The Patriots latest playoff chokes have been unpredictable and frustrating for every New England Fan. And if anything, they are putting a damper on the Brady-Belichick legacy. While the 2012 offense was on track to beat 2007's incredible numbers, they somehow could not manage to score in the second half during the AFC Championship game.
Prior to the game, Tom Brady had won 61 straight games when leading at halftime in Foxborough and averaged 34.8 points per game. That stat now stands at 61-1 after only putting up 13 points versus Baltimore’s 28. The Patriots’ effort was the definition of poor clutch.
Brady’s regular season stats since his season-ending ACL injury prove he is still a steamroller quarterback. With higher yards, more touchdowns and a top 10-completion rating, Brady has put up more impressive season numbers than the years of three Super Bowl wins.
What has seemed to decline is No. 12’s mental toughness in critical situations. The term “game-winning drives” use to be used almost exclusively for Brady & company. In 2001, Brady led five such drives, three in 2002 and a remarkable seven in 2003. More importantly, Brady suited up when it mattered most—in the post season. Brady has steered his crew to six playoff-winning drives in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2006.
The burden does not lie solely on Brady’s shoulders. His team surrounding him has considerably changed since the Super Bowl winning years.
When I peeked my eyes through my hands on Sunday, January 20 to watch the nauseating defeat, I saw many problems with the running game (or just the lack thereof), a bad play call to kick the field goal, a Gronk-less field, dropped passes on big downs and a sloppy, unprofessional secondary that could not produce without Aqib Talib. Nothing seemed to sync.
Belichick knew before he walked out of Gillette Stadium that night that many changes are going to have to be made for the 2013 team to handle more physical teams like the Ravens. And while Brady made mistakes, he isn’t the problem. Fixing the problem starts with fixing the ones around the future hall of famer, starting with a defense that let’s up an average of 20.7 per game.
Brady said it himself after the season-opening defeat against the Titans on September 9, “The toughness of your team is built around running the ball and stopping the run.” None of which happened on January 20.
While the roster is sure to distinctively be altered, one thing remains for certain. Brady will be back to provide another star struck season with a 99.9 percent guarantee to the playoffs (only missing the 2002 playoffs with a 9-7 record).
While Brady gave an uncharacteristic-like performance in the AFC Championship game, he still out performed the other 28 quarterbacks who were stuck sitting at home on their couches (actually, that’s a lie, they were probably on some remote, private island).
The California native’s recent playoff losses do not hurt his legacy: They just are not benefiting his reputation.
Tom Brady has already proved he is hall-of-fame-worthy quarterback. Nobody can refute his 2001 NFL Super Bowl MVP, 2003 NFL Super Bowl MVP, 2007 NFL AP MVP, 2007 NFL, PFWA MVP, 2007 NFL Newspaper Ent. Assoc. MVP, 2007 NFL Bert Bell Award (Player of the Year), 2007 NFL AP Offensive Player of the Year, 2009 NFL AP Comeback Player of the Year, 2010 NFL AP MVP, 2010 NFL PFWA MVP and 2010 NFL AP Offensive Player of the Year awards (just to name a few).
His losses have simply kept him from improving from great to greatest.
His defeat of the Houston Texans allowed him to surpass Joe Montana for the most postseason wins (17) for a quarterback in NFL history. How can one say his legacy is tarnished when Brady holds that kind of record?