Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have enjoyed seven consecutive triumphant plane flights back to Tampa. One more would be the most momentous homecoming in franchise history.
The 2020 Buccaneers have been very good on the road, winning eight of their 10 games so far including the playoffs, including the last seven in a row. That seven-game road winning streak is the longest in Tampa Bay franchise history and it now faces its stiffest challenge yet with Sunday's trip to Lambeau Field to play the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
Now, this is not the first time that Brady, specifically, has enjoyed a road streak like this. Before coming to Tampa in 2020, Brady spent the previous 20 years in New England helping the Patriots put together the most successful 20-year run in NFL history, one that included nine Super Bowl appearances and six titles. The Patriots won at least 10 games in 18 of Brady's seasons with the team, so it stands to reason there were some long winning streaks of all varieties.
In fact, Brady and the Patriots won an incredible 14 straight road games across the 2016-17 seasons, the second-longest run ever for any NFL team after a 19-game streak by San Francisco from 1988 to 1990. The Patriots also had a 10-game road winning streak across the 2007-08 seasons, but their third-longest run in the Brady era was seven games. So while he has tasted this kind of sustained road success before, it is far from common, and he knows it.
View some of the top photos from Buccaneers NFC Championship Week practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
"We've been pretty good on the road all year outside of the first game and the Chicago game," said Brady. "For one reason or another, we've just done a good job. Some years it's been like that. I've been a part of other teams where it wasn't quite like that."
So now that he and the Bucs are at this rare juncture again (for him) or for the first time (for the franchise) – what is his reaction to hitting the road again to play one of the best teams in the league.
"Let's keep that streak going," he enthused. "That would be pretty sweet. Let's get another one. We're going to be challenged to get it because we're going up against a great football team."
It's reasonable to factor in the small or non-existent crowds at most NFL venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic when discussing road team prowess in 2020. In fact, away teams actually finished just barely over .500 across the NFL in 2020, going 128-127-1. The disruption of timing and communication that high-volume crowds can create is a very real part of the usual NFL home field advantage, but that hasn't been much of an issue in 2020. However, that's only one aspect of playing well on the road, and Brady says the visiting team can work to control the other ones.
"Playing on the road, it's about good football, execution, communication, all the fundamentals, the blocking, tackling, throwing – all those things," he said. "It's a great environment. This is one of the coolest stadiums in the league to play in. I know they're excited, we'll be excited, and it will make for a great football game."
Brady says the Buccaneers are going to use every minute up to kickoff on Sunday to prepare for the Packers and the many challenges they present. An eighth straight road win would put the Buccaneers on a flight back to Tampa for the last time in 2020, as Super Bowl LV will be held in Raymond James Stadium. No team has ever played the Super Bowl in its own home stadium. That's a worthy goal, but the Bucs are currently focused on the Packers, and has shown the last two weeks that it can put itself in position to win big games on the road.
"I think the team has worked really hard to put ourselves in this position," said Brady. "Our coaches have done a great job preparing us for this moment. We've really come on strong here the last six weeks – played our best football of the year when we needed it the most. The Bye Week was really good for us – got a chance to get a little mental refresh [and] a physical refresh. Then, the team has done a great job coming together and performing and executing under pressure [with] two road playoff wins. It gives us a great opportunity to go on the road again to beat one of the great football teams in the league."