Super Bowl 2021: What’s it like to face Tom Brady? Osi Umenyiora, Tyrann Mathieu, JJ Watt and others on playing against the NFL icon

Tom Brady is the undisputed GOAT of the NFL and up there with the best sportsmen in history.
At 43 years old, he returns for his tenth Super Bowl and hoping to add to the six rings he collected with the New England Patriots over the last 20 years.
Brady is playing in his tenth Super BowlGetty Images – Getty
Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year in a move that sent shockwaves through the sport.
The greatest quarterback ever playing for a different team seem inconceivable and there were plenty of risks for the man well into his 40s.
Any doubters were well and truly silenced as he reached Super Bowl 55 to face the defending champions the Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa’s home stadium.
Brady entered the league as the 199th pick in the 2001 draft and has gone on to have dozens of NFL records in both the regular season and the play-offs.
But what’s it like to play against Tom Brady? Here, talkSPORT.com, looks at what some of the best in the game have said about facing the great man.
Brady quit the Patriots after 20 yearsGetty Images – Getty
Osi Umenyiora
One man who knows a thing or two about playing, and beating, him is former New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
Umenyiora was part of the Giants team that beat Brady in the 2008 and 2012 Super Bowls.
The 2008 edition was of particular note as it stopped the Patriots from being undefeated that season.
Umenyiora caught up with Brady this week ahead of Super Bowl 55 and the quarterback had not forgotten.
“My guy! I’m happy I’m not playing you this weekend,” Brady said.
“That 2007 year was one of my least favourite football memories, just so you know. I had a lot of you on top of me with grass stains on my back.
“You guys had a great defence and deserved to win on that day.”
Osi Umenyiora won two Super Bowls with the New York GiantsGetty – Contributor
Umenyiora caught up with talkSPORT 2 this week and reflected on that Super Bowl and coming up against Brady.
“That was my first time actually having a conversation with Tom about football in any kind of fashion,” the two-time Super Bowl champion said. “We’ve acknowledged each other on the football field but that was my first time speaking to him.
“Hearing some of the things he said and talk to him and see where his mind was and that he still thinks about what we were able to do in 2007. 
“It really was an incredible experience for me, just having the opportunity to have a discussion with the greatest quarterback and the greatest football player we’ve ever seen.”
When asked about how the Giants stopped Brady in that first encounter, Umenyiora said: “It wasn’t that much of a scheme. On that particular day you had Michael Strahan, who is a hall of fame player, you had Justin Tuck coming in as one of the best defensive linemen in football and I was a Pro Bowl, All-Pro player coming off the other side. 
“We just had superior players on that defensive line.
“All Steve Spagnuolo said, he threw in a couple of blitzes there, but he wanted to get him to hold that ball by mixing up our coverage to make him maybe not see things as clearly as he normally did.
“It did play out that way.”

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“I’m happy I’m not playing you this weekend”@OsiUmenyiora brought back bad memories for @TomBrady #SBLV pic.twitter.com/iOY9I0M2vx
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) February 2, 2021

