NFL Power Rankings: Assembling 1 Team, 22 Players, To Ensure Earth's Survival
For just a moment (or as many as it takes to read this article), let yourself imagine this scenario. Full disclosure: this concept was popularized by sportswriters Bill Simmons and Bob Ryan in the arena of basketball. No one (to my knowledge) has utilized this idea for the game of football. As such, I ask you to let go of your concrete beliefs and imagine this.
A group of immensely intelligent aliens, possessing superhuman athletic ability, navigate their way to Earth to deliver a message to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:
"Assemble one team, 22 current players, to compete against us in one 60 minute game of football." Only there is one catch: If the aforementioned intergalactic foes win this game, Earth is destroyed.
Forget the Super Bowl. Now that, my friends, is one for all the marbles.
In a time when the solvency of all humankind is at stake, forget America's Team (sorry Cowboys fans) this will be the World's team. Not only would this solve those labor disputes everyone keeps talking about (who needs a CBA when the survival of humanity is at stake!) but this will constitute the flawless answer for every question. The surefire argument to win every debate. No longer we will have to fake confidence that the Pro Bowl gives us the answer. This one game will be the ironclad proof.
This game will determine who are the best players, by position, in the NFL.
Now, before we get too caught up on the whole destruction of the Earth thing, we have to lay some ground rules and provide clarity as to how we choose this team.
1. Best players means best individual players.
There will be no training camp to prepare for this game. No two-a-days to learn the coach's system. Zero film will be watched (pretty tough, even for Peyton Manning, to watch film on a group of football playing aliens). Remember what's at stake here people. One imminent game for humanity's survival.
This means that good players who have succeeded only in certain systems/supporting cast roles (I'm looking at you Albert Haynesworth), have no place on this team. We need players who transcend the systematic rules the govern the game of football. We need special individual talents who have the physical gifts and mental makeup to thrive in any system of offense or defense.
2. Past accomplishments trump future potential
This past Super Bowl Sunday, Aaron Rodgers wowed millions across the nation of his ability to play quarterback by methodically picking apart the number one defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers. We can all agree that Rodgers' Super Sunday performance vaults him into the upper-echelon level of quarterbacks in the entire NFL. Unfortunately, sorry Aaron, (and subsequently Packers fans), that's not good enough to make this team.
This by no means minimizes what Rodgers did on the field (I'll sing his praises all day long) but for the game in which all life hangs in the balance, I need the quarterback who's resume for icy cold veins of confidence has been reinforced time and time again. I need the player who's track record for success on the largest of stages has been sustained over an inordinately long period of time. We can all agree that Aaron Rodgers has as good a chance as anybody to fulfill these requirements.
Just not right now. Not when the eyes of the world will be watching with a vested interest to say the least.
3. Mind over matter
Yes, these aliens are superhuman in their physical abilities. I'm sure they're making Chris Johnson look like a handicapped turtle in the 40 yard dash. There's no way humanity could ever have an edge in this category.
Which is why we need in edge in mental make-up and game instincts.
So, for this team, we're going to value what makes a player special between the ears. Not what distinguishes them on their height and speed measurements. I could care less if a wide receiver is 6'6'' and runs like a possessed cheetah. If I need a first down catch to be made in traffic, I need a wide receiver with excellent hands, great body control and incomparable route running skills.
It's as simple as that.
4. Assume 100% Health
I know, as of this date and time that Troy Polamalu is not at full health. His Super Bowl performance proved that. But hey, this is a game of fantasy, and for this to materialize in the manner I best see fit, everyone is at their full physical health.
It would lead to too many hypothetical debates about who is healthy and who is not. Who "says" their 75% healthy when they are obviously not (your silly Media Day tricks didn't fool me Maurkice Pouncy!). So for the sake of NOT having a time-sucking, pointless debate, every player is assumed to be at full health. NFL players, you can thank me later.
5. No Backups
These men are playing for the livelihood of their friends, family, 8 houses and 27 cars. They don't need any backups! These are the best of the best! They're playing the whole game.
And that's the criteria. Here he comes! Roger Goodell has just returned with the list. Starting with defense...
Cornerback: Darrelle Revis
-3X Pro Bowl Selection (2008, 2009, 2010)
-1X First-Team All Pro Selection (2009)
-AFC Defensive Player of the Year (2009)
"Revis Island" may have not been so enticing to the Jets as they began the 2010 season (Revis didn't report to the Jets until one week before the season started due to holdout) but once Revis showed up, Rex Ryan and the Jets couldn't have been happier.
