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Logan Ryan can say he intercepted Tom Brady’s last pass as a Patriot. He’s hoping to catch the next one Brady throws his way.
The former Rutgers star defensive back will be counted on again on Monday night when the Giants welcome in Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ryan is second on the Giants with 44 tackles after playing every defensive snap for the last five weeks. Few players have a better understanding of what it’s like to face the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
“I feel like he brings the best out of me,” Ryan said. “I know I have to be my best in order to compete with him. I love playing against him because it’s the greatest challenge in football.”
Ryan and Brady spent four years as teammates in New England, but their last encounter was as rivals. It came in the AFC Wild Card game last year when Ryan, then a member of the Tennessee Titans, scooped up a deflected pass with nine seconds left.
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His pick-six in chilly Foxborough was the unceremonious ending to Brady’s season – and career as a Patriot.
“He reached out to me afterwards,” Ryan said. “I had dropped one earlier in the game and he said, ‘Why can’t you drop them both?’ Even though I like you, I can’t drop them both. So we got much respect for each other, but to me he’s the ultimate test as a player.”
Titans CB Logan Ryan celebrates his late-game pick-six of Tom Brady. (Photo: Winslow Townson, USA TODAY Sports)
That interception was one of so many critical plays that Ryan made last season for the Titans. He set career highs with 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks and four forced fumbles for a team that reached the AFC final.
Yet the 29-year-old had to wait several months for it to pay off during a COVID-affected offseason. It wasn’t until late in training camp when he signed a one-year deal worth up to $7.5 million. The Giants were looking for help in the secondary after losing rookie Xavier McKinney to a fractured foot.
In Ryan, they found a durable replacement who’s missed only three games in eight NFL seasons. The Berlin, N.J., native has filled up the stat sheet with 33 solo tackles to go with one sack and forced fumble.
The only problem for Ryan? He’s on the verge of his first losing season since his freshman year at Rutgers.
“We’ve had chances and opportunities to win, maybe four or five of the games this year and we didn’t,” Ryan said. “But at the same time, all you can do is learn from those experiences. So I can’t say to these guys, oh man we have no shot, we’re going to lose by 50, because we haven’t done that this year.”
The Giants can’t afford to waste many chances this week. Brady is 4-1 against them in his career, not counting a pair of memorable Super Bowl losses.
And Brady, 43, has looked like his old self since arriving in Tampa Bay. In his first seven games, he’s thrown for 1,910 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Ryan said the hard part is facing a quarterback who knows how to maximize the weapons around him.
“He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Ryan said. “He makes everyone around him better and that’s what I see in Tampa. It’s the same old Tom Brady to me and that’s excellence.”
The Giants have several other connections to Brady, even without any holdovers from their championship teams in 2008 and 2012.
One is special teamer Nate Ebner, who signed with the Giants this season after winning three rings with Joe Judge and the Patriots.
Another is defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who served on the Patriots staff for seven years. Graham was on the Dolphins’ sideline last season when he orchestrated a Week 17 win in Foxborough that cost New England a bye.
Then there’s old friend Jason Pierre-Paul, who’s about to face the Giants for the second time in his career.
“I’m telling these guys, look, we’ve played with some of the top teams in this league,” Ryan said. “The quarterback that we face is one of the top quarterbacks in this league and Tampa Bay is one of the top teams in this league. And we’re going to go out there and compete with them.”
Sean Farrell is a high school sports reporter for NorthJersey.com. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @seanfarrell92