That guy, the one whose name is a profanity in these parts and really shouldn’t be uttered in polite conversation, once more Sunday used the Falcons to polish his glory. He is the trophy player; they are the ShamWow – that is just the role nature has assigned them.
You know the man we mean, the one who wears No. 12 for Tampa Bay and a made-for-the-Hallmark-Channel dimple. He’s played quarterback since shortly after the earth’s crust cooled and probably will continue until the sun turns to ash. The Greatest of All Time seems to want to take the title literally and to actually play for all of time. Those are the terms he struck in his deal with the dark lord.
So, in other words, there is no clear end date to his torment of the Falcons, which has only intensified since he joined their division last year on the way to winning a seventh Super Bowl.
On Sunday, that guy helped engineer a 30-17 victory over said Falcons. No headline there. The best that can be said is that this loss was not the worst of the 10 (against no losses, of course) this unrelentingly malevolent presence has hung on the Falcons. That total includes his stays in New England and Tampa Bay, regular season and one particularly galling Super Bowl excursion. This one was a paper cut compared to that arterial bleed.
All told, this perfect record against the Falcons is no great mystery. Bucs coach Bruce Arians summed it up nicely Sunday: “He’s just been on a better team for a long time.”
Keep in mind that of all the teams this guy has faced, he has compiled his best career quarterback rating against these Falcons, and it’s not really close. After Sunday’s performance – 368 yards, four touchdowns, one interception – he has averaged 334 yards per game vs. the Falcons, with a 28/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Sunday’s first possession began with Brady throwing it on all 13 plays, and accounting for all 75 yards of a touchdown drive. No, the day wasn’t all perfect or easy for him. In fact – hats off to Alabama’s Bryce Young – that guy may have been only the second most effective quarterback to perform inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium this weekend.
Since the Falcons couldn’t rush the quarterback – no sacks and only one quarterback hit, while the Falcons’ Matt Ryan was absorbing five sacks and 11 hits – they might as well drop into coverage, right? With that in mind, 280-pound Marlon Davidson ambushed a short toss to running back Leonard Fournette and returned it for three yards for a touchdown at the end of the first half. One day his grandchildren are going to get awfully sick of hearing about the day he picked off that guy. Only you can bet Davidson will use his name.
And perhaps it will be revealed in the next decades that the great quarterback first started even considering retirement the moment he was picked off by Marlon Davidson.
In the end, the Falcons are just another team unable to contend with that guy and the golem at tight end with whom he has conspired forever, Rob Gronkowski. The two hooked up for a pair of touchdowns Sunday, choosing not to do it blindfolded although they very well could have pulled that off just for giggles.
The Falcons lack of a pass rush certainly didn’t help the cause. But their coach Arthur Smith suggested alternative ways to maybe one day beat him.
“Catch the ones he throws you,” Smith said. “Marlon caught one. He threw (linebacker Deion Jones) another one, and we didn’t catch it. He’s a great player, certainly if he gives you opportunities, we got to make a play on the ball. There are ways to defend him. But he is a great player.”
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
From the Falcons’ perspective, there may have been certain points Sunday with which to quibble. Like failing to put up a touchdown when it was first-and-a-half-yard to go in the second quarter – an ill-conceived pass attempt and a fumbled snap paving the way to a disappointing field goal. Or a fumble by receiver Russell Gage early in the second half, halting a promising Falcons drive when they were down by only three.
But, c’mon, who can really be upset about Sunday’s outcome? With that guy at quarterback, the “L” was in place for the Falcons the same time the schedule was released.
They can shake it off with the knowledge that at 5-7, playing in a muddied and middling NFC and with more winnable games on the docket, the fantasy of being a playoff contender lives. It was with a perfectly straight face that Smith said Sunday, “The truth is we’re still in the mix. We got five games to go, a lot of football left. We’ll get back to work. We’ve seen a lot of improvement the last two weeks, and we’re excited about the challenge to go on the road again and play a divisional opponent (a game against Carolina). The opportunity is still there.”
Certainly, opportunity lives more so on the road than at home for a maddening team that has lost all five games inside Mercedes-Benz in the same year Alabama is 2-0 here.
Sunday also was another humbling experience for Ryan, who was asked if he wasn’t getting just a little tired of having to congratulate that other quarterback after games Ryan has lost.
“I’d certainly like to beat him, no doubt about that,” Ryan said, then quickly shifting to practical Matty Ice mode. “We got to focus on what’s in front of us and will figure out that whole deal the next time we play them.”
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
Take some comfort in the fact the Falcons at least have gotten past their two scheduled beatings from that guy. They have contributed their share and more of highlights for the next fawning documentary on him, and can now concern themselves with more pressing personal business.