However, the collected quarterbacks of the American Football Conference were probably a close second. Those who shared an AFC East home and a pair of yearly battles with Revis and the Jets, even more so. So you can't blame New England's Tom Brady if he thinks Revis could have waited a while longer before coming back to his old divisional haunt for a visit. The Buccaneers visit Foxborough on Sunday to play the Patriots, less than a month into Revis' NFC tour.
“To go out of our division into the NFC…and of course we get him in Week 3," said Brady with a laugh. "It’s a little bit ironic. He’s an all-around player – he tackles; he covers big guys, small guys; he’s quick, he’s fast, he’s patient, he’s strong. He doesn’t have any weaknesses. I don’t think I’ve completed many balls on his side of the field very often. He’s not a guy that you want to test and see how well you’re going to do. He’s just a great all-around player.”
Brady and Revis have faced each other 10 times, and actually haven't met on the field since November of 2011, thanks to the knee injury that cost Revis most of the 2012 season and set in motion the events that would lead to his trade to Tampa. Revis has picked Brady off twice but the Patriots were 7-3 in those 10 games. Obviously, both players are considered among the very best the league has to offer, and the respect is mutual.
“He’s a tough competitor, he really is," said Revis of his former AFC East foe. "We had our battles, back in my New York days, and I’m sure this will probably be a battle again of just going out there and competing. He’s a tough sucker, man. He’s a tough sucker to play against.”
Whether Brady really will stay away from Revis Island remains to be seen, but according to the Patriots' Pro Bowl quarterback, there are other mines to avoid in the Buccaneers' significantly improved defense. One of them is a player who will be lining up only a few feet away from where Brady takes the snap. Fourth-year defensive tackle
“He’s a great player," said the Patriots' passer. "He’s in the backfield on every play. He’s just a guy that you can’t ever not pay attention to. The negative plays, the negative plays in the run game, the sacks in the pass game, a lot of times, come from him. He’s a great player. He really leads the charge for that whole defensive front.”
Through two games, Brady's crew has yet to find the rhythm that has kept them among the league's best offenses ever since he took over the starting job early in 2001. Over the previous dozen seasons, the Patriots averaged a whopping 27.7 points per game (that does include the 2008 season in which Brady only played one game due to injury), but so far in 2013 they're averaging just 18 points per outing.
“It’s just all of our offense," said Brady. "I don’t think we’ve played to the level of expectation that we have here. We’ve got to do a better job in all phases – it’s in the walk-throughs, in the meeting room, in the film room, [and] it’s certainly when we play on Sundays. We’ve got to all execute at a higher level if we expect to score more points.”
Brady clearly isn't looking for excuses, but some rather significant injuries (Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola) and departures (Wes Welker) have surely contributed to the slow start. The Patriots have also seen improved defenses in narrow wins over the Bills and Jets. It's likely that the New England offense will eventually find a way to pile up the points with Brady at the helm, but according to the quarterback, that won't be a simple task this week.
“We’ve played a couple pretty good defenses the last few weeks, but Tampa’s is, from what it looks like on film, as good as any that we’ve played, so we’ve got our work cut out for us," said Brady. "It’s a very challenging team. They’ve got a really good system. They do a lot of things in coverage. They’ve got really athletic linebackers, and they can really rush the quarterback. It’s going to be a big challenge for our offense to stay on the field, convert third downs, and, ultimately, score points.”
He’s a tough competitor, he really is. We had our battles, back in my New York days, and I’m sure this will probably be a battle again of just going out there and competing.
Tampa Bay's defense has not been known for applying a lot of backfield pressure in recent seasons, but the team's management has done quite a bit to try to change that, and the results are encouraging early in 2013. The Buccaneers are tied for the NFL lead with nine sacks through the first two weeks. That, too, has been very evident during the Patriots' videotape sessions this week.
“They can all rush the quarterback," said Brady. "They’ve got the starters, they’ve got guys who don’t start that can come in and play that can rush the quarterback. Their front four is very talented; [they cause] a lot of negative plays in the run game and the pass game. They get to the quarterback when the quarterback’s back there surveying the field, so I realize I’m not going to have a lot of time to throw, so I’ve got to pick a guy and try to get the ball out of my hands [and] try to keep moving in the right direction.”
Of course, as effusive as Brady is in praise of the Buccaneers, when it comes to game day, he is going to be the one trying to put the pressure on the opposition. Brady's assessment of Tampa Bay's defense may be on the money – the Bucs certainly believe they are at the beginning of something very good on that side of the ball – but he presents as much of a challenge to them as they do to him. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick knows what it means to have Brady on his side when heading into such a battle.
“There’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady," said Belichick. "He’s been a great player to coach through the years; nobody’s worked harder than he has since he came into the league in 2000. He’s improved every year. There are always things that he can work on to get better, and he’s very diligent about those. He trains hard, he prepares well, and he’s got great longevity, and I think those things are all part of it. [There’s] no question: I’ve been very fortunate to have him as our quarterback here.”