Down 16-14 with less than three minutes remaining in the first half, the Buccaneers dialed up a four verticals variation against the Cowboys’ 2-man coverage. Brady took the snap near midfield and looked left to Mike Evans. He then scanned right to Rob Gronkowski, Chris Godwin, and Brown, and then back to Godwin for another tick.
That second look got Dallas safety Damontae Kazee to bite down hard on Godwin’s bender, leaving cornerback Anthony Brown hung out to dry in trail technique against AB. While Brady was going through his reads, Brown bobbed his head as if he were about to cut. The subtle head movement left the cornerback in quicksand – and AB was gone. Brady stepped up, up, and up, then launched a 47-yard bomb that landed perfectly in Brown’s arms for a touchdown.
The connection supposedly goes back to Brown’s short stint in New England – the first time Brady campaigned to add AB to his offense. There were reports that the two were so dominant in practice, torching the defense with pass after pass, that coaches told Brady to stop throwing to Brown.
The chemistry was obvious when the two played a game together in Week 2 of 2019. Brown led all Patriots receivers with eight targets and a touchdown in a 43-0 thumping of the Dolphins.
“I was just trying to find an open guy,” said Brady after the game. “He was snapping off some routes and did a great job.”
Bucs WR Antonio Brown and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
Since their first game together, the two have been plenty comfortable with changing the script in real-time, knowing that the other will see things the same way. The most famous example of this came in Super Bowl 55 when Brown unilaterally changed his inside-to-outside whip route to an outside-to-inside return route for a touchdown.
Blaine Gabbert yelled to Bruce Arians: “I don’t know what the (bleep) he ran, but he got open!”
It seems to have happened again in Week 1, (though it’s hard to say with certainty that it wasn’t planned this way all along) when Brown broke off his square in route and cut up field after seeing Brady reset.
Looks like Double China (“Tier”) to me. Seems like AB breaks off his route when he sees Brady pump and reset.
The CB is playing deep 1/3 but drives down on the square in. Ends up getting burned by the improvised “sluggo” (…square-in-o?).
Brady and Brown connected again on the next play. Brown cut on his stop route right when the cornerback flipped his hips. To ensure that the defender would have no chance to make a play, Brady put the ball towards the sideline, and Brown adjusted perfectly.
How did this connection come to be? And how did they become so close that Brady, in both New England and Tampa Bay, invited Brown to live with the Brady family? Why did Brady risk his reputation for a person with horrifying allegations against them? Is this really about friendship, or is it a harrowing symptom of a win-at-all-costs mentality?
“I try to, in my own way, be a positive influence in [my teammates’] life,” Brady said. “They’re a positive influence in my life. Randy [Moss] and I connected right away. Antonio and I connected right away. He has a great love for the game, is a real perfectionist about how he plays, how he takes care of himself. He has incredible football IQ and just a great skill set as a player.”
Maybe it really is as simple as finding common ground as competitors. Both are sixth-round draft picks who win with excellent technique more than overwhelming size and strength. Both also refuse to forget perceived snubs. Brady is quick to reference his No. 199 spot in the draft, having at one point even sold t-shirts with a giant ‘199’ graphic on the chest. Brown is equally peeved by his 4.47 40 yard dash before the 2010 draft, and subsequently being considered the “slowest” of the speedy Steelers wide receiver trio of Darrius Heyward-Bey, Brown, and Martavis Bryant.
Brown made a point to update the world on his speed in 2016.
After playing 12 games as teammates across two seasons and two franchises, Brady and Brown finally shared training camp practices in 2021. Whispers from Bucs camp grew loud quickly.
Is Antonio Brown the best receiver on the Bucs?
Bucs WR Antonio Brown and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Pretty soon, every r/buccaneers Reddit post involving Brown filled with the same comment: “AB is going to surprise a lot of people this season.”
That’s an ongoing thing, by the way. Half meme-ing, half “no, but really.”
Bucs fans have cautiously enjoyed the hype. They have also feared that Brown could flip a switch at any moment, though he sounds convincing.
“A lot of [Tom’s] help has guided me in the game,” said Brown. “Helped me get to this where I’m at right now. Helped grow as a person – physically, mentally, emotionally, and he kind of put things in perspective.”
As of right now, everything is looking up for the oddly-tethered duo. AB looks like AB – that is, one of the best wide receivers to have ever lived.
And Brady is still “firing lasers,” as Peyton Manning put it on Monday night.
They won a Super Bowl last year, but 2021 might be the year that this Brady-Brown thing really pops off.