Shepard: Tom Terrific strikes back

Tom Brady Bucs
Photo credit USA Today Images

In the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first eight games this season, they averaged 25 PPG. Then last Sunday happened when they put up just three points against the New Orleans Saints. When quarterbacks like Joe Montana, Peyton Manning and even Patrick Mahomes lose, they don’t take the same type of criticism that Tom Brady does. Montana, Manning and Mahomes are beloved and universally respected. Unfortunately, with Deflategate and Spygate, Brady will never be looked at in the same way and held to the same high regard.

When the Buccaneers lost by 35 points last Sunday to the Saints (the worst loss of Brady’s 335-game career), many piled on with pleasure. National sports writers and commentators alike even went so far as to put garbage and Brady in the same sentence. In covering sports long enough, you come to realize there are near certainties. Rafael Nadal winning on clay. James Harden fizzling out in the playoffs. The Jets finding new ways to let their fans down. Isiah Thomas taking subtle shots at Michael Jordan. Mike D’Antoni not succeeding in the playoffs. The Yankees overspending because they can. You get the point!

This was the last sentence of my column last week verbatim: “I can’t wait to write an article next week talking about why you should NEVER doubt Brady because like LeBron, he’s STILL great, you’ll see.” There is another certainty that might be even more ironclad than any near-certainty example I referenced above. Simply put, all-time greats always bounce back!

Here’s what happened THIS Sunday. Brady put up a season-high 46 points on the Carolina Panthers. Before you go downplaying the Panthers this season, keep in mind they lost by just two points to the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs IN Kansas City. The Panthers also lost by just three points to the Saints IN New Orleans. The same Saints team that beat Brady and the Bucs in Tampa 38-3 just a week ago. The 46 points the Panthers gave up to the Buccaneers was also their season-high. 

Brady didn’t just make up for Week 9 in Week 10; he SHINED in Week 10. The quarterback that Brady beat yesterday is Teddy Bridgewater, who is more than 15 years Tom's junior and went 5-0 last season. Brady nearly tripled Bridgewater's passing yards total yesterday while throwing ZERO interceptions.

With six games remaining, Brady is just one passing touchdown shy of what he amassed for all of last season. Brady is on pace to throw for more touchdowns than he did three years ago. The 66.0 completion percentage this season matches what he did three years ago. His three rushing touchdowns this season are as many as Lamar Jackson has, arguably the greatest rushing quarterback of all-time. Jackson also happens to be 20 years younger. Most pundits will tell you that Mahomes is the best player in the NFL. You know who has more passing yards than Mahomes this season? The 43-year-old Brady. Another question, why do I keep referencing Brady's accomplishments now compared to three seasons ago? Three years ago, he was the MVP!

Brady has already matched the Buccaneers’ win total from last season (seven). They have six remaining games on their schedule. Many doubted whether Brady could still play in the NFL. There were countless debates over whether he was over the hill. The quarterback he replaced in Jameis Winston was no scrub, either. Winston led the NFL in passing yards last season and has been a Pro Bowler. Yet Winston in his five-year career in Tampa could never do what Brady will do in just one season: get the Buccaneers to the playoffs. When it truly comes to any all-time great, don’t write them off, especially when they have something to prove. No matter how old Brady is and no matter how many seasons he plays, he will always be Tom Brady, a player you can never doubt.

CBS Sports Radio producer David Shepard is a former ESPN researcher, a former Division I college basketball practice player, and the host of The Good Shepard YouTube channel. Follow him on Twitter @TheGoodShepard_.