FOXBORO — Tom Brady, take a bow.
Not for being the perennial superstar, MVP candidate and the best player to ever wear the New England Patriots uniform. That’s a bow for another day.
And not simply for the big win last night, 43-22, and potential matchup with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos next Sunday, though that will be memorable and worth a bow.
This accomplishment is much more special than that. It’s time to acknowledge what Brady has done in 2013 (and now 2014). He has traded in those thrilling, statistical, weekly games to win a Super Bowl.
In other words, we have old school Tom Brady back and in business.
It all started, at least the “old school” part, in late February when details of Brady’s new contract were released. Five years were added on for $57 million, including $30 million guaranteed, with the last three years for $9 million per (not a misprint!).
Among football players at his level, that is chump change, particularly the last three years. We all thought that new deal meant more money finally for his best buddy, Wes Welker.
We were wrong.
Welker was gone for pennies, relatively speaking. And worse, he was joining Brady’s biggest counterpart, Peyton Manning, in Denver.
And then Brady’s once-mighty corps of receivers, started falling like flies. Not to mention a few offensive linemen and three or four of the top five defensive players on the roster.
Honestly, few people predicted this, particularly with Brady entering the “twilight” years of his career at age 36 when the season started in September.
What we didn’t predict was Brady’s ability to separate himself from Peyton Manning’s Video Game-like season from Day 1. You have to understand, there is a real competition between these two. While there is a mutual respect — you will never hear a bad word about the other guy — they follow the other as if they were each other’s fantasy QB.
And that was especially tough on Brady’s ego early in the season when the wins were ugly (the offense averaged 19 points through five games) and the Manning was already winning the MVP trophy with the Broncos offense averaging 46 points.
Brady was frustrated and he showed it often on Sundays.
But you know what? He stayed the course. He never forgot about the contract he signed in February.
Imagine Dan Marino, a Hall of Fame quarterback, throwing fewer passes for the betterment of tough and real football? No chance. In fact, Jimmy Johnson’s failure in Miami was he couldn’t get the legendary quarterback to buy in.
Well, Brady bought in this season and here’s what happened: The Patriots won 12 games and another playoff game last night.
The Patriots had the ball inside the 5-yard line for five plays in the first half last night. They ran the ball every time with three of those runs for touchdowns.
Amazingly, it didn’t change much in the second half, with Brady failing on two passes in the end zone. The Patriots eventually scored 43 points and, technically speaking, Brady didn’t play a role in tallying any of them (six TD runs and one two-point conversion run).
It’s part of the imprint of the 2013 Patriots, one you hear Brady talk about when miked by NFL Films during games about “toughness.” Lately, the Patriots have committed, with Brady’s blessing, to running the football as much they pass.
In Games 15 and 16, the Patriots ran the ball 43 and 34 times respectively, compared to 24 and 26 pass attempts. By halftime last night, the Patriots had run the ball 25 times vs. 11 throws, and the final tally was 46 rushes and 25 Brady flings. The caveat is that the Patriots have led these recent games.
According to the “best” stat for a quarterback, the quarterback rating, which calibrates completions, attempts, yards, touchdowns and interceptions, Brady is ranked 17th — yes 17th! — in 2013.
But most pundits have disregarded the 2013 statistical analysis (other than a guy from Sporting News who ranked Brady eighth of the eight playoff QBs remaining this weekend) when it comes to Brady. They understand Brady and the “W’s.”
“I’m not sure a lot of quarterbacks would do what Brady has done (this year),” said Patriots special teams star Matthew Slater. “We’re running the ball more because it makes us a better team. But there are a lot of egos out there that might not go for that. I’ve never been around an athlete more selfless than he is. Never.”
It may not have been Brady’s best year in 2013, but we learned a lot about his character. And it’s one thing to say you want to win, and it’s another putting your ego aside and actually doing it.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.