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Tom Brady ready to live up to expectations at Wembley, as Tampa Bay fear the worst

The third iteration of the NFL’s experiment abroad continues on Sunday as another two teams venture to London for the International Series. 86,000 fans will be looking to one person — Tom Brady…

Focus of attention: Tom Brady will face a bunch of expectations from the UK crowd

Focus of attention: New England Patriots main man Tom Brady will face a bunch of expectations from the UK crowd

Tom Brady is coming off the back of one of the best weeks of his career as his New England Patriots travel to the country that resides in their name to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brady threw a franchise record five touchdown passes in the second quarter (six overall) of the Patriot’s 59-0 win over the Tennessee Titans, before being withdrawn in the third quarter with a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

Now he gets to fly across the Atlantic and show off his talent to a different, equally appreciative audience.

“I think this is a game we’ve been looking forward to since we heard we’d be flying across the Atlantic to play,” Brady said in an interview on Tuesday.

“It’s not often we fly east to play a game and to play in Wembley Stadium will be great – it’s as historic a stadium as there is in the entire world and all our team is very excited about that.

“This will be a game we’ll all remember for the next 40 or 50 years of our life so we just want to go out there and play at our best.”

Brady and Indianapolis Colts No. 18 Peyton Manning might be widely considered as the two greatest quarterbacks in the modern game, but Brady will have to perform at his illustrious best if he is to impress an English audience that witnessed two other fine exponents of the position last season.

In 2008, the Wembley crowd were treated to a real spectacle of quarterback play as the New Orleans Saints won a 37-32 shootout against the San Diego Chargers. Saints QB Drew Brees completed 30 of 41 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns, another stellar performance in a season where he fell agonizingly short of Dan Marino’s all-time passing record.

Chargers QB, Philip Rivers, actually threw for two yards further than Brees (the man he replaced at the Qualcomm Stadium), although his 62.5% completion rate (25/41) was markedly poorer than his opposite number and while he equalled Brees’ record of touchdowns, he also threw a crucial interception that turned the game’s balance in favour of the nominal ‘home’ side.

Tampa Bay, however, look unlikely to be able to keep the game as close this time around. The team (owned by the Glazers — who also own Manchester United) are winless this season, a situation that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.

And while the Patriots will have one of the game’s all-time greats under centre on Sunday, the Buccaneers are in the middle of something of a QB crisis.

Wembley wait: Freeman won't start in London, but his chance will come

Wembley wait: Freeman won't start in London, but his chance will come

Youngster Josh Johnson currently holds the starting job, after veteran Byron Leftwich was benched earlier in the season. The 23-year-old has a career passer rating of 62.2, and few experts expect the 2008 fifth round pick to keep his role for too much longer.

With a bye week upcoming in which the side will be able to lick their wounds, it is widely expected that the organisation’s first round draft pick in 2009, Josh Freeman, will start when the team return to action in Week 8.

Freeman, a 6’6” 20-year-old, is the hope of the future — if not right now:

“Josh Freeman’s got to wait his turn,” head coach Raheem Morris said this week.

“His development is really going well. Josh Johnson, however, has been here for a year. He’s been here for the 6 o’clock meetings in the morning for a year; he’s been with Greg Olson [offensive coordinator] for a year; he’s been through these protections for a year.

“He’s been through all that. Freeman’s going through that process.”

The game at Wembley is likely to evoke mixed feelings among the Bucs staff. The game is officially a home match for them, meaning they lose a game at the Raymond James Stadium.

But the 86,000 that will be turn out in North West London will be almost double the usual attendance the Bucs receive — they have struggled to fill their 65,000 seater stadium in recent times. But it is likely the great majority of the fans in attendance will be their to support the Patriots, and will want to see a big game.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, however, will be hoping the Bucs can at least keep the scoreline competitive. Last season’s high scoring affair was a much greater success than the New York Giants dull 13-10 defeat of the Miami Dolphins in the first game abroad, and fans will want the excitement levels to remain high if they are to keep returning in future years.

Perhaps all that can save the Bucs from another embarrassing defeat is a reoccurrence of the injury to Tom Brady that forced him to miss all but the first game of the 2008 season. But Brady doesn’t think that is likely:

“I really don’t have any concerns about my knee, I’ve played in 10 or 11 games since my injury, my leg feels really strong and I’ve spent a lot of time on the practice field getting back into the rhythm of playing,” he said.

Full house: The UK appetite for American football does not appear to be fading

Full house: The UK appetite for American football does not appear to be fading

And he’s excited about playing in England:

“I’ve heard great things about this stadium. It’s a soccer field so I guess it’s pretty flat. The grass is a little bit longer so hopefully it’ll slow down the Tampa pass rush, that’s what I’m hoping.

“It looks an incredible stadium, I’ve seen it on TV as I watch a lot of European soccer, so I’m looking forward to getting there and winning this weekend.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a great experience for all of our players.”

Tom Brady decimates the Tennessee Titans:

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October 21, 2009 - Posted by | NFL | , , ,

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