Sun, 29 Nov 2020

Packers' task tougher than ever vs. Tom Brady

18 Oct 2020, 17:12 GMT+10

Some historical context to Green Bay’s objective at Tampa Bay Mike Spofford

GREEN BAY - The Packers have a chance to put Tom Brady in a tough spot.

A rather unfamiliar spot for him, actually.

With Tampa Bay coming into Sunday's showdown against Green Bay with a 3-2 record, the Packers could hand the Buccaneers and Brady their third loss already in 2020.

How rare would a 3-3 record be for a Brady-quarterbacked team? Very.

Dating back to 2003, when Brady's Patriots began a streak of qualifying for the postseason every year except one (2008, when Brady missed the season with a knee injury), Brady was 3-3 after six games only twice.

That's it. Twice. In 16 seasons, and not since 2012. The other time was way back in 2005, the year Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was drafted.

In fact, during Brady's postseason streak with the Patriots, he was saddled with his third loss prior to the midpoint of the season only one other time - in 2011, when a defeat in the eighth game dropped New England to 5-3.

In the other 13 years, Brady's third loss came in the ninth game or later, and five times he never lost three regular-season games at all.

On top of that, with the Buccaneers coming off a Thursday night loss at Chicago, the Packers are trying to hand Brady another rarity - back-to-back defeats.

Over those same 16 seasons currently being discussed, Brady lost consecutive games only nine times, and all nine were two-game losing streaks. None went beyond two games. (For comparison's sake, since 2009 when Rodgers has made the playoffs every year he's been healthy except one, he's had seven losing streaks in 11 years, with one of them a three-game skid and another a four-gamer.)

All of this is just to provide context for how difficult a task the Packers face Sunday against Brady, statistically and historically speaking.

Clearly, Brady's team is no longer the Patriots and his head coach is no longer Bill Belichick, so the relevance of his personal history doesn't mean as much now that he's changed teams. Fair enough. But Brady is still Brady, and he's among the ultimate competitors. That's a factor in this context, too.

If there's any good news in the numbers, it's that three of Brady's nine two-game losing streaks since '03 have come in the previous two seasons (two in '18, one last year), so he isn't as impervious to downturns as he used to be. But there's no denying that getting beat after a loss only nine times in 16 seasons is remarkable.

"He's got a great record coming back after losses," his new head coach in Tampa, Bruce Arians, said this week. "He's been fired up and ready to go, that's for sure. It's been fun at practice."

He's also coming off a stunning mental lapse at the end of the Bears game when he appeared to not know what down it was. Since he and Arians both denied afterward there was any misunderstanding about fourth down, it's hard to say how much the ignominious ending to the Chicago game has motivated one of the game's all-time greats this week.

"Every time you go against a guy of that caliber you're always expecting him to be at his best," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "We've got no reason to think otherwise. I think he's always answered the bell."

In any event, there's plenty at stake in a game pitting two teams viewed as NFC contenders. The 4-0 Packers are trying to keep pace with 5-0 Seattle as the lone unbeatens in the conference while the Bucs, as mentioned, are looking to avoid a middling 3-3 mark in mid-October.

A 3-3 record would be far from any kind of death sentence, of course. The Packers were 3-3 the year they won their lone Super Bowl with Rodgers. The last time Brady was 3-3, in 2012, he still advanced to the AFC title game. In addition, everyone in the NFC South already has at least two losses this year, so 3-3 disqualifies no one from that division race.

But Brady typically avoids the place the Packers want to put him Sunday. History says so. Whatever degree of difficulty that adds to Green Bay's task can't really be quantified, and maybe it's nothing. The Packers will find out soon enough.

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