By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
January 25, 2005

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Some players rise to the occasion in the postseason, some don't.

Fortunately for the New England Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady has become one of those players who always seems to do the former rather than the latter when the NFL's 2nd season starts.

Brady is slowly establishing himself as one of the best big game quarterbacks in the NFL, and the amazing thing is he's just 27 years old. What's even more amazing to consider is that a quarterback like Brett Favre, who's 35 years old, hasn't achieved in his 14 years in the league what Brady has in just four years as a starter here in New England.

Two Super Bowl rings, two Superbowl MVPs. A perfect 8-0 record in the postseason. It's definitely an impressive resume. It's a pretty amazing accomplishment for a guy that every team in the NFL passed up on before the late Dick Rehbein gave Bill Belichick enough reasons to convince him to select Brady in the 6th round of the 2000 draft.

Instead he's played against 26 of the NFL's 32 teams, beating 24 of them. Only Washington and Green Bay are teams Brady has faced and not been able to defeat, although he's yet to have another shot at either of them. Any one of those teams could have taken him before New England, but fortunately Rehbein found out how good a player he really was. He was even quoted after he died by his wife who said that her husband once told her, "[Brady's] going to be a household name some day, just like Bledsoe or Montana."

How right he was.

Here he is, just three years in as a starter and he's already accomplished more than nearly every quarterback in the NFL could hope to achieve during their entire career. One of the main reasons why New England wins with Brady under center is he doesn't make mistakes, having tossed 9 touchdowns and just three interceptions for his career during the postseason.

You can see the fire in his eyes when he's on the field, and fans have watched him go into hostile environments and still lead his team to a victory. He's impressed everyone including his head coach, who wouldn't want anyone else calling the plays.

"Tom to me is kind of the same guy everyday and every game," explained Belichick following New England's AFC Championship victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. "Not every play is perfect but most of them are pretty good."

"He's very well prepared, he's a smart guy, he's a tough guy and he's a great competitor. He seems like he's always ready to play, he's always prepared, [and] he's always on top of the game plan. He sees things well on the field. I don't think the magnitude of the game or the crowd noise or the situation bothers him. He's able to just focus on what he has to do, and usually does a pretty good job of it. There's no quarterback I'd rather have, he's a terrific football player."

He's a special player indeed, and it's hard to believe that he still has plenty of great years left. For now New England fans should just sit back and continue to enjoy the ride, because considering the history thus far, it may last a while.

FIVE OBSERVATIONS FROM SUNDAY'S GAME

1: If Only Asante Samuel Could Catch A Football - Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel was in the right place at the right time for most of the game, and if he could catch the ball he may have finished Sunday's game against Pittsburgh with at least three interceptions. He's grown a lot defensively this season and has excelled when it comes to knocking the ball away. Now if he can just spend the offseason figuring out a way to catch it he'll be that much better.

2: Coaching Staff Showed No Fear - If you listen to the critics who are talking about the teams who are out of the postseason, one of the things they talk about was the fact they altered their game plan from the regular season and became too conservative during the playoffs. That hasn't been the case with the Patriots. One of the best examples of this came during Sunday's win. After forcing a fumble on a 4th-and-1 play, the Patriots came right back on the next play and went deep, completing a 60-yard strike to wide receiver Deion Branch for a touchdown. Had this play been intercepted and considering the fact it could have given the Steelers back the momentum, the reaction may have been different. However when you have a quarterback like Brady throwing the football, there's no reason not to have confidence in taking a shot down the field. It worked out just fine for them on Sunday, with Branch also finishing with another catch for 45-yards which set up another touchdown for the Patriots.

3: You Can't Put A Value On Corey Dillon - Some running backs take a lot of shots during games and wear down. Some take a lot of big hits and become ineffective when the game gets down to the closing minutes. Fortunately for the Patriots, Dillon is no such guy. He took some tough shots all afternoon from the Steelers hard hitting defense, and seemed like a man possessed in the final two quarters of play, showing plenty of fire in the fourth quarter. He broke a 25-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and was also instrumental in helping set up Branch's 23-yard touchdown on a reverse for the team's final score. Ask any of the people who thought he wasn't worth a second round draft pick what they think of that deal now.

