Ultimate chess match in sight as Brady takes on Pats for the first time

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Tom Brady’s legacy is forever anchored in each of the six Super Bowl Championship banners he competed in above New England’s Gillette Stadium.

Still, he might as well play in front of a mirror when he returns to face the Patriots.

Everything will be upside down.

“I know this locker room at home. I know this domestic tunnel. I know which way the wind is blowing. I know all about it, ”Brady said this week. “So in some ways it will be unique. I have never had this experience. New England will be the first time for me to be on the other side. “

Brady will return to Foxborough on Sunday night to meet the Patriots for the first time since leaving after 20 seasons to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He will be pitted against not only former coach Bill Belichick but also former teammates who have never taken NFL field and watched Brady wearing another team’s jersey, let alone the occasion. to tackle him.

“The opportunity is great and I can’t wait for now,” said Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr.

While they’ve all played against former teammates, the Patriots admit that this time is a lot different. None of these other players have the institutional knowledge Brady has of their defensive patterns or tendencies.

That’s a minute of error against a quarterback who’s mastered the art of getting the ball out quickly and reading and deceiving defenses with his eyes.

“He’s going to be a guy who knows a lot about what we’re doing,” said veteran safety Devin McCourty, who won three Super Bowls with Brady. “So what we do, we have to do a good job. We have to play our best football.

This 44-year-old version of Brady is still playing at a high level after taking the Bucs to a Super Bowl title last season. He leads the league this season with 10 touchdowns and his 362.3 passing yards per game are second behind Derek Carr of Las Vegas.

Tampa Bay’s 34.3 points per game are also tied for NFL highs, in large part thanks to one of the league’s most cumulative infractions which includes wide receivers Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and the winger. close up Rob Gronkowski

“It’s one of those weeks when we can’t have a bunch of ‘bad my’,” McCourty said. “We must go.”

As much as Brady knows the Patriots, they know him as well. But Belichick, 8-11 since Brady left, said that doesn’t mean they’ll be reinventing themselves this week.

“Certainly Tom has intimate knowledge of everything we do here, more than any other player in the league from afar. So I’m sure he will use it to his advantage. I would expect him to do it, ”Belichick said. “I don’t think it would be in our best interest to go out there and do everything differently than what we’ve been doing all year. What we need to do is keep doing the things we do and do them better. It would help us more than anything else.

ELITE CLUB

A win would make Brady the fourth quarterback with wins against all 32 NFL teams, joining Brett Favre, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning. With 68 passing yards, Brady will pass the Brees mark by 80,358 yards, the most ever in the regular season. This would add to his long list of NFL records which already includes most TD assists (591), most starting quarterback wins (232), most Super Bowl titles (seven ) and most conference championships (10).

SHAQ ATTACK

Despite all the talk about what Brady’s arrival at Tampa Bay did for offense, defense also played a big part in the team’s success. In addition to leading the league on defense in each of the past two seasons, the Bucs have had one of the most effective passes in the league since Todd Bowles was hired as coordinator in 2019.

Linebacker Shaquil Barrett topped the NFL with 19 1/2 sacks two years ago and finished with eight in the regular season in 2020. He has one to three games this year, none in the past two weeks.

As a team, the Bucs are bottom of the league with three sacks.

“I think Todd knows that and Shaq knows it’s time to move on to quarterback,” said coach Bruce Arians. “One bag is not enough. “

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Arians is known for his success working with quarterbacks over a long career as an NFL assistant and head coach. Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer and Jameis Winston are some of the best draft picks the Arians have framed over the years.

The coach, who turns 69 on Sunday, likes what he’s seen so far from New England rookie Mac Jones.

“I loved it going out. He’s smart, a pocket player who’s going to get the ball out, and he’s very precise, ”Arians said. “Obviously the pressure doesn’t bother him. He played in big games (in Alabama). He led his team to the championship, so yeah, he’s legit.

DON’T FORGET GRONK

Brady’s return in many ways eclipsed that of Gronkowski, who spent nine seasons (2010-18) with New England and ended his tenure with 521 receptions for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns, the most received touchdowns. of franchise history.

He enters Sunday with 8,668 receiving yards and can pass Greg Olsen (8,683) for the fifth most receiving yards by tight end in NFL history.

Gronk initially retired after the 2018 season after winning a third Super Bowl ring with the Patriots before being coaxed by Brady in 2020.

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AP Sports writer Fred Goodall contributed to this report.

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