About a week ago, this author wrote an article detailing Tom Brady's struggles so far this season. I explained how he'd been good, but we had come to expect more from him. New England would need more from him, if they were to have any chance of making it to the Superbowl. I pointed out how he'd been streaky so far, playing like vintage Brady for two quarters and playing like an average quarterback the rest of the time.
Last night, Brady made me eat my words. I'm not ashamed to admit that. I wanted to see a complete game out of the New England signal caller, and that's exactly what I got. Brady was awesome. Vintage Brady.
His stats might not have been radically different from the ones he put up last week, but his play was. Simply put, he was excellent. He made all the right reads, distributed the ball with ease and orchestrated a dominant offensive performance against a very solid defense.
Sure, the St. Louis Rams aren't the San Francisco 49ers, but they have a very talented, underrated defense. They have three first-round picks on the defensive line, and in Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins they boast one of the most talented cornerback tandems in the entire league.
Brady's excellent performance might not have been a surprise, but the way the entire team handled itself was impressive. The offensive line did an excellent job opening running lanes and keeping Brady (and Ryan Mallett) upright. The running backs executed to perfection. Rob Gronkowski looked every bit as unstoppable as he was last year. Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd had a few drops between them, but came up big when they were needed. And while the defense continued its storied tradition of letting an offense walk all over you on their opening drive, they got their act together for the remainder of the game.
Did we see the Patriots turn a corner?
The defense might have been the biggest positive to take away from this game. A lot has been said about the Patriots' bend-don't-break philosophy, but this game showcased that, when executed correctly, the system can work. The Rams had their share of big plays and picked up yards left and right, but the Patriots were able to keep Sam Bradford and his teammates out of the end zone after that disastrous first drive. What's more, they completely shut them out.
The pressure was there all night, the coverage was a lot tighter than we're used to and there are very few defenses that play the run as well as New England does.
This win could not have come at a better time, and in a better way. Going into the bye-week, New England will have two weeks to get healthy and prepare for a re-match with the Buffalo Bills. Momentum will be high, with numerous players having had big games or big moments in London (two rookies got interceptions, Chandler Jones continued his dominance, Shane Vereen finally looked like a high-draft pick in a meaningful game and Lloyd caught his first touchdown in weeks, just to name a few) and the team will be brimming with confidence, knowing they are capable of playing a perfect game for the full 60 minutes.
Should New England be successful in the playoffs this year, we might look back at this game and pinpoint it as the turning point of the season. Patriot fans will be very pleased with their team's performance, and they should. This was a statement win if I've ever seen one.
\Brady and the New England Patriots, I take my hat off to you. If I ever "doubt" Brady again, be sure to remind me of this article.