The New Orleans Saints see what everyone else sees:
Tom Brady is on top of his game.
Tampa Bay's quarterback is on pace to have the best season of a career that already is more decorated than several holidays combined. Entering Sunday's game against the Saints (4-2) in the Caesars Superdome, the 44-year-old, three-time Most Valuable Player who has been the winning quarterback for seven Super Bowls – including last season – leads the NFL in touchdown passes (21), completions (203), attempts (303) and passing yards per game (325).
And the Buccaneers (6-1) currently lead the NFC South Division, which the Saints have won each of the previous four seasons.
"Overly impressive," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "It's impressive when you watch him after a game. He looks like he's 32, not only on the field. It's really amazing.
"I know there's a ton of work that goes into that, sleep, the regimen. It's interesting, everyone will marvel at it and talk about it. There are very few in the end that are willing to do every little thing that he's willing to do to excel. It's really impressive.
"He's playing some of his best football and this will be the seventh time that I've coached against him. You don't see much difference. I remember when I was at the Giants and he was drafted by the Patriots and we had joint practices. Then, he seemed young and that was before he became the starter. He would go on and be the starter that year and win his first Super Bowl, but he seemed young then.
"Now it's rare. It's super impressive."
As impressive as Brady has been, the Saints' defense had the right formula for him twice last season. In two regular-season victories over Tampa Bay, the Saints sacked Brady six times, intercepted him five times (one returned for a touchdown), and limited him to 61 percent on his completions (45 of 74), with just two touchdowns.
But the two lopsided victories in the regular season (34-23 and 38-3) were countered by Tampa Bay's 30-20 victory in the Superdome in the divisional playoff game. New Orleans committed four turnovers, and didn't force any in the loss.
"I don't know if we had any takeaways on our end (in the playoff game)," safety Marcus Williams said. "So we got to do better at getting takeaways in the back end and on defense and that will turn the game around a little bit."
"That seems like 10 years ago," Payton said. "It's just a long time, two games that were totally different. We had the first game of the regular season, Covid, Tom Brady (debut with Tampa Bay) game, where they were obviously a much different team.
"Then we had a couple of hard-fought games. We got ahead on the Sunday night game in Tampa (38-3 victory) and then the playoff game, we were just going through that. There's a stretch there, they do a great job of turning the ball over (forcing turnovers). (Safety Antoine) Winfield (Jr.) makes a great play on (tight end) Jared Cook, we're kind of moving in with a chance to go up by 10 or 14. That kind of flipped the game around.
"Overall, it was a hard-fought game. It was a division opponent, right now it's someone we see as who has played at a really, really good level."
Brady, perhaps, especially.
"They're a high powered offense," Williams said. "They get the ball down the field. They like take the shots, very explosive. So we just got to stay to our keys and lock in and eliminate those explosive (plays) and do what we got to do."