EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Coming out of Rutgers as a third-round draft pick in 2013, defensive back Logan Ryan vividly recalls his first on-field workout with the New England Patriots.
It was an organized team activity and players were wearing blue or gray T-shirts. Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t have anyone wearing numbers.
Ryan remembered playing with the starters on defense and a receiver slipped on a curl route. As the player fell to the turf, Tom Brady released a pass. It landed in Ryan’s waiting arms.
It was an unfortunate slip. Blame it on the receiver.
Brady didn’t see it that way.
“I pick-6 him in like May or something and he takes his helmet off and breaks it on the ground in OTAs,” Ryan said. “That’s just a story that sticks out because it was my rookie year and I was kind of getting drafted to the New England Patriots – it was like the Chicago Bulls, it was like the show. It was competitive in practice, every day. He wanted to win every one on one. That’s why he is who he is and that’s why it’s fun to play against him.”
That’s Brady, though. He’s the best quarterback in football and he hates to lose at anything. It’s why he is the only NFL player to win seven Super Bowls, including the last one with Tampa Bay.
That’s makes the task for the Giants (3-6) so tough on Monday night in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers (6-3) have lost two straight games.
Since becoming the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2001, Brady has never lost more than four games in a row. That was in 2002.
The Giants had a shot at beating Brady last season in a Monday night game at MetLife Stadium. New York led 14-6 at the half and lost 25-23.
What the Giants did well in the opening half was disguise their defenses. They would show Brady one formation pre-snap and then play something else. Brady figured it out at halftime.
“Tom’s going to figure it out,” said Giants defensive coordinator Pat Graham, who spent five seasons on the Patriots’ staff with Brady.
Graham has looked at last year’s game against the Bucs to see what worked, what didn’t. He’ll incorporate some things into the game plan for this week.
Graham said Brady probably will not be any more motivated having lost two in a row.
“I don’t know anybody that’s more competitive, more serious about the game and, on top of that, he’s a great person,” Graham said. “I mean, if they won by 20 touchdowns or if they lost, it doesn’t matter. If he’s playing the New York Giants on Monday night, that’s where his focus is, and it’s laser focus. If you had a chance to be around him, it’s laser focus, truly.”
Ryan left New England after the 2016 season and played against Brady with the Titans for three seasons. He has spent the last two with the Giants.
His advice for his fellow defensive backs is not to let Brady look into their eyes.
“He studies everybody really well, he knows players’ tendencies, he has tips and tells out there that are just minute details,” Ryan said. “All the little things matter, which way you look pre-snap, your mannerisms in man versus zone. I mean, the littlest thing. I talk about disguise every week, but it’s important this week that our [guys] know how to disguise it, our D-ends make sure to disguise. A linebacker can tip the whole defense and we might not have noticed that until we play Tom Brady, so every little nuance is something that he can pick up on.”
While it sounds hard to beat, the Giants can hopes Brady’s receivers slip and fall a couple of times so Ryan and his buddies can take advantage.
It might even get Brady to break his helmet again.
NOTES: RB Saquon Barkley, who has missed the last four games with an ankle injury, was limited in practice Thursday. ... Four players did not practice: WR Sterling Shepard (quad), TE Kaden Smith (knee), LB Lorenzo Carter (illness/ankle) and S Nate Ebner. ... PK Graham Gano worked out after missing Wednesday with a stomach bug. ... If LT Andrew Thomas returns from IR on Monday, coach Joe Judge said all his tackles — Nate Solder and Matt Peart — would see action in the game to keep everyone fresh.