TAMPA, Fla. — There was a time when watching Tom Brady flee the pocket was accompanied only by fears, not cheers.
“It scares the hell out of me,” Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said Thursday of Brady’s scrambling.
Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time and has always done his best work standing directly behind his offensive line. In fact, while commenting on the few occasions he’s had to run the football this season, Brady’s self-deprecating sense of humor has never been sharper.
Two weeks ago against the Dolphins, after a season-long 13-yard run to set up a field goal, Brady asked for a review. “Do I look faster?” he asked reporters after the game. “I feel fast. Most of the guys in the NFL probably make like 30 yards on a run like that. I turn a 30-yarder into a 10-yarder better than anybody.”
But having undergone surgery to repair a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee that he played with for all of 2020, Brady is reaping the rewards with improved mobility. Not only is he able to improve his movements to avoid the pass rush with slide steps and climbing the pocket, he’s also buying time for himself and his receivers in the passing game.
Sensing a collapsing pocket on a third-and-2 play in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons, Brady escaped and ran for the first down.
“I’m thinking, ‘Let’s throw it, let’s throw it,’” Brady said. “‘Oh my God, I can see really well. Who’s open? Let’s throw it. Oh my God, what am I doing out here? Let me run forward and get on the ground as fast as I can.’ ”
Against the Rams the following week, Brady bought some time for himself by sliding to his right and finding tight end O.J. Howard for a first down.
In his return to New England on Oct. 3, the Bucs were caught in a defensive struggle with the ball on their own 9-yard line. Brady rolled to his right, running through the end zone, and fired a strike to Chris Godwin for a first down at the Patriots’ 37. That led to a field goal at the end of the first half.
With the Bucs trailing 14-13 and facing third-and-6 in the fourth quarter of the same game, Brady rushed 6 yards for a first down, spinning the football on his finger as he remained on the Gillette Stadium surface.