Tom Brady’s legacy is forever imbued with each of the six Super Bowl championship flags he had a stake in hanging over New England’s Gillette Stadium.
He will face the Patriots for the first time Sunday night in Foxborough, having left them after 20 seasons to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Not only will he face former coach Bill Belichick, but also past teammates who have also never stepped on an NFL field and watched Brady in another team’s jersey, never mind ever having the chance. had to deal with him.
While they’ve all played against former teammates before, the Patriots recognize that this time is very different — as none of those other players have the institutional knowledge Brady has of their defensive schemes or tendencies.
The 44-year-old version of Brady is still playing at a high level after dragging the Bucs to a Super Bowl title last season.
He leads the league this season with 10 touchdown passes and his 362.3 passing yards per game are second to Las Vegas’ Derek Carr.
Tampa Bay’s 34.3 points per game equals the best in the NFL.
At least New England doesn’t have to worry about Rob Gronkowski – another former teammate who has played so many big games with Brady over the years at the Patriots – with the tight end due to a rib injury.
It is the first game the 32-year-old Gronkowski will miss since he retired last season to play with Brady for the Bucs.
As much as Brady knows the Patriots, they know him too.
But Belichick, 8-11 with the Patriots since Brady left, said that doesn’t mean they will reinvent themselves this week.
“Certainly Tom has a deep knowledge of everything we do here, more than any other player in the league by far… I don’t think it would be in our best interest to go in there and do anything but we’ve been doing it all year,” Belichick said.
A win would make Brady just the fourth quarterback with wins against all 32 NFL teams, along with Brett Favre, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.
With 68 yards passing, Brady will surpass Brees’ mark of 80,358 yards, the most ever in the regular season.
It would complement his long list of NFL records already having the most TD passes (591), most wins as a starting quarterback (232), most Super Bowl titles (seven) and most conference championships (10) contains.