No one would mistake a 43-year-old Tom Brady for a mobile quarterback. The G.O.A.T. lopes in quicksand more than gallops away from defenders when he is flushed from the pocket.
Despite defenders knowing almost precisely where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback will be after the snap, the savvy veteran remains one of the more difficult quarterbacks to sack.
During the 2020 season, Brady took just 21 sacks, eighth-fewest among QBs with at least 300 pass attempts, per Next Gen Stats. TB12 took one fewer sack than his much younger Super Bowl counterpart, Patrick Mahomes.
Chiefs defenders know that Brady might not run away from them in Super Bowl LV, but he's elusive in his own way. Namely, the veteran QB is adept at subtle shoulder shrugs that leave pass-rushers grasping air.
"Have you ever seen Tom Brady's shoulders when he's in the pocket? You've got to pull the film up for this one," Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said, via the Tampa Bay Times. "His shoulders are crazy sometimes. Like, I don't know. Tom Brady is what, 43? I don't have anything against anybody of 43 years, or around that age.
"Man, to be able to move his shoulders like that, playing in the league for 20-, 30-something years, for him to be able to move his shoulders like that still, it's quite amazing. Me and (defensive tackle) Chris Jones talk about it all the time. I think Chris missed a sack because (Brady), like, shimmied his shoulders a certain kind of way. Chris, like, completely missed him."
Brady's ability to escape without scrambling keeps plays alive where less subtle QBs will be slammed to the surface.
Clark went so far as to compare Brady's sack-avoiding ability to one of the best escape artists in the game: Deshaun Watson.
"I think Deshaun Watson's the best," Clark said. "You watch Tom Brady sometimes in that pocket. You can't really tell the difference."
TB12's focus on the minutiae of avoiding sacks and big hits is one reason he's able to play at a high level into his 40s.
"He's been doing it for 21 years or something, so he knows how to not go down," Chiefs defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon said. "He moves his shoulders and he gets out of your way. Not the same way Pat does -- Pat is a whole different beast -- but Tom is really skilled in that pocket. So it's really (a matter of) crushing that pocket so he has nowhere to go."
Play design and Brady's pre-snap intelligence also play a significant role in avoiding sacks. Brady gets the ball out quicker than most signal-callers. In 2020, his 2.57-second time to throw was fifth-quickest in the NFL among QBs with at least 300 pass attempts, per NGS. Tampa's stellar offensive line also aids Brady well, keeping the QB's pocket clean when he needs to take a shot.
Veteran Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor said that along with getting the ball out fast, Brady's ability to step up in the pocket separates him from most QBs.
"The most difficult things about bringing him down is, one, he gets the ball out quick. In most situations, he knows where he wants to go with the ball," Okafor said.
"And two, he'll sit back 8-9 yards, and as an end you think he's going to be at that spot and you rush 8-9 yards deep and he steps up to 5 yards. And that's how he gets a lot of people to miss sacks on him. So we've got to be conscious of that, mindful of that, and put a plan in place around that."
The book on Brady has been written for years: Pressure him, particularly up the gut, to knock him off his game.
Chiefs defenders know taking down Brady on Sunday will be easier said than done.