While pregame shows at ESPN, NFL Network and NBC all unanimously predicted that Tom Brady and the 6-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers would beat Drew Brees and the 5-2 New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football this week, something very different happened. Brady (seen above being sacked by Malcom Brown in the second half) recturned in one of the worst performances of his career, throwing his first interception in five games, then adding two more (and finishing with 22 completions on 38 attempts, 57.9 percent, for just 209 yards), while Brees shone, completing 26 of 32 attempts (81.3 percent) for 222 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions (although he did have a lost fumble). And the Saints picked up an easy 38-3 win.
And as noted in the headline and the top graphic (from a discussion on NBC’s SNF broadcast), this also ended one of Brady’s ongoing records. In 19 seasons as a starting quarterback (including 2001, where he took over as starter in Week 3 following a Week 2 injury to Drew Bledsoe), Brady had never seen his team swept by a divisional opponent. But that happened this year, with the Saints beating the Bucs 34-23 in Week 1 and then demolishing them 38-3 Sunday.
Of course, Brady’s 19 seasons here are still a record, and likely to remain so for a while. As the top graphic shows, the next-closest streak is held by Joe Montana, who did that in 13 of his 16 NFL seasons (14 and a half of which were as a starter). So this is still a remarkable accomplishment. Of course, it does carry the caveat of including several factors well beyond a quarterback’s immediate control, including both his own team’s quality and the quality of his divisional opponents, and the woefulness of much of the AFC East during much of Brady’s time in New England played a huge role here. But this is still an interesting stat, and it’s still notable to see that record end in Brady’s 20th season as a starting quarterback.
Beyond that, this has some significant implications for the Saints, the Bucs, and the NFC South. The Saints now lead the division with a 6-2 mark, and while the Bucs aren’t far behind at 6-3, New Orleans now holds the first tiebreaker (head-to-head record). This also slows down the Bucs a bit, and means that the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers (both 3-6) aren’t completely out of the running. And this put Brees back ahead of Brady in the career passing touchdown race, at least for this week (hopefully that won’t lead to as much to-do as it has in the past). So for the moment, things are looking pretty good for the Saints. And as for the Bucs, they have a lot of questions to answer going forward.