Column: Loss is loud and clear for Tom Brady as Buccaneers stumble in his first game in L.A.
It seems odd that at this advanced stage of Tom Brady’s football life, nearly two months past his 44th birthday and 20-plus years into a brilliant NFL career that has included 10 Super Bowl appearances — seven on the winning side — he still can experience some notable firsts.
On Sunday, for example, he played his first game in Los Angeles. It seems as if he’s been in the NFL forever, but he graduated high school in San Mateo in 1995, the year the Rams began their 21-season tenure in St. Louis. The schedule didn’t bring him here until the Rams’ second season at SoFi Stadium, and he seemed pumped for the occasion, jogging down the sideline to the end zone to greet some friendly fans before the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the Rams.
“It’s a very loud stadium. Very loud. One of the louder ones we’ve been in,” Brady said.
His struggles against the Rams’ formidable defense and imposing pass rush gave Rams fans reason to be at their noisiest Sunday as they celebrated a 34-24 victory over a disjointed and frustrated Tampa Bay offense that had scored 79 points in victories over Atlanta and Dallas.
At times Sunday, he was the Brady of old — if old means his fifth Super Bowl most-valuable-player performance last February in the Buccaneers’ mauling of the Kansas City Chiefs. The quick release is still there. So is his analytical mind. He completed four of seven passes targeted for his former New England Patriots teammate Rob Gronkowski for 55 yards.
It might too early to be talking Super Bowl, but these Rams looked very much like a super team in their 34-24 victory over the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Overall, Brady completed 41 of 55 passes for 432 yards and one touchdown, pushing his career total to 80,291 yards. He joined Drew Brees (80,358) as the only quarterbacks who have at least 80,000 career yards passing. He also led the Buccaneers in rushing with 14 yards in three carries, and had their longest carry — nine yards. That’s not the kind of offensive mix that will win games.
“I think we’re all going to look hard to evaluate every part of what we’re doing,” Brady said. “It’s never really good enough in football. Those guys up front are trying to create space, and the backs are trying to run hard. ... You’re losing all game basically and forced into more throwing than we want.
“But I would say the throwing needs to be better, all-around offense needs to be better, more production in the red [zone] area. Tried to kick too many field goals. Need to be better on third downs. We definitely had some opportunities to make some plays out there to help the team win, just didn’t get it done.”
He also was sacked three times, the first instance in the second quarter by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a first for Donald in his four games against Brady and surely not a first Brady enjoyed. Inside linebacker Kenny Young sacked him again in the third quarter, on a second-and-six situation with the Rams leading 28-14, drawing a look of disgust from Brady as he was helped back up to his feet.
Young could barely contain his glee. “Honestly, I said, ‘Man I just sacked probably the greatest player of all time.’ That’s pretty dope,” Young said. “But I tried to not get a flag for over-celebrating, but it felt pretty good. … That’s my first sack on a GOAT, but it felt even better to celebrate with my teammates and get a dub.”
Brady had expected the Rams’ pass rush to be quick and to prevent him from getting time to get a second read, but experiencing it was something else.
Matthew Stafford outplayed Tom Brady at SoFi Stadium and is proving to be the missing ingredient for a Rams team hungry to win the Super Bowl.
“It’s just a good defense, you know? They do a good job keeping balls in front of them. They make it tough on you on third downs, and they have some good pass-rush schemes. They have good pass rushers. They mix things up quite a bit on you, so it’s hard to really just tee off,” Brady said. “They played well. They obviously played a very good game. They played the kind of game they wanted to play.
“We’re going to beat a team like that, we’ve got to play good in all phases. We’ve got to get some turnovers, and we’ve got to keep protecting the ball, and we’ve got to start fast and get a lead and run the ball well, throw the ball well, play good defense, play good special teams. It all fits together when you play good teams.”
From a city he had never played in, Brady will go to a familiar place. The Buccaneers will face the Patriots on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass., and the anticipation of his homecoming has fueled fierce internet debates and talk-show arguments. Brady’s father, Tom Sr., weighed in last week, saying his son’s success in Tampa vindicated his decision to leave via free agency; Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, said coach Bill Belichick never evolved in his treatment of Brady. Brady himself wouldn’t say much Sunday about how he feels as that game approaches.
Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Rams’ 34-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at SoFi Stadium on Sunday:
“I’m just, it’s a tough loss for us, so I’ll just get through the plane [ride] and evaluate what we need to do to put ourselves in a better position to win from a quarterback standpoint,” he said. “I want to win every time I take the field.”
He usually gets what he wants, but the Rams got in his way and did a few notable things themselves to do it.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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