Tom Brady entered Sunday’s game with a career 89-0 record when his teams led by 17 points or more at any point in a game.
The Cincinnati Bengals were intent on handing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback his first career loss in said situation after the Bucs opened up a 17-0 lead against the defending AFC champions, only to see Cincinnati run off 34 consecutive points before a garbage-time touchdown from Tampa Bay in the fourth quarter.
“Turnovers kill you, and they killed us today. It’s not the way we need to (play) in order to win, and that’s certainly not how I need to play in order to win. We literally just gave them the ball,” Brady told reporters after the ugly 34-23 loss.
For his part, the seven-time Super Bowl champion committed a whopping four turnovers after his team went up by three scores. He’s calling himself out big time with Tampa now at 6-8 on the season and clinging to first place in what has been a terrible NFC South this season.
Prior to the game, Brady made some noise by calling the Bengals’ defense “fairly tough.” This wasn’t lost on a unit that forced four turnovers despite being without its top-two edge rushers.
“He was fairly OK, but not good enough to win,” Bengals cornerback Eli Apple said of Tom Brady after the game.
Linebacker Germaine Pratt expanded on that by throwing more shade in the direction of the all-time great quarterback.
“We got hot,” Pratt said, via Paul Dehner of The Athletic. “We are a fairly tough defense. You know, fairly tough. I think we are tough as nails to get four turnovers on four possessions.”
Those four consecutive Brady turnovers led to 21 points from Cincinnati, turning a 17-6 deficit into a 27-17 lead. That was pretty much all she wrote, leading to further speculation that Tom Terrific just doesn’t have it anymore at the age of 45.
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Tom Brady’s recent struggles seem to suggest the end of the line
Now in his 23rd NFL season, there’s some question about Brady’s future with the Buccaneers. He’s slated to become a free agent in March and has been linked to three teams, the San Francisco 49ers included.
But based on what we’ve seen from Brady in recent weeks, one has to wonder whether the NFL has simply passed him up. That is to say, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer hitting the proverbial wall like we’ve seen with other all-time greats such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger in the recent past.
Back in Week 14 against the 49ers, Tampa Bay found itself down 28-0 at the half. Brady was going up against a rookie seventh-round pick in Brock Purdy who was making his first career regular-season start. He was vastly outplayed, throwing two interceptions in the ugly 35-7 loss. He then followed that up with a four-turnover outing against the Bengals.
- Tom Brady stats (past two games): 65% completion, 565 yards, 4 TD, 6 turnovers, 76.4 QB rating
Related: Sportsnaut’s Week 16 NFL QB rankings
NFL free agent market for Tom Brady
It’s now fair to wonder whether potentially interested teams will pass up on Brady should he look to go in another direction during free agency.
The aforementioned report mentioned three teams that might be linked to him once the market opens. In addition to the 49ers, that includes the New York Giants and Las Vegas Raiders.
San Francisco finds itself at 10-4 on the season and as hot as any team in the NFL. Purdy is playing at a high level. The team boasts a Super Bowl quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo sidelined to injury. It also exhausted a ton of draft capital in Trey Lance leading up to the annual event in 2021. Why would the 49ers want to bring in a soon-to-be 46-year-old quarterback despite the Cinderella ending it could create?
The Giants are not anywhere near top-end Super Bowl contenders despite being in playoff positioning right now. They also might conclude that Daniel Jones is a better option moving forward.
Meanwhile, Vegas’ reported interest in Brady makes sense. He worked with Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels during their time together in New England. It also seemed as if Brady was close to signing with the Raiders prior to ultimately opting for Tampa Bay ahead of the 2020 season.
Either way, it seems as if the potential market for Tom Brady could be watered down once free agency opens. And in reality, it could conclude his legendary career with an emphatic thud. Maybe, it’s time he simply announces his decision to retire at the end of the season in order for the GOAT to get the proper send-off.