TOM Brady could reach yet another career milestone when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon.
The 44-year-old quarterback has 598 career touchdown (TD) passes, and he could be the first quarterback in National Football League (NFL) history to reach 600. The only others to even reach 500 were Drew Brees (571), Peyton Manning (539) and Brett Favre (508).
Yet Brady is focused more on his team’s success than his individual accolades. Tampa Bay (5-1) has surged to the top of the NFC South standings and will be favored to win again as Chicago (3-3) comes to town.
The Bears’ goal is to make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket. A feisty defense led by Khalil Mack (six sacks) and Robert Quinn (5 1/2 sacks) could give Chicago a chance in a difficult road environment.
“When you get an opportunity to get back there, you have to be able to get back there hopefully fast enough to get him down because obviously, he’s known for getting the ball out of his hand quickly,” Bears linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “He doesn’t take too many sacks.
“They have a good O-line that’s blocking really well for him. If you give him a chance to stand back there and throw the ball, that’s where he lives. He’s comfortable like that.”
Brady’s top receiving option this season is Mike Evans, who has 31 catches for 420 yards and four touchdowns. Leonard Fournette leads the ground attack with 332 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians praised Fournette for a strong start.
“He’s fit in, he’s found his niche,” Arians said. “When ‘RoJo’ (Ronald Jones II) got hurt, he took over and he’s not looking back. It’s hard for ‘RoJo’ to get back out there unless (Fournette) gets hurt. It’s nice to have both of them, that’s for sure, but (Fournette) is playing really, really well.”
Meanwhile, the Bears will look to bounce back from a 24-14 home loss against the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers passed for two touchdowns and rushed for one more, and his taunts toward Chicago fans in the back of the end zone drew national attention this week.
Brady is the second straight future Hall of Famer for the Bears’ defense to focus on — and for the Chicago offense to try to keep up with.
Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields is set to make his fifth start. He has thrown for 632 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions this season while posting a 67.4 passer rating. He also has rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown.
The Bears’ top receiving targets are Darnell Mooney (25 catches, 306 yards, 1 TD) and Allen Robinson (21 catches, 234 yards, 1 TD). Rookie running back Khalil Herbert will try to stay hot after rushing for 97 yards and a touchdown while adding 15 receiving yards last week against Green Bay.
This is the second season in a row in which the teams will play each other. Chicago edged Tampa Bay for a 20-19 home victory last October, a Thursday night affair in which Brady forgot the number of downs late in the contest.
The Buccaneers are missing four starters due to injuries: tight end Rob Gronkowski (ribs), wide receiver Antonio Brown (ankle), linebacker Lavonte David (ankle), and cornerback Richard Sherman (hamstring). — Reuters