I can’t help but feel that I snubbed J.J. Watt, who was absolutely amazing in a losing effort- thanks to an embarrassing display by the offense- to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but I just couldn’t afford to snub Tom Brady. The New England Patriots and Denver Broncos game was filled with plotlines that would make Michael Bay go delirious reading, and the game somehow lived up to its lofty billing. Brady vs. Manning, Welker vs. Old Team, Broncos high-powered offense vs. Patriots soldering past injuries. And despite a 24-0 half-time deficit and a ridiculously great Broncos running game (many thanks to Knowshon Moreno and Manny Ramirez for that), the Patriots still managed to prevail. Brady’s velocity and tight spiral won the day, and they also won him this week’s award.
The numbers honestly didn’t do Brady full justice, but they still show just how amazing he was. Brady completed 34 of 50 passes and averaged 6.9 yards per attempt for a total of 344 yards. Putting up a 107.4 QB Rating is never easy, but it becomes all the more impressive when you look at the context. I mean, this was a game in which all the chips were down, and Brady had to prove his clutchness once again. The narrative has always been that Brady is ultra-clutch, but even game-winning drives this season against the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints weren’t enough to quell the new narrative brought forth by some fans and analysts that Brady is no longer clutch (they pointed to his failures in the 2011 and 2012 seasons’s playoffs).
But Brady shattered all doubts with that 100+ QB Rating day, and he did it with 20 mile per hour, ice-cold wind. I mean, to put up those numbers in that kind of frigidity and bring your team back from the dead is just ridiculously impressive. It’s also a hallmark of the never-say-die Patriots, as this isn’t the first game they have come back from this season. Beyond that, they’ve also dealt with major injuries to many of their best players, so it’s been incredible watching the depth, leadership, coaching, and sheer greatness of this 8-3 team. For those who doubted these guys coming into the season, they doubted the stars that remain on the squad, as well as the depth. And while everyone knows guys like Brady and Aqib Talib, not-as-known stars like Devin McCourty have played huge roles. It goes beyond the stars too, because guys like slot corner Kyle Arrington have quietly turned into good players. Wes Welker? Arrington negated him.
Though the game was almost as much about the Patriots pass defense, coaching, timely blitzes on Peyton Manning, and pass-catchers like Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, it was also about Tom Brady. How many quarterbacks can play that kind of a game and pull a crazy win under those treacherous conditions? In all honest, I can only think of two: Aaron Rodgers and, at his best-case, Ben Roethlisberger.
Brady showed us all why he is deserving of so many superlatives, as he outclassed Peyton Manning on a day in which the elements were against the passers. Fumbles? Constant pressure from elite OLB Von Miller (that man is insane, easily one of the best players in the NFL)? Those didn’t stop Brady, and neither did the New England wind or the 24-point deficit. Brady was simply phenomenal, because he had to be. He knew he had to be, and the legendary QB added to his legend by once again rising to the occasion. It’s difficult to loft praise upon Brady with the proper superlatives, but I’ll try to do a legend justice.
As for Manning, I feel for him. He’s at a disadvantage when it comes to cutting the ball through cold, fast wind. Why? Firstly, Brady’s more used to it, though that’s a bit of a crutch argument (still, Manning played in a dome in Indy). Secondly, and more importantly, Manning’s neck surgeries have really sapped out some of that velocity, and it showed. And maybe, those ankle injuries had an affect, too. I mean, why else would the Broncos run it as much as they did? They always love running the football with Moreno to manage Manning’s attempts (among other reasons), but 48 carries is an awful lot, even for a team that jumped out to an early lead. No, the Patriots pass defense played lights out, and the wind crushed Manning; those were the two biggest reasons.
But Manning is a legendary QB in his own right, so I hope nobody is exaggerating the 34-31 overtime game as some sort of springboard into a “Manning is an overrated choker” argument. Instead, this game should be about the New England Patriots and Tom Brady putting a stamp on their legitimacy as deserving of the loftiest plaudits.