Tom Brady is eyeing back-to-back Super Bowl crowns and it comes as no surprise that he is the last quarterback to do it.
The 44-year-old Brady begins his pursuit of Super Bowl ring No. 8 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night in the opening game of the NFL season. Dallas has won 15 of their 19 regular-season meetings, including a 27-20 home win in 2018.
The Buccaneers easily handled the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in last season’s Super Bowl to set up Brady with a chance for another repeat. His New England Patriots teams won consecutive titles in the 2003 and 2004 seasons — against the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively.
The biggest task in Brady’s eyes is making sure to avoid complacency.
“I think that’s what you’ve got to guard against,” Brady told the Tampa Bay Times. “You can’t think that ‘Oh, it’s just going to go the way it went (last) year, so we already know what to expect, so let’s just play with the same level of effort.’
“My only point is we know what to expect. But it’s not like we won 20 games last year. We won 15. We were 15-5 (counting the postseason). It’s not like we were undefeated, and we were blowing teams out.”
Brady passed for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns in his first season in Bruce Arians’ offense after spending 20 seasons with the Patriots.
Meanwhile, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be back on the field for the first time since sustaining a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle almost 11 months ago against the New York Giants.
Prescott has also been dealing with a strained throwing shoulder, an injury that occurred in practice on July 28. He was a full practice participant on Monday and is in no danger of missing the game.
He’s pretty eager for kickoff to arrive.
“I’m just excited for that moment, just to get it out of the way, after 11 months without being hit,” Prescott told reporters. “I’m just excited for everything this game entails, from warmups, to pregame, to the first whistle to the last and everything in between.”
Prescott was off to a superb start prior to the gruesome injury. He passed for 1,856 yards and nine touchdowns in less than five games and said he is expecting similar production.
“Obviously, I have high expectations for myself,” Prescott said. “I plan to come out starting fast. I’ve said before, I don’t necessarily want the numbers that I had that early because we weren’t winning games and we weren’t being competitive early, and that’s why some of those numbers came about. I plan to come out better than I was last year, to be honest.”
Dallas struggled to a 6-10 record in 2020 and missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
One key player Prescott will be missing Thursday is six-time Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin, who was placed on the COVID-19 list after a positive test. Second-year pro Connor McGovern will start in Martin’s place.
Tampa Bay ruled out safety Jordan Whitehead (hamstring) on Tuesday. Arians said everybody else is “ready to roll.”
Arians, similar to Brady, isn’t concerned about his players being full of themselves after the Super Bowl title.
“I don’t think so. Our team knows it’s about winning,” Arians said. “It’s not about individual stats, it’s not about fantasy leagues. It’s just about winning ballgames and winning championships. So that part of it is really, really easy.”
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