Tom Brady has six years of experience as a defending Super Bowl champion and knows all too well what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face this fall.
“The reality is, everything is different,” the Bucs quarterback told the media on Wednesday via Buccaneers.com’s Scott Smith.
Tampa returning all 22 of its starters, Brady already having one season in head coach Bruce Arians’ system, an allegedly easy regular season schedule, and key departures around the NFC South doesn’t make repeating a shoo-in. Brady led a team to a Super Bowl repeat once in his career, 2004, and fell short the other five times.
“I think the assumption comes from the belief that it’ll just be exactly like it was last year,” Brady said per Smith. “I think that’s what you’ve got to not fall into, is that, ‘Oh that’s the way it worked last year so that’s the way it will be this year.'”
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A Different Ballgame
Brady’s Patriots teams got knocked about by teams they beat before whether going for a repeat or not. For instance, Brady had a 3-2 playoff record against teams led by quarterback Peyton Manning.
“The teams will approach you a little bit differently,” Brady said per Smith. “You’re kind of the team everyone’s watching now. There are different degrees of expectation. There is more external noise. There will be more people that are wanting to come to games, more opportunities to do things outside of football.”
External noise amped up for Brady and the New England Patriots in the 2015 season over the deflategate scandal after beating the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl the previous season. The Philadelphia Eagles’ adjustments with backup quarterback Nick Foles denied Brady his closest opportunity to repeat again in a Super Bowl LII loss in 2018.
Laser Focus, Razor-Thin Margin for Error
Brady said repeating boils down to constant improvement.
“And I think the reality is you’ve got to stay focused on what’s really important: How do you improve? How do you get better from week to week, day to day? Improve your routine,” Brady said per Smith. “Improve your communication with your teammates, with your coaches. Not allow your mind to really fall into this position that you make this assumption that just because you did something in February that you’ll do it again next February because that’s the reality of football. It’s way too competitive. A lot of games we won last year were very razor-thin margins; one or two plays make the difference in every game.”
Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke gave the Bucs trouble in the Wild Card round, and the Bucs never led by more than one score in the fourth quarter before winning 31-23. New Orleans led the Bucs early in the Divisional Round, and the Bucs didn’t get up 10 points until the final five minutes of the fourth quarter on a Brady touchdown run for a 20-10 win.
The Bucs likewise couldn’t shake Green Bay in the second half of the NFC Championship, and the Packers passed on a chance to tie the game before falling 31-26. While the Bucs dominated the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and company were within three scores in the fourth quarter, 31-9.
All four of those teams and more will be aiming to take down the reigning champs in 2021.