Tom Brady's first game as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer didn't end in a victory, but it did begin with a milestone that was more than two decades in the making.
The only six-time Super Bowl champion in league history, Brady came to the Buccaneers in 2020 after 20 years and 285 regular-season games with the New England Patriots. Since the Patriots made the postseason in 17 of his 19 years as a starter, he also has 41 career postseason games played. Those 326 combined regular-season and postseason games had put Brady into a tie for the most by a quarterback in NFL history, and when he took his first snap in the Louisiana Superdome on Sunday he moved ahead of Brett Favre to his own spot at the top of the list with 327.
The Buccaneers' 34-23 loss to open the 2020 season featured a matchup between Brady and the Saints' Drew Brees, two quarterbacks still going strong in their 40s and adding to their incredible career numbers. Both players tossed a pair of quarterback passes, with Brady recording 239 passing yards to Brees's 160. Brees and Brady are first and second all-time in those two categories.
Most Passing Yards, NFL History
Most Touchdown Passes, NFL History
Brady's first touchdown as a Buccaneer wasn't a pass but his own two-yard sneak to complete an 85-yard touchdown drive on the team's first possession of the season. It was Brady's 23rd career rushing touchdown and his sixth in his last 33 games. Brady became the first quarterback to account for three total touchdowns in his Buccaneers debut.
Most Total Touchdowns, QB, Buccaneers Debut
Brady's first Buccaneer touchdown pass was caught by tight end O.J. Howard, a nine-yard connection to end a 75-yard drive in the third quarter. His second scoring connection was with wide receiver Mike Evans, who hauled in a two-yard pass in the left corner of the end zone in the fourth quarter. That was the 49th touchdown catch of Evans' career, extending his franchise record in that category. Evans also has the third-most TD receptions of any NFL player since he entered the NFL in 2014.
Most Touchdown Receptions, NFL, 2014-20
On defense, the Buccaneers had a pair of double-digit tacklers in Sunday's game, with inside linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White each making 11 stops to help hold the Saints to 270 yards of total offense. That was the 35th time in 122 career games that David has reached double digits in tackles, while White hit that mark for the third time in 14 NFL outings. David's 35 games with 10 or more tackles are the most by any NFL player since he entred the league in 2012.
Most Games with 10+ Tackles, NFL, 2012-20
Two of David's 11 stops came behind the line of scrimmage, which increased his career total to 118 tackles for loss. Few defenders can match David in this category, and the only ones in the same range are edge rushers with high sack totals. Sacks are also counted as tackles for loss. Of the top 10 players in tackles for loss since David entered the league in 2012, only David has fewer than 60 sacks.
Most Tackles for Loss, NFL, 2012-20
|Michael Bennett||Five Teams*||116||63.5|
|Calais Campbell||Three Teams*||115||67.0|
(* Bennett retired in 2020 after playing for the Buccaneers, Seahawks, Eagles, Patriots and Cowboys. Campbell is now with the Ravens after previously playing for the Cardinals and Jaguars.)
Jason Pierre-Paul recorded the Buccaneers' first sack of the 2020 season with a nine-yard takedown of Drew Brees in the third quarter, forcing a Saints punt. That increased Pierre-Paul's career total to 80.5 which are the 12th-most by any player since he entered the league in 2010. He has now compiled 22.0 sacks in just 27 games as a Buccaneer since coming over in a trade in the 2018 offseason. Only two players in franchise history have had more quarterback sacks in their first 27 games as a Buccaneer than Pierre-Paul, and one of them is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Most QB Sacks, First 27 Games as a Buccaneer
|Lee Roy Selmon||1976-78||24.0|
(* Seasons in which the player's first 27 games as a Buccaneer took place. ** Barrett has only played in 17 career games with Tampa Bay.)
Though Tampa Bay's defense didn't record any other sacks and finished with just three quarterback hits in Sunday's game, the secondary still held Brees well below his typical passing numbers. His 60.0% completion rate (18 of 30) was his lowest in a game since Sept. 30, 2018, when he completed 18 of 32 passes against the Giants. And his 160 gross passing yards were his fifth lowest in a game in which he threw at least 10 passes in his 15 years as a Saint.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas who set an NFL record with 149 receptions in 2019 and led the NFL with 1,725 receiving yards, was also held far below his usual game-ending totals. With cornerback Carlton Davis primarily in coverage throughout the game, Thomas hauled in three passes for 17 yards. That tied for the fewest catches Thomas has had in a game over the course of 64 outings from 2016-18. Thomas's 17 yards mark just the second time in his career he's been held below 20 yards in a game.
Fewest Receiving Yards in a Game, Michael Thomas, Career
- O.J. Howard's nine-yard score in the third quarter made him the 22nd different tight end to catch a touchdown pass from Tom Brady. It was Howard's 13th career touchdown.
- Second-year WR Scotty Miller set single-game career highs on Sunday with five receptions and 73 receiving yards.
- Three Buccaneer rookies made their NFL debuts on Sunday: OLB Quinton Bell, S Antoine Winfield, Jr. and T Tristan Wirfs. Five other veteran players saw action as a Buccaneer for the first time: QB Tom Brady, RB Leonard Fournette, TE Rob Gronkowski, RB LeSean McCoy and K Ryan Succop. Succop is the ninth different opening-day kicker the Buccaneers have had in the last nine seasons.