As such, we couldn't be happier either to have the NFL's best shutdown cornerback on our humanity-saving team as well.
Revis is one of only an elite few corners characterized by the term "half-field" defenders. True to its name, it illustrates the game-proven reality that Darrelle Revis is so effective that he literally shuts off half of the football field for offense's to work with.
Revis' combination of game-changing speed, ball hawking skills, and defensive instincts are unparalleled among NFL corners today. Even with a player of Revis' caliber, a strong case could be made for the more seasoned veteran Champ Bailey to procure this spot on the team. But, if I am on the sidelines as the aliens' lineup with the quickest organisms in the galaxy at wide receiver, I feel much more comfortable with a younger, quicker player covering them.
Even in a game of superhuman proportions, I want the Island on my side.
Cornerback: Charles Woodson
-7 X Pro Bowl Selection (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2008, 2009, 2010)
-3X First-Team All-Pro Selection (1999, 2001, 2009)
-AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2009)
-Super Bowl Champion (XLV)
The only member of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers on the team (I promise Green Bay fans, I don't have a vendetta against you), but arguably the most complete defensive player in the NFL is definitely worthy of the spot.
As Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid said about Woodson before the Eagles took on the Packers in the 2010 NFL Playoffs "He’s a physical guy. He has great speed. He’s an excellent blitzer. He's a future Hall of Fame player."
Couldn't have made the case better myself.
Woodson wreaks havoc on offenses because he utilizes his 6'1" 200lb. frame as both a cover corner and a blitzing safety, a combination unlike almost any other defensive player in the history of the NFL. Woodson has the ability to shut down opposing number one receivers on one play; then, on the next play, Woodson could come off the edge with his blazing speed and sack the quarterback. Those same attributes can't be said about anyone else in the entire NFL.
Which is why I need Woodson on the team-of-all-teams. If the aliens line up with a Dan Marino/Michael Vick combination at quarterback, I need a defender with the speed, instincts and tackling ability to bring him down. Charles Woodson is the one player I have trust in that can do that.
With the existence of all life in jeopardy, I need #21 both in shutting down receivers and blitzing the quarterback as only Woodson can.
Free Safety: Ed Reed
-7X Pro Bowl Selection (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
-5X First-Team All-Pro (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010)
-Selected to NFL 2000's All-Decade Team
-AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2004)
- Led the NFL in Interceptions 3X (2004, 2008, 2010)
If there was ever an award for "defensive player who awed you with accomplishments" Ed Reed might win every year.
In his career, Ed Reed has accounted for 13 touchdowns, seven of them interceptions returned for touchdowns. No one in NFL history has more. Reed is the first person in NFL history to return an interception, punt, blocked punt, and fumble for a touchdown. Reed holds the all-time NFL record in interception return yardage. The list goes on and on.
However, Reed may have saved his most impressive feat for the 2010 season. Even after missing the first six games due to injury, Ed Reed still led the NFL in interceptions with 8. That is, by any football fan's judgment, absolutely remarkable. It is the equivalent of an NBA player scoring the most points in the league after missing the first 31 games. Or, an MLB player hitting the most home runs after missing the first 61 games! Unbelievable.
With the ultimate "ball hawk" at safety, I feel confident that even if the aliens lined up Jerry Rice clones at wide receiver, having Ed Reed in the defensive backfield would still make it a calculated risk throwing the ball to them on a consistent basis. And, if Reed is able to intercept the Dan Marino/Michael Vick hybrid, we now have the greatest pick-six threat in the league returning the ball. I'm outright giddy thinking of the possibilities.
Ed Reed's presence allows the aforementioned Charles Woodson to come off the edge for more blitzes, due to the fact that the NFL's best ball hawk can cover even if Woodson isn't able to come away with the sack. The aliens' offense won't know what hit them.
All things are possible when dealing with the incomparable Ed Reed.
Strong Safety: Troy Polamalu
-6X Pro Bowl selection (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010)
-3X First-team All-Pro selection (2005, 2008, 2010)
-2010 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year
-2X Super Bowl Champion (XL, XLIII)
For every NFL wide receiver, there must not be another sensation like it.
You've just made an amzing catch over the middle and are now ready to gather yourself and run after the catch. However, out of the corner of your eye, you see a uniform with black, flopping hair quickly making its way in your direction. A strange sight for most, yet what is constantly in the back of your mind is now coming to fruition. As the billowing hair flops in a violent manner ever-closer to you, you know that a bone-jarring hit is now inevitable.
