Getting pressure on Tom Brady. It’s a funny concept, really. Every time the seven-time Super Bowl champion is facing a big game, everyone says that is the route to beat him. If you can pressure Brady, you have a shot at slowing him down. The Dallas Cowboys talked about it before last Thursday’s 29-31 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I’ve always found these takes a bit funny because even though they’re true, the same is true for just about any other quarterback in the NFL. And when it comes to Tom, it’s simply pretty hard to pull off such a game plan.
However, there’s a point in discussing pressure impact on Brady. He suffers one of the biggest dropoffs in the league when passing while pressured. In 2020, he ranked 8th in the NFL in EPA per play when not being pressured versus 22nd when pressured.
The Dallas Cowboys seemed to understand their task. Rookie Osa Odighizuwa even talked about Brady’s stats declining when he was forced out of the pocket. On Hard Knocks, DL Coach Aden Durde seemed to realize the importance of pressuring Brady, as well.
Cowboys DL coach Aden Durde talking to the defensive line room on Hard Knocks: “The No. 1 thing on Thursday night is we make 12 (Tom Brady) uncomfortable every f*ckin snap. If we do our job on Thursday night, I promise you we win this game.”
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 8, 2021
It’s not easy getting this done as the Bucs have a very solid offensive line. Not to mention the fact that Brady can get rid of the ball quickly and has seen just about everything after two decades of starting in the NFL.
But if you’re going to pressure him, you’re likely going to need your top pass rushers. Even more so in crunch time.
Yet in the most important drive of the game, the Dallas Cowboys had Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Osa Odighizuwa on the sidelines for three consecutive plays. Instead, the Cowboys featured Bradlee Anae and Tarell Basham as edge rushers and Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins inside.
With the game on the line, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs took advantage of this. On 1st & 15, Brady completed a six-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski who was pushed out of bounds to stop the clock. On 2nd & 9, it was a 20-yard completion again to Gronk. Tampa Bay went with the no-huddle the following play which left the Cowboys with the same set of defensive linemen in for one more play.
Ironically, when Gregory and Lawrence entered the field again, Brady found Godwin to put the Bucs on field goal range.
Now granted, after playing for most of the game, it’s understandable that Gregory and Lawrence were gassed. But it’s still a bit frustrating that in the most important drive of the game, both took time off at the same time.
One could argue that even though you don’t want to give Brady and Bruce Arians more time to think about their play-call, the Cowboys could’ve even called a timeout to get their best players in the game.
The Bucs are in the rearview mirror, but hopefully the next time the Dallas Cowboys need to get a sack in the biggest stage they can do so with the starters on the field.
Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports