Somehow, Tom Brady is getting faster with age.
From the time he walks to the line of scrimmage to the second after he takes the snap, there might be no one faster at processing what he sees than the Buccaneers’ 44-year-old quarterback. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers plays chess, taking his time and changing the smallest details at the line of scrimmage. The Buccaneers’ Brady, though, plays speed chess, identifying what he’s looking at and knowing where the ball is supposed to go in the Bucs’ rhythm passing attack.
“He’s so calm,” Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said Thursday. “He’s seen everything from a coverage standpoint [to] a front-structure standpoint to a pressure standpoint. You know he hasn’t played this long and not seen everything — so he’s got all the answers built in. Probably the one thing that is pretty amazing is how fast he processes things from when he gets to the line of scrimmage to getting the snap.
“There’s a lot of things going on, and the game seems so slow for him.”
That’s bad news for a Bears defense whose strength is its pass rush — and even worse for a defensive backfield that has struggled to bring receivers down. Safety Eddie Jackson not wrapping up the Packers’ Davante Adams on his 41-yard reception Sunday was emblematic of his lack of physicality over the last 1½ seasons.
“Explosive plays usually, in my experience, come with one of two things — either the tackling or missed communication,” Desai said.
Someone who will benefit from both: Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin, who is sixth in the NFL in yards after catch with 204.
“He has a rare, unique skill set,” Bears cornerback Kindle Vildor said. “Real shifty in the slot, knows how to get open, use space and everything like that.”
The best chance the Bears have of slowing the NFL’s third-highest-scoring offense is to sack Brady. That will be more difficult this week. Robert Quinn remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Fellow outside linebacker Khalil Mack (foot) and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (groin) didn’t practice for a second straight day. Two more starters — safety Tashaun Gipson (hip) and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols (knee) — didn’t practice Thursday, either.
Then there’s Brady, who gets rid of the football faster than all but one quarterback this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
“You have to be able to get back there fast enough to get him down because he’s known for getting the ball out of his hand quickly,” inside linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “He doesn’t take too many sacks. They have a good O-line that’s blocking really well for him. If you give him a chance to stand back there and hold the ball, that’s where he lives.”
Bucs wide receivers Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and Godwin rank in the top 35 in receptions and targets. They’re in the top 24 in receiving yards. Brown, Evans and injured tight end Rob Gronkowski each have four touchdown catches, ranking 10th in the NFL.
“You’re able to get the ball out on time when everybody is in their spots that they’re supposed to be in,” Desai said. “And the quarterback knows what the coverages are. And he knows where he’s got to deliver the ball.”