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In a showdown between two aging NFL legends, Tom Brady got the best of Drew Brees. But even the six-time Super Bowl champion would have to admit he didn’t put together a vintage performance on Sunday.

Still, Brady can at least say he showed up at the Superdome.

The same cannot be said, however, of his counterpart.

Instead of rising to the occasion to help the New Orleans Saints exorcise their playoff demons, Brees pulled a disappearing act at the worst possible moment. And thanks to the Saints having the ghost of No. 9 under center, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially owe their 43-year-old quarterback $1.25 million.

Tom Brady has proven he’s far from finished

When Tom Brady signed at two-year, $50 million contract with the Buccaneers, many questioned whether he would live up to that deal. But in his age-43 season, the four-time Super Bowl MVP put up better numbers than he did during his prime with the Patriots.

Brady completed 65.7% of his passes for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns while leading Tampa to an 11-5 regular-season record. Prior to 2020, he had only topped 39 touchdowns once during his decorated career. In 2007, Brady threw 50 while leading the Patriots to a 16-0 regular-season record.

Although he certainly had some forgettable performances during his first 16 starts as a Buccaneer, the future Hall of Famer helped Tampa secure its first playoff berth since the year Eli Manning and David Tyree prevented the Patriots from completing a perfect season.

In his first playoff appearance without Bill Belichick, Brady completed 55% of his passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-23 win against the Washington Football Team. Though the victory didn’t exactly cement the Buccaneers as a Super Bowl favorite, it put them one step closer to representing the NFC in the annual showdown for the Lombardi Trophy.

Drew Brees saved his worst for last

In what was likely the final game of his own Hall of Fame-worthy career, Drew Brees looked like someone who should have retired years ago. The Saints QB completed just 55.9% of his attempts for a measly 134 yards in a 30-20 loss to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Brees actually averaged fewer yards per attempt (3.9) than Alvin Kamara did on his game-high 18 carries (4.72).

Although he avoided throwing an interception against Washington, Brees had thrown at least one pick in each of his previous five playoff starts. And on Sunday, his penchant for turning the ball over in the postseason derailed the Saints.

The 42-year-old got picked off on consecutive possessions late in the fourth quarter to end New Orleans’ dreams of making it to Super Bowl 55. Brees’ nightmare final outing included a quarterback rating of 38.1. In 17 previous postseason games, his lowest rating was 75.7.

Thanks to the ghost of No. 9 throwing away the game, the Saints will watch the Super Bowl from home yet again. And while the Buccaneers certainly won’t complain about earning a spot in the NFC Championship, their victory did come at a cost.

The Buccaneers owe Brady $1.25 million thanks to the Saints legend’s disappearing act


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Tom Brady only needs one more victory to put himself in a position to win his seventh Super Bowl ring. And if the Buccaneers do earn the right to represent the NFC, that’ll only increase the amount of money they owe the greatest quarterback of all time.

For now, though, the bill stands at a cool $1.25 million thanks to the ghost of Drew Brees showing up for the Saints.

After earning a $500,000 bonus simply for getting the Bucs to the playoffs, Brady added another $250,000 to his tab once Tampa defeated Washington in the wild-card round.

Already on the hook for $750,000 due to the playoff incentives in his contract, the Buccaneers watched that figure nearly double thanks to Brees literally throwing away the game late in the fourth quarter.

On a day where Brady didn’t live up to expectations either, he got bailed out by an absolutely horrific performance by a quarterback who will absolutely get inducted into Canton on his first try.

By “leading” the Buccaneers to a divisional-round win, Brady earned a $500,000 incentive. Tampa now owes him $1.25 million, but that figure will rise to $2.25 million if the GOAT ends up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy inside Raymond James Stadium next month.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.