The hair strikes again.
From his days knocking out opponents as a USC Trojan, Troy Polamalu is the dream of every defensive coordinator.
Unmatched defensive instincts. Constantly around the ball and causing turnovers. Solid against the run, even at the safety position. Great coverage skills deep down the field.
The entire package.
However, what truly puts Poloamalu's value to a team in the Steelers' biggest regular season game of the 2010 season in perspective.
In a week 13 game against the bitter rival Baltimore Ravens to determine who would be the outright leader of the AFC North, Polamalu's Steelers were trailing 13-10 late in the 4th quarter. Needing only one more first down to run out the clock, on 3rd and 5 Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco dropped back to pass, looking for an open receiver. Little did he know that Polamalu was coming off his blindside, and delivered a crushing sack that also jarred the ball loose. The Steelers recovered, which allowed Ben Roethlisberger to get the ball back and hit Isaac Redmond with 2:51 left for the game-winning touchdown. After the game, no one could stop talking about the game-changing play that Polamalu had made.
This example just solidified what everyone already knew, Polamalu is the definition of a game-changing player. In addition, Joe Flacco fell victim to what his more seasoned offensive brethren have all come to know.
Fear the hair
Outside Linebacker: James Harrison
-4X Pro Bowl Selection (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
-3X All-Pro Selection (2007, 2008, 2010)
-2008 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year
-2X Super Bowl Champion (XL, XLIII)
In a game where the human will and psyche will never be tested in a more thorough fashion, I want the NFL's most nasty and feared hitter on my side. Hey, there's no fines being handed out after this game (good thing for Harrison, who accumulated a record $120,000 in fines in 2010), only blood, sweat and tears. So, with that I say to the game's most renown hard-hitter.
Have at it.
Yet, even with the reputation intact for some colossal collisions, let's not overlook just how great a defensive player Harrison has become. Since Harrison became a full-time starter for the Steelers in 2007, he has accumulated 45 sacks and 378 tackles.
Not bad for a guy who was nearly cut numerous times as a linebacker at Kent State and for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In addition, Harrison provides durability at the outside linebacker position, having only missed one game in the past four seasons.
Harrison's body of work is also augmented by the intangibles he provides. His sideline-to-sideline speed allows him the opportunity to make a tackle anywhere on the field. Though somewhat undersized at 6'0" and 242 lbs., he has the strength and stamina to take on and shed blockers to make open field tackles. His defensive instincts are unparallelled, as demonstrated by his memorable 100-yd interception return for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. James Harrison is the total package.
Which is why I want no one other "the Fine-maker" himself roaming the weak-side of my defense against out intergalactic foes. Good riddance to the Jerry Rice clones as they try and keep their head intact after an over-the-middle pummeling by Harrison. If the Dan Marino/Michael Vick alien QB decides that he wants to take off and run, he'll have a rude awakening as he runs in terror to avoid a mammouth James Harrison takedown.
All in a day's work for the most feared hitter in football.
Miiddle Linebacker: Ray Lewis
-12X Pro Bowl Selection (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
-7X First-Team All Pro selection (1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009)
-2X AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2000, 2003)
-Super Bowl XXXV MVP
There are many linebackers who can cover sideline-to-sideline. Several who accumulate incredible amounts of tackles in a season. A multitude of them who can "jack you up."
But no one, I repeat, NO ONE has ever personified these attributes with more attitude over a longer period of time than Ray Lewis.
Lewis is the Godfather for the modern middle linebacker. Huge hitter, great tackler, excellent speed, solid both in pass coverage and stopping the run. I've already sung the praises of James Harrison and soon will do the same about Brian Urlacher (oops, gave it away!), but neither of these players will likely surpass the football icon that is Ray Lewis. Any great linebacker in the future will be measured against the accomplishments of Ray Lewis.
Which is why no humanity-saving football team would be complete without the future Hall-of-Famer himself. If the aliens start believing they can run it between the tackles, they'll be bracing themselves for a mind-blowing hit each time the ravenous Raven starts his assault on the line of scrimmage. If the aliens think that they can get away with check-downs to the tight end over the middle, I hope they have a stretcher handy after Lewis is finished with them.
With life as we know it hanging in the balance, who better to protect it than the standard for bone-crushing football.
Inside Linebacker: Brian Urlacher
-7X Pro Bowl Selection (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010)
-4X First-Team All-Pro Selection (2001, 2002, 2005, 2006)
-2005 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year
-Selected as apart of the NFL 2000's All Decade Team
The heart and soul of the consistently vicious Chicago Bears defense may be playing out of position for this team.
