As two of the greatest of the greats – Tom Brady and Drew Brees – defy logic with their continued elite play, history is seemingly made every time they take the field.
When the two history-makers and record-setters collide on this season-opening Sunday, records will fall once more in what will truly be a clash of champions and battle for the ages.
“It makes me remember back to 1999 when we played against each other in college,” Brees said this week, via the team website. “The (Purdue) Boilermakers traveled up to the Big House (Michigan Stadium). Unfortunately, that one didn’t end too well for us, but I think, little did we know, we would have the opportunities that we’ve had in the NFL.
“I’m sure I speak for both of us when I say that, I think we both pinch ourselves, the blessing and the opportunity to be able to play this long, play for so many great teams and with so many great players.”
How special will this bout be historically?
Well, it will be the first matchup since at least 1950 between the top two all-time leaders in passing touchdowns and the fourth between the top two all-time leaders in passing yards (the previous outings involved Hall of Famers Dan Marino and John Elway and Norm Van Brocklin and Bobby Layne twice with the home QB winning each time), per NFL Research.
Tom Brady (43) & Drew Brees (41) will meet Sunday in the first matchup in NFL history between 2 starting QBs age 40+
To no surprise, Brees (18) & Brady (17) rank in the Top 3 among QBs in Wk 1 starts
Brees (39) has the most pass TDs ever in Wk 1, with Brady in a close 2nd (37)
As soon as Brees plays a down on Sunday, he’ll hit an NFL milestone as the 20th player in NFL chronicle to play 20 or more seasons, per NFL Research. And there’s also the fact that with each positive passing yard, he’ll set a new all-time NFL standard.
The 41-year-young Brees is the all-time leader in passing yards at 77,416 and passing touchdowns at 547.
It’s not inconceivable that the 43-year-young Brady could catch Brees at some point during the season to take the top spot for career TD passes and that the two new NFC South rivals could even trade it back and forth. Brady’s current tally of 541 career scoring strikes is second all-time. His 74,571 yards are a bit further behind, but he’s still within a game or two of becoming just the second quarterback in league lore to hit 75,000 as Brees zeroes in on becoming the first to hit 80,000.
Brees will now accompany Brady as the only two quarterbacks to have played 20 or more seasons with two or fewer teams.
More history could come by game’s end if Brees has a big day against the Bucs as his next outing with three or more touchdown throws will be his 94th, breaking a tie with Peyton Manning for the most all-time. He can also pass Manning if he has a passer rating of 125 or better as they’ve each had 50 such games.
Statistical splendor and records aplenty will be a weekly occurrence for Brees and Brady going forward, but this one’s special as it kicks off the 2020 campaign and Brady’s first south of Boston.
“One thing that strikes me is that he doesn’t look like he’s any older,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said Friday, via team transcript. “Actually, his arm looks stronger than what we saw last year on tape. His work ethic is just unbelievable and we keep saying this word, but he sets such a high standard that you find out if guys can keep up with it or if they’re not quite ready. I think everybody on this team wants to reach that standard. You’ve got some young guys that are learning on the fly here. But, it’s something – I think we said this when we signed him – that whenever he’s done, let’s say five years from now, that standard will remain with this team.”
Indeed, the two continue to defy age, build upon all-time numbers and bust records.
A battle for the ages lies ahead Sunday, as Brees and Brady will become the fifth set of signal-callers to square off in three decades.
Brady and Brees are the two eldest players in all the NFL land and Sunday will see the very first NFL meeting between starting quarterbacks who are 40 or older.
They will clash on Sunday with 151,987 combined passing yards, 1,088 passing touchdowns, 27 Pro Bowls, 382 regular season victories and seven Super Bowl wins ahead of kickoff.
Perhaps they’re each beginning the final seasons of their historic careers. Perhaps they’re each going to play for autumns to come. But on Sunday, two of the finest quarterbacks to have ever taken the field will face each other and years from now we’ll be able to look back and say we were privileged to have seen them play.
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