The Baltimore Ravens defeated the New England Patriots last Sunday to advance to Super Bowl XLVII, and while there were any number of big plays in that contest one of the most talked-about plays of the game really had no bearing on its outcome.
With the first half winding down and the Patriots driving, Brady scrambled from the pocket, and at the end of a short gain as the quarterback slid, he appeared to lift his right leg, with his spikes making contact with safety Ed Reed.
Reed wasn't injured, but at the time it happened the play raised eyebrows across the twitterverse, including those of Bleacher Report NFL Lead Writer Matt Miller.
Did Brady just drop-kick Ed reed while attempting to slide?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 21, 2013
Miller wasn't alone in questioning the slide, and Dave Dameshek of NFL.com didn't mince words.
Ty Cobb thought Tom Brady's slide was dirty!— Dave Dameshek (@Dameshek) January 21, 2013
It wasn't just fans and the media who thought the play was dirty. Baltimore strong safety Bernard Pollard, who is something of an expert on questionable hits, told Danny Picard of CSNNE,com that in his opinion Brady knew exactly what he was doing and that the quarterback should be disciplined by the NFL.
"You've got to keep them legs down," said Pollard. "You've go to keep the legs down. We all know and understand what's going on there. And as a quarterback, when you go to slide, we're taught . . . we can't do anything. When you come sliding, and your leg is up in the air trying to kick somebody, that's bull crap."
Pollard appears to have a point, at least when viewing the film, as the below GIF from GIFulmination.com seems to clearly show that Brady extends the leg upwards towards the approaching Reed as he slides.
Granted, the case can be made that that was a split-second reaction made in the heat of the moment by Brady as much to protect himself as with any intent to spike Reed.
That argument loses a little validity when you contrast Brady's slide with a similar play from the 2011 AFC Championship game, also against the Ravens.
Similar play. Similar roll-out. An even bigger player approaching in Ray Lewis. However, no kung-fu. Just a little smack-talk after the play.
At the end of the day though Brady's intent isn't really relevant. Players are fined all the time for hits in which no one really believes that player's intent was to cause injury. In November of 2012 Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was fined $30,000 for kicking Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin.
Very few people believed that kick was intentional, and Suh's reputation likely played a part, but that's just one example of the precedent that has been established. It's the play's result, and not the intent behind the result, that draws a letter from the league office.
For his part Ed Reed holds no ill will towards Brady about the play, as he told WJZ-FM via Marc Sessler of NFL.com that Brady has apologized and in his eyes the matter is closed.
"Leg is feeling alright. A little sore right now," Reed told WJZ-FM on Monday. "A little slide kick (by Brady), you know what I'm saying. But it's a tough spot the quarterback's in. You know, I understand Brady's point. Him protecting himself. I know he's a great player. I respect Brady and his game for all it stands for, and I know he's not a dirty player. And emotions get going in the game.
"I told him -- you know, we talked. We talked actually not too long ago, we talked on the phone. He actually reached out to me, texted me. I tried to text him back, but the message exploded after 12 seconds, so I had to call him ... and he's just apologized and what not. But I told him, 'You know, it's good, man.'"
With that said the matter isn't closed in the eyes of the NFL, who is investigating the play according to ESPN, and whether you believe that Brady is a punk or just a player who got caught up in the moment one thing is a pretty safe bet.
Brady had better get his checkbook out, because the league has little choice but to fine him or face an outcry about hypocrisy and favoritism towards star players.
And that fine is fine, because whether Brady meant to kick Ed Reed or not it certainly appears from the film that he did, and there's no place for that nonsense in the NFL.