But, given that we're talking about the most dominant linebacker of the 21st century not named Ray Lewis, I'm taking the leap of faith that Urlacher can handle it.
Ray Lewis may have been foundation for the modern linebacker, but Brian Urlacher has redefined what a modern linebacker can accomplish on the field. The 6'4" 255 lb. Urlacher breaks every conceivable pre-conceived notion about what constitutes a "physical specimen." After an All-American career at the University of New Mexico, Urlacher wowed professional scouts at the 2000 NFL Combine with his physical strength by bench pressing 225 lbs. twenty-seven times (best of any linebacker there), but also complementing that with an amazingly quick forty-yard dash time of 4.57 seconds.
As incomprehensible Urlacher's times and measurements seemed on paper, they pale in comparison to the Hall-of-Fame domination Urlacher has produced on the field.
The Bears' lineage of great linebackers rivals that of any team in NFL history. All time greats like Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary have roamed the field at the linebacker position for the storied Bears franchise. However, neither "The Most Feared Player Alive" or the original "Minister of Defense" ever accumulated more tackles in one season than Urlacher did in 2002, an astounding 153.
However, Urlacher's presence and leadership on the field is an instrumental part of their overall team success on defense. Since 2006, the Bears lead the NFL in turnovers created with 137. Urlacher plays as large apart as any Bears player in the accumulation of those statistics, due to his great ability to strip the ball and create opportunities for the Bears defense to recover. Urlacher's unparalleled size and speed at linebacker allows the Bears' defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to take more chances in coming with corner and safety blitzes due to Urlacher's ability to cover tight ends and running backs in pass coverage.
Overall, Urlacher is the the key cog in the machine that is the Bears defense.
Now that the breakdowns of all three linebackers have been given, I'll let famed football broadcaster Keith Jackson sum it up for us: "Whoa Nelly!"
Not only do all three backers have amazing sideline-to-sideline speed, but they instill fear into opponents with their bone-crusing power. As such, I leave our alien foes with one piece of advice as they try and game plan against our team's defense:
Defensive End: Dwight Freeney
-6X Pro Bowl Selection (2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010)
-3X First-Team All-Pro Selection (2004, 2005, 2009)
-Indianapolis Colts' all-time sacks leader (90)
-NFL 2000's All-Decade Team
Next time you happen to be watching an Indianapolis Colts game, or any game involving one Dwight Freeney (assuming we will have an NFL regular season in the next five years), watch the perfectly timed and orchestrated spin move that he is so infamous for and you will probably notice one thing.
Poetry in motion.
Yes, even the likes of Robert Frost and Ralph Waldo Emerson would find it difficult to find the literary descriptions to put Freeney's game into words. Barack Obama might be rendered speechless trying to describe the ruthless beauty in Freeney's game.
Watching Freeney terrorize offensive lineman on a weekly basis has become somewhat of a conditioned routine. Freeney begins his attack with a incomprehensibly quick first step that initially gets his offensive counterpart off balance. Now that the offensive lineman is favoring to the outside, it is time for the patented spin move. With scientifically perfect precision and elegant quickness, Freeney quickly spins across the front of the lineman's body, leaving him grasping at air before the over-matched lineman has even had a chance to process what has just happened. Now Freeney is free to finish the massacre, laying a bone-jarring hit on an unsuspecting quarterback who had no time to react to what had just happened in the blink of an eye.
All in a days work for Dwight Freeney.
Freeney's unassuming size (6'1" and 286 lbs.) lures lineman into thinking that he lacks the ability to take them on in one-on-one situations.
They couldn't be more mistaken.
Sportswriter Bud Poliquin may have described Feeney best when he stated "This guy is an athlete the way an oak is a tree, the way a hammer is a tool, the way sirloin is a steak." In essence, what Poliquin is stating is that Freeney possesses such quickness and agility at the point of attack, that his athletic ability effectively neutralize him being undersized. Freeney may not have the physical tools to bull rush every play, but his speed and quickness are such that it's not necessary.
Which brings us to the crux of why Freeney is on this team. If any aliens are reading this article to gain on edge, I'm sure their trembling just thinking of having to face him every down for 60 minutes. Opposing lineman live in constant fear of having to be matched one-on-one with Freeney to the point that running backs often times stay in the backfield knowing they will be the last defense before Freeney finds the quarterback.
