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.
Not for the Patriots’ performance last night and potential matchup with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos next Sunday, though that will be memorable and worth a bow.
This is 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 at $9 million per.
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 lineman 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 37 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 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 never got off course. He never forgot about the contract he signed in February.
The 2013 season has been about winning football games and another championship, which brings us to 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, three of those runs for touchdowns.
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 versus 11 Brady flings. The caveat is that the Patriots have led these recent games.
But why not let Brady throw a 2-yard pass to Danny Amendola, to give him a little boost of confidence? Or how about giving the team’s second-best player in 2013, Julian Edelman, a reward?
Because running the ball is mentality and the Patriots, one that Brady, who has as much influence over the offense as Manning does in Denver, has approved of.
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) and acknowledge the “W’s.”
It may not have been Brady’s best year in 2013, but we learned that when it counts most and the Patriots have to throw the ball to win a game, he is almost always there.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.