Brady just keeps going in the NFL and threw for 40 touchdowns this season, which was a Buccaneers franchise record.
When asked about Brady’s season, Umenyiora said: “It’s incredible. It was 13 years ago but 13 years ago he had been in the NFL 10 years at the time. 
“The fact that he’s playing at a high level, threw for 40 touchdowns this year, had one of his best statistical seasons, at the age of 43, it’s really magnificent what this guy is able to do given the fact he moved to a different team, there was no pre-season, no off-season and he’s still able to perform with a new team, new coaching staff at this level.”
Osi Umenyiora is 888sport’s official NFL ambassador. Get his inside track on what it means to be a Super Bowl winner here.
888sport is the NFL’s official sports betting partner in the UK and Ireland – find hundreds of Super Bowl LV betting markets at 888sport.com
Tyrann Mathieu
The safety will be facing Brady in this year’s Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs and is no stranger to facing the quarterback.
Mathieu said in the build-up to Super Bowl 55: “I think most people look at him and say to themselves he’s not this great athlete at quarterback. One of the things that separates him is his competitive edge.
“You can look him in his eye, he has fire in his eye. He always feels like he has the chance to win the game for his team.
“You talk about the poise and keeping your calm and keeping your cool. I probably say he’s one of the best at really holding that in and letting it go at the right time.
“We’ve got to be ready to play for quarters with Tom Brady, even beyond. That competitive edge and drive to still be great, 20 years later, multiple Super Bowls later, I probably say he’s different than any other athlete I’ve seen.
“Most guys win and get comfortable. Most guys win and showboat but Tom Brady seems to win and go back to work. That’s the good thing about him.”
Tyrann Mathieu comes up against Brady this weekendGetty Images – Getty
J.J. Watt
Watt is a three-time defensive player of the year and has had many a good battle with Brady while at the Houston Texans.
Speaking in 2018, while Brady was still with the Patriots and Bill Belichick, Watt said: “I mean, obviously you’re facing the best quarterback of all time and possibly the best coach of all time. 
“I mean, they’re incredible and everything that they’ve accomplished in their career speaks for itself. They’ve obviously done some phenomenal things and they deserve all the praise and the accolades that they get because of what they’ve accomplished. So you’re facing that. 
“You’re facing guys with a ton of experience, a ton of knowledge, a lot of skill, a lot of talent and who work very hard. 
“It’s always a good challenge and so for us to open up the season against a team like that and a player like Tom, it’s a great challenge right out the gate.
“He’s very comfortable back there. I mean he knows what he’s doing, he knows – his o-linemen know where he’s going to be, he knows how to shuffle around and slide around to get into the open spot. 
“I think he has a great relationship with his o-line in that matter where they know where he wants to set up and he knows where he wants to set up and if he needs to make an adjustment he can.
“But I think that’s one of his – definitely one of his strengths is his ability to move around, find the open window, find the open space and get the ball out quick as well. I mean he’s been very good at that his whole career.”
J.J. Watt has a lot of respect for BradyGetty Images – Getty
Richard Sherman
Sherman was part of the Seattle Seahawks’ much feared legion of boom and lost to Brady in the 2015 Super Bowl.
Last year, Sherman said: “He’s much more intense throughout the play than most quarterbacks,” Sherman explained. “Like, I’d say A-Rod (Aaron Rodgers) is pretty calm and confident and pretty carefree, but Tom has an intense intensity about his reads and a sense of urgency, like you can feel that he knows the timing.
“It’s almost like a franticness about his play sometimes, where it’s like, ‘I need to get this ball out, I know where it’s going.’ It’s almost like he’s like, ‘hurry up and get there, hurry up and get that ball.’ It’s almost like the game is moving slow, so slow in his mind that it’s like his mind fast forwarded to the spot where the guy should be, the moment the ball should be out, and the guy isn’t there yet and he has to wait for him.
“But that’s why the mistakes he makes, it is more of anticipation and something crazy, like somebody broke in a way that he couldn’t have foreseen or he tried to throw it blind or something to that nature.”
Richard Sherman lost to Brady in the Super BowlGetty Images – Getty
Aaron Donald
Brady paid Donald a huge compliment during this season saying the LA Rams star was one of the best to ever play the game.
The 43-year-old beat the Rams in the 2019 Super Bowl for his sixth ring.
“Aaron Donald is as good as there is to probably ever play in the National Football League on the D-line,” Brady said.
“He’s an incredible player, explosive, quick, powerful. It’s amazing the production he has even when people are double-teaming him and triple-teaming him but he never lets down. He’s a hard-working guy, you can tell football means a lot to him.
When speaking about Brady in 2019, Donald said: “”You have to be smart when playing a quarterback like that.
“He’s not going to let you get a clean hit on him.”
Aaron Donald received praise from Tom Brady last year for being one of the best everGetty Images – Getty

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