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Preview: Giants face ultimate competitor Tom Brady


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Tom Brady has played 19 years and made 287 regular-season starts since he last lost three consecutive games, a lowlight that has occurred exactly once in his unparalleled career. He was a third-year pro when the New England Patriots lost four in a row: at San Diego, at Miami, vs. Green Bay, and vs. Denver from Sept. 29-Oct. 27, 2002.

Since then, Brady's teams have been defeated in back-to-back games 13 times, including his last two outings, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost at New Orleans, 36-27, and after their bye week, last Sunday in Washington, 29-19. On Monday night, the 3-6 Giants will try to pin that rare and elusive third consecutive loss on Brady when they face the reigning Super Bowl champion Bucs in Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay is 6-3.

"I don't think any of that stuff is relevant to what we're going to do Monday night," said Giants coach Joe Judge, who knows Brady well from his eight-year tenure as a Patriots assistant coach (2012-19).

"I just look at it as me facing Tom Brady, one of the greatest," cornerback James Bradberry said. "Just with that, I've got to be on my A game. I don't really look at how many losses he's had or how many losses or wins that we've had. It's a new week and he's a great competitor."

Click through the history of the New York Giants facing legendary quarterback Tom Brady, a series that includes two meetings in the Super Bowl.

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham devised the game plan and will call the defenses he hopes will suppress Tampa Bay's high-scoring offense (third in the NFL with an average of 31 points a game). Graham began his NFL coaching career in New England from 2009-15, a stretch in which Brady and the Patriots won the AFC East title all seven seasons, the conference championship twice and Super Bowl XLIX.

Given that experience, Graham was asked if it would have been more advantageous for the Giants had Brady thrown five touchdowns in a victory last week and not entered this game looking to make amends for an unsatisfactory performance in an unexpected defeat. Graham's response was, in essence: no way.

"I was around him for seven years, every week is different for him," Graham said. "I don't know anybody that's more competitive, more serious about the game and, on top of that, he's a great person. I mean, if they won by 20 touchdowns or if they lost, it doesn't matter. If he's playing the New York Giants on Monday night, that's where his focus is and it's laser focus. If you had a chance to be around him, it's laser focus, truly. To be around one of the best to ever play the game and just see that focus – I mean, I remember practicing against him – it just makes you have to raise your level as a coach because he'll take advantage. If you don't have it fixed, he's going to take advantage of it. I don't think that will play into it at all really, not with him at all, I don't think so."

When these teams met last season on a Monday night in MetLife Stadium, the Buccaneers had won two in a row and five of their previous six games. The Giants jumped out to a 14-6 halftime lead. But Brady threw second-half touchdowns to Ron Gronkowski and Mike Evans and when the Giants came up short on a late two-point conversion attempt, Tampa Bay won, 25-23.

"Tom's going to figure it out," Graham said. "I mean, you look back at the tape to try to have a reference point because, again, most of their offense is the same offense. They're the only team in the league to come back with all 22 starters. There are some different pieces, so you look back to have a reference point there, but each game is so different and Tom, B.A. (coach Bruce Arians), and (offensive coordinator Byron) Leftwich, they're all treating it as it's a different game.

"But you do look back to see what worked, what didn't work, maybe incorporate some of that in the game plan or what would they be anticipating. Because I assume for them, they're like, 'Okay, we played this okay' – they won the game – but, 'They played this okay. What are they going to pull from this game plan? Is it drastically different from what they've been doing the last nine games?' So, there's definitely a point where you look back at it. I don't know if you rely on it completely because each week is different, but you definitely look back on it."

One advantage the Bucs seem to have is the venue, because they've been a much better team at home than on the road this season. They're 4-0 in Tampa and 2-3 as visitors and the disparity covers offense and defense. In their lowest scoring home game, the Bucs scored more points (31) than in their highest-scoring road game (28). Tampa Bay averages 40.5 points per game at home but just 18.5 on the road, and the defense gives up 23.4 points at home but 27.6 on the road.

"It's going to be a big challenge for us going down there," Judge said. "They play well at home, they play well everywhere. I don't really think it matters if it's home or away. These guys are very talented and very well coached. Look, Tom has won a lot of games in every stadium in the league."

Brady has thrown an NFL-record 608 touchdown passes. Remarkably, the breakdown entering tomorrow's game is 304 at home and 304 on the road. But Brady hasn't escaped the Bucs' home/road contrast this season. In four games in Raymond James, he has thrown 18 touchdown passes against two interceptions, giving him the NFL's best home passer rating at 120.3. But in five road games, Brady has nine touchdowns against five interceptions and ranks 14th with a 94.6 passer rating. That's half as many touchdowns, more than twice as many interceptions.

Leonard Williams, who began his career with the Jets, has faced Brady 11 times, more than any other quarterback. He has sacked Brady twice, including once for an eight-yard loss last season. In his opinion, very little has changed since their first encounter in 2015.

"He gets the ball out really fast," Williams said. "I've had a lot of frustration going against him most of my career. Even since I've been here, I've been playing him. Obviously, he's a great quarterback, a Hall of Famer guy. He gets the ball out so fast that as a D-lineman you get frustrated, but you've got to just stay mentally locked in it, just keep rushing, don't let it frustrate you. Then when you're not getting home just get your hands up. Also, if you're not getting sacks and stuff like that, getting pressure on him in the middle affects him as well, so even if he feels bodies in front of him and if he has to move his feet at all it kind of affects him at times. That's what we're working on."

We'll learn Monday night if it helps the Giants stick Brady with a third consecutive defeat.

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