4: Having A Great Kicker Helps - What would have happened if Adam Vinatieri had missed that 48-yard field goal on New England's opening drive? While it was just three points, it allowed the Patriots to take control of the game early and should have been a sign for the Steelers. They faced the NY Jets who had a kicker that missed twice from inside that distance last Sunday, allowing the Steelers to win in overtime in a game they would likely tell you they shouldn't have won. Watching Vinatieri hit that field goal should have made them realize right then they were playing a much better football team.

Kickers were the difference in quite a few games during the AFC playoffs, and unfortunately for the most part the difference came in a negative way. Thankfully for the New England Patriots that's a position that has never been a problem. Hopefully this offseason will guarantee that there's another long-term deal in Vinatieri's future.

5: Rodney Harrison Is a Tough You-know-What - Twice on Sunday Patriots fans likely held their breath when Harrison had to leave the game after going down with an apparent injury. Both times he came back into the game and picked up right where he left off. As the heart and soul of the Patriots secondary, he deserves the credit for how well the secondary has come together and executed this season. He's a leader, and after watching all the big hits, along with the fact he was still making tackles during the Super Bowl last year despite a broken arm, he doesn't need to do much more to convince me of how lucky we are as fans to have him on the team.

DEEP THOUGHTS

Pete Carroll once said that "a couple of kicks" could have changed the Patriots' season during his final year as head coach in New England. Count your blessings that Adam Vinatieri picked that season to miss a crucial game winning kick. Vinatieri missed a game winning field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs that year that eventually lead to the team finishing 8-8 and also likely cost them a playoff berth. If Vinatieri hit that field goal and the Patriots had eventually made the playoffs, would Kraft have had a legitimate reason to fire him? Needless to say Adam's off year worked out just fine for all parties involved. Belichick has become a legend here in New England, and Carroll become a legend in the college ranks. I know I'm "pumped and jacked" about the way it's worked out.

OFF THE FIELD THOUGHTS

I've decided that the invention of the NFL Network may be the greatest thing I have ever seen. Between the fact that if you have any of the "On Demand" services from your cable company that allow you to catch the highlights from any game during the season, along with the unbelievable behind-the-scenes footage from their "Game of the Week" segment, this may be the greatest thing the NFL could have ever come up with. The thing I found the most enjoyable was watching the segment on the divisional playoff match-up against the Indianapolis Colts. Hearing the interaction between the coaches and the players that was captured during the game was amazing, along with how plays are explained and broken down during the program. However one thing I found very surprising considering his personality was the way that Belichick blew off Tony Dungy at the end of the game when the two met at midfield. Dungy tried to initiate a conversation but Belichick just rattled off a couple of, "Yep, thanks, yep thanks a lot".yep you too" without ever making eye contact with him.

This channel has definitely been a nice addition to my cable lineup. It's the first one in a while that has been added that I was actually glad to see. I couldn't care any less about most of the channels that are part of the reason that cable (or even satellite for that matter) is so expensive. Tell me I'm not alone in hoping that someday we can be handed a list to choose from where we can select and pay for only certain channels that we actually care about.

FINAL THOUGHTS

We've become very spoiled in New England. I don't even remember what it was like to get to the playoffs and suffer that feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing that the Patriots season had ended prematurely, let alone lost a Super Bowl. In my mind I can remember it mentally, but I can't remember the actual feeling of having to endure it. Needless to say as Kevin Rousseau has pointed out recently, don't take any of it for granted"..For not having any "superstar" wide receivers, it's amazing how each of them always seem to find a way to get open. They don't have any names that will be mentioned with the likes of Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Terrell Owens, or Cris Carter, and they don't seem to need one. They're playing with a 2nd-round pick (Deion Branch), a third round pick (Bethel Johnson), an 8th-round pick (Troy Brown), a 7th-round pick (David Givens), with only tight end Daniel Graham as a first round pick and he's been more productive opening holes in the running game and pass blocking than he has catching the football. Not exactly marquee names outside of New England, but a great group of guys who just seem to be able to get it done""I just received my ESPN The Magazine on Monday and Ben Roethleisberger is on the cover. How's that for irony?""Two weeks in between football games is just too long to deal with heading into the Super Bowl. It's good for the players in the sense that they get to recover from any bumps or bruises they suffered this past Sunday, but as a fan it's definitely a long couple of weeks. The first week is the toughest as we get to read about all the different strange ways the two teams are connected and all kinds of reasons why the game could go in one way or another. The second week is finally related to the stuff we care about. Hopefully, as it has been in the past, it will be worth the wait.


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