After digesting 24 hours of analysis and opinion on the New England win over Dallas at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, it seems that there is a large misconception that this game was a bad one for the Pats, and that the tight win showed off more of their weaknesses than their strengths.
Perhaps this is because this is an NFL nation that has, since the Patriots' mind-boggling spectacle of a season in 2007, seen Tom Brady and the Pats offense turn into somewhat of a machine. Brady has been a more productive regular season version of Peyton Manning Passing Extraordinaire, with fewer interceptions; albeit similar postseason woes. He's executed like a quarterback robot, breaking records and winning unanimous MVP awards and putting pathetically young and inexperienced defenses on his back as he skyrockets himself through 36 touchdown/4 interception, 14-2 record seasons.
Since 2007, he has been Lady Gaga on the Billboard Charts to the NFL Record Book. I don't mean to over saturate you but bear with me and just try this on for size. These are records broken solely since the 2007 season, confirmed at pro-football-reference.com:
- Most consecutive wins in regular-season home games: 30 (2006-present)
- Most passing touchdowns, regular season: 50 (2007)
- Most passing touchdowns, regular season and postseason combined: 56 (2007)
- Most touchdown passes, month: 20 (October 2007)
- Most passing touchdowns, quarter: 5 (second quarter vs. Tennessee, October 18, 2009)
- Largest touchdown to interception differential: +42 (2007)
- Highest touchdown to interception ratio, season: 9.0 to 1 (36 TD/4 INT, 2010)
- Most games with 3+ touchdown passes, regular season: 12 (2007)
- Most consecutive games with 3+ touchdown passes, regular season: 10 (2007)
- Most consecutive games with 2+ touchdown passes and no interceptions: 9 (2010, October 24 -2011, September 12)
- Most games with 1 touchdown pass and no interceptions, season: 14 (2010)
- Most games with 2 touchdown passes and no interceptions, season: 11 (2010)
- Most games with 3 touchdown passes and no interceptions, season: 8 (2007)
- Most games with 4 touchdown passes and no interceptions, season: 5 (2007)
- Most games with 4 touchdown passes and no interceptions, career: 12 - tied with Brett Favre
- Most games with 5 touchdown passes and no interceptions, season: 3 (2007)
- Most games with 5 touchdown passes and no interceptions, career: 4 - tied with Peyton Manning
- Most games with 6 touchdown passes and no interceptions, career 2 - tied with Peyton Manning
- Highest single-game completion percentage, postseason: 92.9% (vs. Jacksonville, January 12, 2008)
- Largest completion-interception ratio, season: 81.0-1 (324-4) (mininimum 150 completions), 2010
- Most games with 20 completions and no interceptions, season: 10 (2007)
- Most games with 30 completions and no interceptions, career: 9 - tied with Drew Brees
- Most games with 30 completions and no interceptions, season: 5 (2007)
- Most games with 50 pass attempts and no interceptions, career: 3
- Largest passing yards-interception ratio, season: 975.0-1 (3,900-4) (mininimum 2,000 passing yards), 2010
- Most games with 300 yards passing and no interceptions, season: 8 (2007)
- Most consecutive pass attempts without an interception, regular season: 358 (2010, October 24 - 2011, September 12)
- Highest single-game quarterback rating: 158.3 (at Miami, October 21, 2007 and at Detroit, November 25, 2010) Perfect Rating
- 2nd highest all time single-season quarterback rating: 117.2 (2007)
This is why people were so thrown off by Tom Brady and his offense when they reflected back on the game on Sunday night and Monday morning. This is why analysts at the world-wide leader were actually mulling over whether Aaron Rodgers, after seven spectacular games, is a better quarterback than Tom Brady.
NFL Nation has collectively been brainwashed into believing that Tom Brady's success hinges on record breaking, low interception, high touchdown numbers and scores in the 30's every week. They don't remember when his most glorious performances were not the record breaking ones, but the ones exactly like Sunday. The games in which Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel; Willie McGinest and Richard Seymour; Ty Law and Rodney Harrison would all punish opposing offenses and give Tom Brady and his cast-of-thousands receiving core the ball in the fourth quarter with two or three minutes to go.
They don't remember the guy who helped make Deion Branch a Super Bowl MVP, just the one who threw 21 touchdown passes to Randy Moss. They don't remember the Brady that handed the ball off to Corey Dillon as he rushed for 3,180 yards and 37 touchdowns in three seasons with the Patriots in the twilight of his career. They also don't remember the Brady that threw 12, 12, and 14 interceptions on his way to his three Super Bowl titles, or fumbled 12 to 13 times a season. They only remember the Brady who breezed through the season with 1 fumble and 4 interceptions on his way to divisional round playoff failure.
The Patriots team that you saw yesterday is the closest they have come to the glory of their Super Bowl days in a very long time. They limited an offensively high-powered opponent to 16 points, and won a tight game decided by four points or less for the 10th time in 70 games since the start of the 2007 season. That means most of those other games have been blow outs when Brady catches fire, or losses when their defense has buried them. In the same number of games from 2001 to 2005 through their Super Bowl runs, the Patriots won 15 games decided by four points or less. This is not counting the five postseason three point wins; including all three of their title games, the 16-13 "Snow Bowl" game against the Raiders and the 17-14 divisional win over the Titans in 2004.
In those five playoff wins decided by three points or less, Brady's touchdown numbers were 0, 1, 1, 3 and 2. In every one of those games, there was a "that game was over if the [other team] gets a first down" or "that game was over if the [other team] doesn't get screwed by that penalty" or "they definitely lose that game if [insert player name] doesn't drop that perfect pass" moments. Every good team, good quarterback and good coach wins those types of games. Those types of games create legacies, and legendary moments.
The Patriots did not win yesterday's game by accident. They won it after their defense forced the Dallas offense, stacked with two of the best receivers and one of the best tight ends in the league healthy and in the game, to go three and out in 57 seconds. They won it because Tom Brady drove down the field 80 yards in 10 plays and 2:09 minutes and threw 7 of his best and most perfectly placed Brady-patented passes on the way to an eighth "only Brady can make that pass" touchdown to Aaron Hernandez. They won because Jason Garrett isn't as good of a coach as Bill Belichick, and because Tony Romo has never done anything to help his coach trust him.
None of that is an accident, and Patriots fans this is what you should have learned from this game:
- The best Brady is a human, methodical, roar-back-when-my-team- needs-me one.
- This team does have character after all, and can rally in the face of near defeat.
- They can balance their offense and run the ball effectively against the best rushing defenses in the league.
- They could definitely still use some help in the secondary.
- Chad Ochocinco is a bust, and another solid receiver would put their offense over the top.
- This is a better team than the one that lost to the Jets in January
Does this mean they are destined for a deep playoff run just because they barely beat the Cowboys? No. But it does mean they are on the right track.