So when describing the elegance and beauty that personifies Dwight Freeney's game, only one statement will give it its due justice.
Poetry in motion.
Defensive End: Jared Allen
-3X Pro Bowl Selection (2007, 2008, 2009)
-3X First-Team All-Pro Selection (2007, 2008, 2009)
-Led the NFL in Sacks in 2007 (15.5)
An excellent case could be made for outside linebacker/defensive end hybrids DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews to be in this spot. Both players are top notch talents who have made more of a media splash than the great bearded, mullet-man Jared Allen.
But, I remind you, this is the game for all the marbles, for the survival of us all!! We can't afford to give into media temptations at a time like this!
Which is why Allen makes more sense at this spot than either of the young phenoms. Truly, it comes down to rush defense. Matthews and Ware specialize in getting to the quarterback, which at times exposes their ability to stop the run. On a team with Dwight Freeney, Charles Woodson, Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, we have plenty of quarterback-crushers to ensure that the aliens' Dan Marino/Michael Vick hybrid spends plenty of time being thrown to the ground. What this team truly needs is a pass rusher who is equally adept at stopping the run.
That's why the Bearded Giant is our man.
Allen is no slouch himself at sacking the quarterback ( Allen has compiled the second most sacks of anyone since 2006). However, what sets Allen apart from the other two defenders mentioned is his stout abilities in stopping running backs from trampling defenses.In his seven years in the NFL, Allen has averaged 56 tackles per season. A solid number given that offenses take great care in running away from his side of the defense. Ware and Matthews may one day be better and more balanced run-stuffers and quarterback destroyers than Allen, but Jared Allen has proven himself to be the most consistent in both departments over a longer period of time.
With superhuman talents on the other side of the line, humanity's existence deserves to have a more accomplished and balanced defender to put it at ease.
The beard and the mullet ensure that.
Nose Tackle: Casey Hampton
-5X Pro Bowl Selection (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009)
-2X Super Bowl Champion (XL, XLIII)
At this point, I'm sure many of you have to be asking. Are you sure you're not from Pittsburgh? Three of the eleven defensive starters from the Steelers, really? Did you watch the Steelers defense in Super Bowl XLV?
Although these are valid concerns to raise, this task of creating a team to represent all of the NFL in the ultimate game does not come without contentious decisions. However, when analyzing the defensive pieces surrounding Hampton, he is the perfect complement to all of them.
With huge defensive names at all three levels of the defense, we have plenty of speed, strength and attitude, we're just missing one key component.
A blue-collar worker with a high motor to clog the middle.
Hampton never, at any point of his career, has been known as a "me-first" guy. While at Texas, his defensive coordinator Greg Brown said of Hampton "I have never seen him take a down off, he's just so intent on destroying people that he never takes time to rest. It's gotta be a gift."
That's the kind of guy I want on my team.
Hampton is arguably the most underrated defensive force in the NFL given his skill set and what he's accomplished in the league. Very few, if any, nose tackles have ever sustained such excellence in stopping the run. These types of claims are hard to prove in the context of statistical evidence given that nose tackles like Hampton rarely put up eye-popping individual numbers due to constant double-teams. The warrants to these claims lie in the team defensive statistics. This is all the proof needed to strengthen Hampton's spot on this team.
In 2010, the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed an astoundingly stingy 51.7 rushing yards per game. That not only ranks first in the NFL, it ranks first by an enormous margin. The second place finisher in that category, the Chicago Bears, allowed 77 ypg rushing. This is nearly 26 more yards per game than the Steelers. That means that over the entire sixteen game regular season, the Steelers gave up 416 less total rushing yards than the Bears.
Now that, my friends, is a dominating number one.
Of course, Hampton is not the sole reason these statistics were accumulated. To be completely objective, Hampton only started eleven of the sixteen games due to injuries. Still, it is Hampton's presence in those games that makes the best case he belongs on this team.
Hampton's height (6'1") is small enough that it gives him the ability for solid lateral quickness off the line to put pressure on taller, slower offensive linemen. However, his stout weight (325 lbs.) gives him the requisite size to clog the A and B gaps that running backs try to hit on running plays up the middle.
This entire body of evidence proves that what Hampton lacks in eye-popping statistics, he more than enough makes up in mentality, motor, and attitude. The aliens will be quite mistaken if they think that can push Hampton around on the line of scrimmage.
As Hampton's college defensive coordinator attested to, the man committed to "destroying people" is more than capable of holding down the line.
