, and Rob Gronkowski dropped a touchdown on third down. On fourth-and-goal, Brady threw another fade to Evans, who was tightly covered by Marcus Lattimore. The pass fell incomplete. The score remained 31-0.
Impossibly … things only got worse. Somehow.
When the Bucs took over after forcing a punt late in the third quarter, they got the ball to midfield, before Brady was sacked on three straight snaps. (The first was negated due to a defensive holding penalty.) Brady then completed a 16-yard pass to Mike Evans on third-and-23, before lobbing off a ball that was just begging to get picked off on fourth down.
: #NOvsTB on NBC
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/6yfKIAre48 pic.twitter.com/AIywreSQzo
— NFL (@NFL) November 9, 2020
Malcolm Jenkins obliged, making a miserable night even worse for Brady.
The Saints then, of course, marched 70 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown to make it a 38-0 blowout.
Brady stayed in the game, absorbing three more shots from the Saints’ defense but at least getting Tampa into field goal range. Ryan Succop kicked a 48-yard field goal to get the Bucs on the board with just 5:52 left in the game.
Brady finished up his night having completed 22 of his 38 passes for 209 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. It was the third-lowest single-game passer rating in Brady’s career, at 40.4.
That scintillating field goal drive brought his rating up to 40.4. Assuming he’s done for the night, that’ll be his third-worst single game mark ever.
1. 2003, @ BUF: 22.5
2. 2006, vs. IND, 34.0
3. 2020, vs. NO, 40.4
Just his 8th career start with a rating under 50.0.
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) November 9, 2020
He was sacked three times and hit six more. Brady entered the game with just four interceptions all season long, and he had gone four straight games without throwing a pick. Now, five of his seven picks on the year have come against the Saints, who climbed into first place in the NFC South by completing the season sweep over Tampa.
Tom Brady has lost only 1 game by 30+ points in 20 seasons with the Patriots.
He had his worst loss of his career tonight (35 points). pic.twitter.com/coLNZdIAzf
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 9, 2020
Meanwhile Brees went 26-for-32 for 222 yards and four touchdowns with no picks. Brees also passed Brady in the seesaw battle for most passing touchdowns in NFL history.
And the Saints won, 38-3.
With the national TV audience tuned in, with the great all-time passing TD record expected to bounce back and forth between the two QBs all night, this … this was not what Brady and Co. had in mind when they showed up to work on Sunday.
You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.