Tom Brady, fresh off a record-extending seventh Super Bowl title, led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an opening day victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an opening day win over the Dallas Cowboys to kick the 2021 NFL season off in style.
It was Brady’s 300th regular season start, which is another NFL record held by the quarterback simply known as the ‘GOAT’ – the greatest of all time.
On September 30, it will officially be the 20th anniversary of Brady’s first NFL start – and BBC analyst and two-time Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora heaped praise on the three-time MVP.
“I think anytime you talk about a player performing at the highest level of football for 19 years, it really is unprecedented,” Umenyiora said. “It is something we haven’t seen before and quite frankly, I don’t think we’re ever going to see something like this again.
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“He moved teams – a lot of people thought it was all about New England and Bill Belichick – but he has absolutely obliterated that narrative.
“He has shown that he is, in fact, the GOAT quarterback and probably the best overall football player we’ve seen because the quarterback position is the hardest position in sports.
“All credit to him. His longevity, his achievements – he really is the best football player we’ve seen.”
Jason Bell agreed and insisted that while Brady performs to the highest level on the field, it his day-to-day attitude off the pitch that is truly awe-inspiring.
“As a former player, I just think of all the sacrifice and dedication that he puts in every year to get himself out there – stay healthy, stay accountable to his team-mates, and stay motivated,” Bell, who was signed by the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2001, added. “That’s so difficult.
“I think that’s the genius of what we’re seeing, somebody who every year can motivate himself like that, and obviously play longer than I have.
“It’s hard to get motivated. It’s hard to go out there and get yourself prepared – but he does that, and he does it so well. That’s why we’re witnessing greatness.”
In the pulsating 31-29 win over the Cowboys, Brady somehow looked as good as he has ever been, magically dicing the Dallas defence for 379 yards and four touchdowns.
He threw two interceptions – one from a pass that bounced out of his team-mate’s hands into the clutches of Trevon Diggs and the other from a Hail Mary – but the 44-year-old starred and ultimately drove the Bucs downfield to kick the winning field goal with seconds remaining.
The performance of the seven-time Super Bowl champion against Dallas comes in the wake of his comments suggesting it is easier to play offence now than in the past due to officiating.
While both Umenyiora and Bell agreed, they also suggested the evolved rules have contributed to his greatness.
“[Brady] is right in quite a few of the things he has said in terms of the way the game is being officiated,” Umenyiora stated.
“It makes it really difficult for a defensive player to actually make plays and do the things we are accustomed to doing – but on the other hand, it is mighty rich of him to be saying that now when he’s at the end of his career and getting protected!
“He just doesn’t want to see other people break his records so he’s like ‘no, let’s do things the other way!’
“He has benefitted from these rules tremendously – the reason why he is still playing is because of these rules, so I don’t think he should be saying those things now.
“Is he correct? Absolutely, but still.”
Bell added: “He’s been around so long, he can say how things used to be and how he’s got a problem with how they are now, so it’s his longevity that he can blame it on. But what he’s saying is correct.”
Brady and the Bucs are the defending Super Bowl champions after their dominant 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, and they will be back in action on September 19 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys will look to bounce back from their narrow defeat to Tampa Bay against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The NFL season is here. Watch Osi Umenyiora and Jason Bell alongside Dan Walker on The NFL Show every Saturday evening on BBC One. Also find Osi Umenyiora and Jason Bell on NFL This Week every Tuesday on BBC Two.