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Rick Stroud: Tom Brady isn't the same quarterback. He's better.

Rick Stroud: Tom Brady isn't the same quarterback. He's better.

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The fear was that he may not be the same quarterback, and now we know that's true. Perhaps it was unrealistic to think that at age 43 he could have the kind of production he enjoyed for most of his 20 seasons with the Patriots.

The numbers don't lie. After seven games, it's apparent the Bucs got a much different Tom Brady.

He's not the same guy. He's better.

That's right. In fact, throughout his 21-year career, there has rarely been a five-game stretch like the one Brady is enjoying with the Bucs. Fifteen touchdown passes and only one interception.

For all the handwringing about Brady's arm strength, whether he would fit Bruce Arians' offense, the lack of offseason workouts and preseason games, the six-time Super Bowl winner is playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL.

Brady's 18 touchdowns tie for his third-most after seven games. At this same point in 2007, he had 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions, and in 2015 he had 20 TD passes and one INT. But Brady has never thrown the football better.

"It's not a surprise," tight end Rob Gronkowski said of Brady. "I've been seeing firsthand with my eyes his work ethic and how he takes care of himself. I see it happen, and it's just unbelievable."

Brady passed for 369 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for another score in the Bucs' 45-20 win over the Raiders Sunday. He also spread the wealth, hitting four different receivers for scores.

In the last two games, since the Bucs collapse in a 20-19 loss at Chicago, Brady has not been sacked and the Bucs have committed no turnovers.

Brady has thrived, but he is not satisfied.

"Football is the ultimate team sport," he said. "From a quarterback's standpoint, so much is trust and confidence in the receiver position, the tight end position, the line is doing an incredible job of blocking. My job is to throw it to the guys that are open and they've got to make the plays, and I think when you see great production, it's really a reflection of the entire offensive unit.

"I think we're improving every week, which has really been fun for me to see dating back to the offseason when we started talking about football. What I expect. What they expect. How they see the game. How I see it. I just want us to continue to improve. The only thing that gets me excited is winning games, and it's competing every week in practice and seeing us improve. We've got a lot of hard-working guys and I think that's been a reflection of our progress since the beginning of the year, and I would really want to see us improve it. It's decent. We're getting better."


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