FOXBORO — He stands behind center tonight in the AFC Championship game here at Gillette Stadium with his legacy and future hanging in the balance.
The quarterback, like no other time in his career, must produce in order to legitimize his stature and that of his football team.
And the pressure is on.
For the first time in this battle of fierce conference rivals, that heat does not fall on Joe Flacco.
Tonight, it falls on the broad shoulders of one Thomas Edward Patrick Brady.
Baltimore’s Flacco? He’s riding a string of QB ratings that aren’t too shabby: 115.4, 61.1, 97.1, 125.6 and 116.2.
Last week’s thriller over one living legend, Peyton Manning, cemented a contract offer from the Ravens that should total out over $100 million with at least $50-60 million guaranteed.
The kid, well the 28-year-old, is playing tonight with house money.
Now Brady is a guy with plenty in his bank. Three quick Super Bowl titles — and a 10-0 playoff start — assured that.
But since that playoff-opening win following the 2005 regular season to make it a perfect 10, Brady is a rather McNabb-ian 7-6 in the playoffs with zero titles.
And coming off a sparkling 115.0 rating last week vs. Houston, one has to scratch his/her head and wonder the last time Tom Brady put two good ones together in the postseason.
Your answer, by the way, would be Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville against Philly, back in February of 2005 — hence the Donovan McNabb reference.
At this point in time, do we have to re-assess Brady’s standing as the greatest money quarterback to play the game? Is his legacy in question?
“ I don’t really think about any of that, I’m just trying to win a football game this week,” said Brady. “I think we’re very short-term focused and playing against a great football team that obviously deserves the right to be here. We know how challenging of a team they are, both schematically and personnel-wise. All of our focus is on this week.”