He won’t win the 2013 NFL MVP award because his stats don’t melt your eyeballs while Peyton Manning is treating the record book like the last sheet of toilet paper. He’s not just wiping his behind with the single season passing marks, he’s shredding them.
Currently on pace for 53 touchdowns and 5,498 passing yards—both would be NFL records—Manning deserves recognition for what will likely be the most impressive statistical season an NFL quarterback has ever had. That recognition will come in the form of his fifth NFL MVP award, also a league record.
He’s reverted back to his pre-2007 ways of squeezing maximum production out of minimum talent. No, things aren’t quite as bleak at the skill positions as when Reche Caldwell was dropping game-winning touchdowns in the AFC Championship game, but they aren’t too far off.
Heading into this season, that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
Yes, Wes Welker bucked the Pats for greener pastures in Denver, but with Danny Amendola to take his place, Shane Vereen poised to explode as an all-purpose threat, Stevan Ridley fresh off a 1,200-yard 12-touchdown season and the most lethal tight end combo the world has ever seen, Brady entered offseason workouts surrounded by elite playmakers.
|Projected 2013 Patriots' Starters: Receiving Stats|
|Rob Gronkowski||7 games||39 rec||592 yards||4 TD|
|Danny Amendola||10 games||51 rec||579 yards||2 TD|
|Shane Vereen||6 games||43 rec||381 yards||1 TD|
Then, one by one, every single player expected to make major contributions for the Patriots went down.
Instead of catching passes, Aaron Hernandez caught a murder charge and was disowned by the team. Rob Gronkowski took longer than expected to return from offseason arm and back surgeries. Preseason darling Zach Sudfeld, a.k.a. “Baby Gronk” couldn’t hack it and was cut.
Vereen at least met expectations in Week 1, accumulating 158 total yards. Naturally he did so with a broken wrist and missed the next eight games.
Ridley contracted a severe case of fumble-itis and hasn’t been reliable all season.
Amendola’s been in and out of the lineup with a groin issue.
The offensive line has looked porous at times following the loss of arguably its best player, Sebastian Vollmer, who was in the midst of an All-Pro-caliber season.
To top it all off, just when Gronk was approaching maximum Gronk-age he took a hit to the knee and tore his ACL.
Even rookie wideouts Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins have missed time for various reasons.
To make matters worse, New England’s defense, which showed such promise early in the year, lost Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Tommy Kelly for the season.
So much for taking the pressure off Brady and the offense.
|2013 Patriots' Actual Receiving Leaders|
|Julian Edelman||14 games||89 rec||914 yards||6 TD|
|Danny Amendola||10 games||51 rec||579||2 TD|
|Shane Vereen||6 games||43 rec||381 yards||1 TD|
|Rob Gronkowski (IR)||7 games||39 rec||592 yards||4 TD|
The football gods went nuclear on the Patriots in 2013, but as the dust settles one man leads the charge, rallying his troops and plunging head first through the maelstrom of injuries and misfortune.
That man is Tom Brady.
Despite all occasions informing against them—bonus points if you can name that Shakespeare reference in the comment section—the Patriots currently stand at 10-4 with two games to go and the inside track on a first round playoff bye.
All season long pundits like me—better a self-described pundit than a so-called expert—wondered how the Patriots would recover from losing Welker and Hernandez. Then we asked how they could possibly win with Vereen and Amendola hurt and no Gronk to pick up the slack. Then we wondered if Ridley would fumble the season away.
It’s been one thing after another, after another, after another during a season that easily could have gone up in flames like Tommy Boy’s model-car sales pitch.
Brady didn’t get that memo, though, and refuses to make excuses or accept defeat.
The only way to overcome adversity in the NFL is to win games, and that’s exactly what Brady’s done in spectacular, historic fashion.
He’s engineered five fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives this season—both tops in the NFL. In those five come-from-behind wins he’s led 13 scoring drives during the fourth quarter and overtime.
Even in last week’s loss to the Dolphins he drove the team into scoring position with a chance to snatch yet another victory from the jaws of defeat and had a similar opportunity marred by a bogus non-call against the Panthers in Carolina.
The Patriots lost both games but Brady gave them a chance.
More often than not, a chance is all he needs. He’s showcased his frightening ability to generate points at will when the game matters most and any questions about his declining play in the clutch should be answered by now.
With Drew Brees and the Saints in town he got the ball on his own 30-yard line, down by four with 1:13 to go. Without a single timeout he systematically drove the length of the field and fired a laser to Kenbrell Thompkins for the game-winner.
Perhaps even more impressively, he took over against the Browns with 2:38 remaining in the game and only one timeout. Down by 12 points, Brady drove from his own 18-yard line and threw two touchdowns—with the benefit of an onside kick—to win by one.
It’s not like Brady’s stats aren’t great either. He’s on pace for 4,627 passing yards and 26 touchdowns—but a players’ value is ultimately measured by how many wins they help their team earn. As Bill Belichick once said, “Stats are for losers. The final score is for winners.”
Piloting an offense featuring Julian Edelman and a cast of rejects from the Island of Misfit Toys, Brady’s leadership and late-game heroics make it hard to find a bigger winner in the NFL.
Follow Sean on Twitter, @keanedawg86
All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com