Greg M. Cooper –– USA Today Sports

Brady and Rodgers both showed their declines in identical fashion Sunday

Alex Reimer
December 17, 2018 - 12:41 pm

On Sunday, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers were both playing rivals whom they’ve destroyed throughout their Hall of Fame careers. As we know, Brady has always dominated the Steelers’ zone defense, winning eight of 10 match ups with 25 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. His numbers against Mike Tomlin are even better, as TB12 totaled 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns in eight games against the current Steelers head coach heading into the weekend. 

Rodgers’ Packers, meanwhile, were taking on the Bears, who have never been able to stop Green Bay’s No. 12. Rodgers was 16-4 in his career against Chicago with 45 touchdowns and 10 picks. 

But this weekend, the results bucked history. Neither all-time great could duplicate his past success in games that embody their disappointing seasons. The Packers are now officially eliminated from the playoffs, and the Patriots have lost their grip on the No. 2 seed. Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have never advanced to the Super Bowl without a first-round bye.

Heading into the Patriots’ Week 9 showdown against the Packers, the airwaves were filled with banal debates about whether Brady or Rodgers was the true GOAT. The two quarterbacks will always be linked, so it makes sense their declines were most apparent during identical scenarios on the same day. 

Late in the fourth quarter, each quarterback possessed multiple chances to bring their teams back and erase an afternoon’s worth of mistakes. They could not do it.

For the second straight week, Brady committed an inexcusable error in the red zone. His fourth quarter heave towards Julian Edelman was his first red zone interception in two years, and let the Steelers off the hook following Ben Roethlisberger’s second pick of the game. 

Brady’s pass had no chance of getting completed. After the game, he said he was trying to throw the ball away.

Despite that –– and 14 penalties, three drops, a defense that couldn’t stop Jaylen Samuels, and an invisible Gronk –– Brady was in position to lead one of his patented two-minute drills and tie the game. He got the ball all the way to the Pittsburgh 11-yard line, but then Shaq Mason was called for holding. The next three passes were hopeless hurls into the end zone, and on a 3rd-and-15 throw to nobody, James White was open in the flat.

He had lots of room to run.

It was an uncharacteristic poor decision for Brady, who seemed fixated on just two players –– Gronkowski and Edelman –– with home field advantage on the line. TB12’s last throw of the game was also off-balance, even though nobody was pressuring him. It was an apparent sign the Pittsburgh pass-rush had wrecked his rhythm.

Rodgers, meanwhile, was tormented all afternoon long against the Bears, taking five sacks –– including one from Khalil Mack’s booty. Rodgers has been sacked 44 times this season, which is fifth among all QBs. 

Though Rodgers can still extend plays better than almost anybody, it seems like he becomes overwhelmed with pressure. That was the case on the Bears’ nine-yard line late in the fourth quarter Sunday, when he rushed two throws that fell incomplete. Then Rodgers threw an interception to Eddie Jackson. The ball bounced off Jimmy Graham’s hands, but he was covered tightly on the play. 

Just like that, the Packers’ comeback chances faded. Brady and Rodgers are still good quarterbacks –– they both have QB ratings hovering around 97 –– but the magic is seemingly gone. 

Look no further than their duds on Sunday.