If you watch enough sports talk TV, it’s a safe bet that you’re going to see a chyron this week that either declares victory for Tom Brady in the breakup battle with Bill Belichick or invites a talking head to do so. It’s true that Brady is winning the battle, but none of us actually knows how long the war will last.
Brady and the Bucs jumped all over the Packers on Sunday. It would not have been stunning beforehand to learn that Tampa Bay won the game — they were only underdogs by a point or two — but the extent of the 38-10 drubbing was astonishing, given how Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were humming earlier this season.
It wasn’t even an all-time great performance from Brady either. He threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Watching the game, though, there was the sense that if he ever really needed to make a play, he would’ve done it. Rob Gronkowski may not be fleet of foot anymore, but between the gaps in the Packers’ secondary and the synergy he clearly still shares with Brady, he still caught five balls for 78 yards. I have clear visions of similar plays happening this January when the Bucs truly need a first down.
Ronald Jones all of a sudden looks like a solid back. He rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans didn’t even really need to do anything, and Tampa still won by four touchdowns.
The offensive side of the ball for the Bucs gets all the attention, but that Todd Bowles defense is swarming. It almost felt like they were playing with 14 or 15 guys, rather than the standard 11. Aaron Rodgers played poorly after his Hingle McCringleberry celebration, but the Tampa defense made him do that.
Not only are the Bucs 4-2 and suddenly looking as likely as anyone in the NFC to make it to the Super Bowl, the Patriots fell to 2-3 after losing to a Broncos team that no one thinks is even above average. Sure New England could be 4-1 if Cam Newton had led touchdown drives in the final minute against the Seahawks and Broncos. But he didn’t, so they’re not. NFL seasons twist and turn, of course, but the Bucs are far likelier to be in title contention this season than Belichick and the Pats.
It’s therefore tempting to declare Brady the victor in the breakup battle with Belichick. And you can even do that right now, but the operative word here is battle. We have no idea how long this war will last. Brady is 43 and may stick around long enough to start showing his age. Belichick is 68 but may still be hoisting Lombardi trophies well into his 80s.
My caution will no doubt go unheeded, but be careful about saying Brady has definitely won this war. There are no nails in Belichick’s coffin yet. And even when there are, be wary of a Kill Bill situation where he rescues himself with his fists and a flashlight.