New England Patriots Prove They Can Win Without Tom Brady

Andre KhatchaturianCorrespondent IIIJanuary 22, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

"I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us."

Those were the words uttered from Tom Brady's mouth in his interview with Jim Nantz of CBS after the New England Patriots' victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Brady's honest assertions proved once again that the Patriots don't have to be reliant on Brady to win games. This isn't like last year's team.

They have two great tight ends in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, a veteran wide receiver in Wes Welker, a ground game that stepped up big today and a defense that situationally steps up to make big plays when it matters most.

Today, Brady was nothing close to great. He had two interceptions (one of them was a deflection), a quarterback rating in the 50s and no touchdown passes. Other than his rushing touchdown, it was an un-Brady-like performance. It wasn't awful, per se, but it was uncharacteristic.

Instead, guys like Sterling Moore stepped up. He made a game-saving play in what seemed like the winning touchdown for the Ravens in the final minute.

Vince Wilfork, Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo and James Ihedigbo also made some strong defensive plays to help secure the victory for the Patriots.

Finally, BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored a rushing touchdown and had 68 yards in 15 carries against the second-ranked rushing defense. 

The Patriots can win in different ways. With this victory, their team gets confidence heading into the Super Bowl. If Brady has another uncharacteristic game, they know they can bail him out. It's unlikely that he does have another off game because of the fact that the Super Bowl will be in a dome, on a fast-track and it won't be against the league's fourth-best passing defense.

But still, even if he does, the Pats will be ready. Their 31st-ranked defense is not as terrible as it looks. They may allow plenty of yards, but they don't give up many points. 

In their last 10 games, the Patriots have allowed less than 20 points per game. That's an impressive stat for a team that is ranked second-to-last in defense.

And it also shows how confident they've been playing recently. This team doesn't need to rely on Brady anymore. The Golden Boy is no longer the team's crutch. 

Brady will still have to make some big throws like he did this week against the Ravens on a few third-down situations, but they don't need a 500-yard, five-touchdown performance. The Patriots should be favored going into Indianapolis for this very reason. The fact that their defense made a valiant effort exemplifies the completeness of this team.

And it's about time everyone stepped up. They're finally helping out Brady like they're supposed to.