The day after the Eagles lost to the Buccaneers in Week 6, Jonathan Gannon sat down with his defensive staff to go over what went wrong and what needed correcting. Then he pushed Tom Brady into the deep recesses of his mind.
Once the Eagles realized the Buccaneers were their most likely playoff opponent, Gannon began to give the Bucs and Brady a little more thought. And now with just a few days until their rematch against the GOAT, it’s fair to say Brady is occupying a good portion of Gannon’s thoughts.
“He’s a trained killer,” Gannon said.
Hard to argue that.
Brady is 44 now and it’s not like he’s slowing down. This season he completed 67.5% of his passes for 5,316 yards with 43 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He led the league in yards and touchdowns in his 22nd NFL season. It doesn’t make sense.
The last time these two teams played in Week 6, Brady completed just under 81% of his passes for 297 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. The Bucs scored just 28 points but were in command all night.
In that game, the Eagles failed to sack Brady, registered just three QB hits, and, according to ProFootballFocus, Brady was under pressure on just 21.4% of his drop backs.
That’s not going to be good enough this time around and Gannon knows it.
From watching 22+ years of Brady, what’s the biggest key to being successful against him?
“Get him out of his comfort zone a little bit,” Gannon said. “He typically has success vs. most people, but I do think that we got to be able to get him a little bit out of rhythm with the different tools that we have to do that.”
That’s easier said than done.
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In their first meeting, the Eagles were pretty passive and allowed Brady to complete over 80% of his passes. So the Bucs put together touchdown drives of 10, 9, 11 and 12 plays. He dinked and dunked them to death.
On the season, Brady has been under pressure on just 19.8% of his drop backs, per PFF. That’s by design from the Bucs. They have a very good offensive line and Brady’s time to throw of 2.5 seconds is the second shortest in the NFL behind just Ben Roethlisberger (2.38). Good line, smart QB, solid weapons. This is a tough task for the Eagles.
Gannon, of course, wasn’t going to divulge his game plan to stop Brady. But even if he had, it’s unlikely it’s a plan Brady hasn’t seen before in his two decades in the NFL.
But the Eagles still have to try. Gannon recently dusted off his notes from Week 6 and has implemented his most recent plan to stop — or at least slow down — the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
“After game planning these last couple days here, we know that it’s very hard to get to him,” Gannon said, “but feel like we're up for the challenge and got some things that we're going to try to do.”