By: Ian Logue
It’s been an absolutely remarkable season for quarterback Tom Brady.
It’s been quite a year for Brady, who has certainly exceeded everyone’s expectations this season. When you take a look at what he’s accomplished, it’s even fair to say that despite the fact the comparisons over the years have centered around his performances against that of Peyton Manning, even that debate is more or less over. It’s been the debate with Brady from the time he became a winner, to the time he took it one step further and morphed his game into becoming one of the more prolific and proficient passers in the league. Over the years he’s won three out of the four Super Bowls his team has appeared in, and has one of the best postseason records in the history of the league.
But his NFL MVP-worthy performance this year has helped them overcome a lot of personnel changes, and they find themselves with just two losses through 15 games. He’s now won 27 straight regular season home games (outside in the elements no less) and now have the luxury of home field throughout the postseason. Considering how well he’s been playing over this stretch in front of the home crowd, fans should be feeling pretty confident about their chances in the coming weeks considering that each time he’s secured a bye week they’ve reached the Super Bowl.
Tom Brady has been the key reason why New England finds themselves with the number one seed heading into the playoffs. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
The amazing thing about Brady is the way he’s gone out and taken this team on his shoulders on the offensive side of the ball, and has helped them do what they’ve needed to do in order to overcome a young defense that needed the first part of the season to find themselves. He’s elevated the guys on the offensive side of the ball into playing mistake-free football, and has gone on to break the record for the number of passes since his last interception, which came back in week six against the Ravens on a long pass attempt to Brandon Tate. He currently leads the league with a quarterback rating of 109.8.
To take it to another level, Brady’s only been picked off in two of their 15 games all year. He was picked off twice against the Jets in week two, and twice against the Ravens. In the Jets game both interceptions came on long passes to Randy Moss – which clearly was a problem with him trying to get the disgruntled veteran the ball when he may have been better served going elsewhere with it.
When you’re not turning the football over, you tend to win games. Taking a look at the other quarterbacks, there have only been 12 of the top 32 quarterbacks (including Brady) who have played in 14 or more games that have thrown less than 10 interceptions. Of those 12, seven of them have winning records and six even have 10 or more wins.
“Well I think as much as everyone points to me for that, I think so much of that goes into what we’re doing offensively,” said Brady on his weekly radio appearance on WEEI’s ‘Dennis & Callahan on Monday. “With the protection that I get from the offensive line, you know I’m really never forced into rushing throws. Also, we’ve been ahead a lot of these games, so you really don’t need to jam the ball into those tight areas that you would if you were really desperate in the second half trying to get back.”
“It’s been pretty great — we were talking about it this morning — for the last I think seven games or something like that, we’ve gotten the ball 22 times off turnovers and haven’t given it up once. I think that’s a pretty impressive stat just from an overall team basis. All the guys work pretty hard at it. As you know, Troy, that’s something that’s preached every day, is turnovers and securing the ball. I think that’s really why we’ve been winning these games. So, that’s going to need to continue.”
His play has taken some of the pressure off of many of the rookies and young players on the defensive side of the football while they learned the system and got things down. They’ve been putting up plenty of points, scoring 28 or more points 11 times this season, and over 30 in each of their last seven games. Their only two losses this season came when they scored just 14 points, and it’s pretty obvious that there has also been some development that’s taken place on the offensive side of the ball as rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have settled in quite nicely. As a result they’ve won their last seven straight, and find themselves in great position heading into the playoffs with the number one seed and a first round bye.
Head coach Bill Belichick said during his conference call Monday that despite the challenges his team has faced and everything they’ve been through, he doesn’t feel this year has been any more difficult than what they’ve battled through previously.
“I think every single week that I have coached in the National Football League, I have felt a huge challenge on the other side of the field from whatever opponent we were facing,” said Belichick. “I don’t think this year is any different than last year or any other year on that. We know that we have big challenges coming up,” said Belichick. “We don’t even know who they are with yet but whoever they are, anybody that is playing at this time of year are going to be good teams.”
In the end Brady has put Belichick’s club right where they need to be. With the number one seed locked up, after next Sunday New England has the luxury of a bye week to sit back and watch as they await to see which team will be visiting Gillette. If they continue to win, the road to the Super Bowl for the AFC will have to come through Foxboro, and it will only take two wins to get there. Not bad for a team who at the start of the season many thought would simply be battling just to finish with a winning record. They’re now in control of their own destiny, and should they take care of business, they could be in position to surprise everyone before it’s over.
“I think our goals for this season are still ahead of us,” said Brady. “The only thing you really have to focus on is what you have ahead of you and what you’re trying to accomplish.”
“I feel that we’re really not where we need to be, and although we’re going in the right direction, we’ve got our toughest games ahead.”