As Super Bowl week hit full-swing on Monday, a storyline from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ side became a major talking point.
Tom Brady has had the house to himself with his family out of town. It’ll be 12 days of preparation alone. He said he’s never had that much time to prepare his mind and body before. “The more film I watch the more I understand.”— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) February 1, 2021
Oh no: the greatest quarterback of all-time will have the most preparation for a championship game he’s ever had? Talk shows ate it up, and that inevitability of what Brady can do began to sink into peoples’ minds.
However, he’s not the only one with such a unique timetable.
Both teams have benefitted from staying at their home facilities for the entirety of the two weeks leading up to the game. That means the Kansas City Chiefs defense has had ample time to counter Brady’s intellect.
Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed is confident that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will have their unit ready.
“Coach Spags dials up the best defense for us,” Sneed claimed. “He puts us in the best position we need to be in... Everyone just needs to do their job. We’ve been preparing for two weeks now, so just go out there and play ball.”
Brady will undoubtedly be up on everything Spagnuolo has put on tape — but that’s where the Chiefs can take advantage: implementing plays that haven’t been used on the field.
“We know Tom is a great quarterback,” Sneed acknowledged. “We’re going to try and throw different things at him, and I think that’s what could get him off his game. As long as we keep him on his heels and keep him confused, we’re going to be alright.”
Sneed’s point about keeping Brady off-rhythm is significant. When the 43-year-old quarterback has been pressured this season, his passer rating is 51.2 — one of the lowest for any starting quarterback. In the last two postseason games combined, he has a 0.0 passer rating when pressured, per PFF.
Defensive end Frank Clark echoed the rookie’s point in his Wednesday media availability — and brought a few statistics of his own to the discussion.
“For years, we’ve watched this man dominate games because he’s not pressured enough or he’s not forced off his spot,” Clark explained. “This is the best pocket passer of our era... When he’s allowed to stay in the pocket and be comfortable, he’s getting off about 65% completion percentage. When he’s forced to get out of the pocket a little bit — just a few yards — his completion percentage goes all the way down to 37 or 36%.”
Don’t get it twisted: Clark admires Brady and how he’s able to still play at such a high level. He got excited talking about how well Brady maneuvers in the pocket, eventually comparing his subtle movements to Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“He got these shoulders. Have you ever seen Tom Brady’s shoulders when he’s in the pocket?” Clark posed to reporters. “You have to watch the film sometime. To be able to move his shoulders like that while playing in the league for 20 years, it’s quite amazing. Me and Chris Jones talk about it all the time, I think Chris missed a sack because Brady shimmied his shoulders a certain way and Chris completely missed him.”
Clark revealed that Chiefs’ backup quarterback Chad Henne has done a “great job” replicating Brady’s cadence, hard counts and style in scout team — but admits it can’t truly be done.
“You can’t really emulate Brady,” Clark pointed out. “The actual things he does and what he sees. A big part of his game is done with his eyes and his brain, his knowledge of the game. He watches young players a lot, and a common thing with young players is they give away tips or tendencies, and guys like him are watching.”
One young player that may receive that challenge from Brady is excited for another chance at a game-changing play. When asked about the potential feeling of intercepting Brady in the Super Bowl, Sneed recalled the near-interception he had in Week 12.
“Man, that would be lovely,” Sneed answered. “I let him get away with one in the first game; the running back went to the flats, then muffed the ball and I dropped it out of my hands. It’d be amazing for me to pick a guy off like Tom, and also get a strip sack-fumble too, that’d be lovely.”
Even with a quiet personality, the requisite confidence it takes to be a great cornerback shines through. There’s a reason that Spagnuolo and general manager Brett Veach have so much confidence in him.
Still, that may not match the confidence that Chiefs defenders have in Spagnuolo’s game plan though. They know if anyone can match Brady on the biggest stage, it’s him.