When Tampa Bay trailed the Atlanta Falcons 17-0 at halftime last season, the Buccaneers surprisingly looked to someone other than Tom Brady to right the ship.
At least according to Brady.
“That was a really important moment for us,” Brady said in Thursday’s press conference. “I think J.P.P. (Jason Pierre-Paul) was kind of the real leader as he came into the locker room. We obviously weren’t doing what we were capable of doing and we needed a big wake-up call and we got it. I think we learned a lot from it.”
Brady caught fire in the second half and the Bucs defense contained the Falcons in the 31-27 comeback win in Week 15 of the 2020 season. It became a key turning point for the Bucs en route to winning Super Bowl LV.
Now, the Bucs will look for a 2-0 start in the 2021 season when facing the Falcons on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium. Brady wants to see things not only look different from last year’s first Falcons clash but also this season’s opener with the Dallas Cowboys that went down to the wire.
“I think — thinking about last game — we’ve got to start fast and we have to finish strong and we have to play well all four quarters,” Brady said. “It will be nice to see what it looks like if we do that. Playing a four-quarter game is going to be very important. It’s a good week to do it.”
J.P.P. Back for Falcons Game
Pierre-Paul dealt with a hand injury during the week but will be ready to go on Sunday, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians says.
“He’s fine. He got a veteran day off today with three or four other guys,” Arians said in Friday’s press conference.
Pierre-Paul had limited participation in practice on Wednesday and didn’t practice Thursday and Friday according to the Bucs’ injury report via WTSP’s Evan Closky. The veteran outside linebacker had six tackles in Week 1 against the Cowboys.
Tampa will also have safety Jordan Whitehead back on the field for the first time this season after missing time due to a hamstring injury. Cornerback Carlton Davis III was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report.
Brady, Former Patriots Assistant Exchange Praise
Brady and Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees got to know each other well for six seasons in New England from 2004 to 2009 when Pees coached in defensive assistant roles for the Patriots. Pees also went on to coach with the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans, both of which faced Brady’s old Patriots’ teams.
“If he’s not the greatest of all time,” Pees said via Falcons.com, “I don’t know who is.”
Pees knows the Falcons defense will need to be on point against all of the Bucs skill players because Brady will make the most of the opportunities he spots.
“I don’t care who you are,” Pees said. “… If you’re not where you’re supposed to be, he’s going to take advantage of it.”
Brady, who went against Pees’ Patriots defenses in practice for years followed by AFC playoff battles said that Pees “really challenges the quarterback.”
“I don’t think there are a lot of easy plays out there,” Brady said of Pees. “He makes you earn everything. Obviously, Atlanta is a team that is in our division, so they know our personnel. There’s no intimidation and it’s not like you play them once every four years. It’s a team they play twice a year. They have a lot of confidence.”