Defensive Tackle: Vince Wilfork
-3X Pro Bowl Selection (2007, 2009, 2010)
-3X Second Team All-Pro Selection (2007, 2009, 2010)
-1X Super Bowl Champion (XXXIX)
Just like an MLB position player that can play multiple positions, it is an invaluable asset to have a defensive lineman that can play both tackle and end. For a team that faces pressure of intergalactic proportions, we need one defensive lineman that has succeeded at doing so on the biggest stages.
Vince Wilfork is that man.
In 2004, as a rookie no less, Wilfork started and succeeded on the biggest stage of all, (well, that is if you're not including this hypothetical game), the Super Bowl. In the Patriots' Super Bowl XXXIX victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, Wilfork was instrumental in limiting Eagles' dynamic running back Brian Westbrook to a meager 44 yards on 15 attempts; totaling a pedestrian 2.9 yards per carry. This experience proved that even at a young age, Wilfork was the run-stopper the Patriots could count on.
The ultimate verification tool to determine who are the premier nose tackles in the NFL come from asking their offensive counterparts, centers.
When asked, Dolphins center Samson Satele didn't hesitate who he puts at the top of his list. "Has to be Vince Wilfork" Satele noted.
Besides possessing the obvious size requirements (6'2" and 325 lbs.) Vince Wilfork allows for cohesion on the defensive line.
With Dwight Freeney and Jared Allen both capable pass rushers, Wilfork's primary objective won't be to get to the quarterback. Wilfork can just do what he does best, clog the middle (along with Casey Hampton) and eat up double teams. Not only does this play into Wilfork's strengths, it frees up our havoc-wreaking linebacking corp to come in unblocked and stop the running backs at the line of scrimmage.
With such an impenetrable rush-defending wall imposed upon the aliens' offense, they'll be forced to try and utilize the Jerry Rice clones at wide receiver to gain any semblance of an offense.
Which is music to the ears of ball hawks Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Darrelle Revis and Charles Woodson. With a one-dimensional offense trying to throw the ball on two shut-down corners and two Hall-of-Fame safeties, humanity should feel pretty good about those match-ups.
How about that for a defense!
Center: Nick Mangold
-3X Pro Bowl Selection (2008, 2009, 2010)
-2X All-Pro Selection (2009, 2010)
The football world marvelled at the consecutive game streaks held by superstar quarterbacks Brett Favre (297 games) and Peyton Manning (208 and counting). "How could they make so many consecutive starts in such a violent game?" people wondered. As amazing as those two streaks are/were, the current consecutive games streak going by Nick Mangold is pretty impressive in its own right, too.
In his five seasons in the NFL, Mangold has started all 80 possible games. Throw in the fact that offensive lineman are injured at an enormously larger rate than quarterbacks, an argument can be made that Mangold's streak is a tougher feat that Favre's or Mannings.
Yet, it isn't just Mangold's durability that has awes scouts and coaches alike, it is his production and impact on the New York Jets' offense that separates him from his counterparts. In the past two seasons (both of which Mangold has been selected to the Pro Bowl) the Jets ranked in the top three of average rushing yards per game.
This success rushing the ball is due in large part to Mangold's advanced ability to read defenses and make the proper play call on the offensive line. This is especially imperative because the Jets' rely heavily on Mangold to make these calls given that they they're quarterback Mark Sanchez is only in his second year in the NFL.
All of this contributes to why I want Mangold on my team of all teams. Not only does he have the requisite experience, intellect and size (6'4" and 307 lbs.), but his ability to manage a game of unimaginable intensity is what puts him over the edge.
Right Guard: Steve Hutchinson
-7X Pro Bowl Selection (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)
-6X First-team All-Pro Selection (2003, 2005, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009)
-NFL 2000's All Decade Team
No premier offensive line would be complete without arguably the greatest offensive guard of the 21st century.
Before missing the last five games of the 2010 season due to injury, Hutchinson had started every game since the 2002 season (an otherworldly 123 games in a row). Considering that Hutchinson is considered one of the most dominant offensive lineman in recent memory, this contributes in large part to the rise to stardom of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
From the his days in college, it was clear that Hutchinson was destined for NFL greatness. In his last two years as the starting guard for the Michigan Wolverines, Hutchinson did not allow one sack. Not one.
This success translated quickly to the NFL where Hutchinson has been equally as dominant, garnering an astonishing seven Pro Bowl selections in ten total seasons.
Hutchinson is especially nimble for a man of such large stature (6'5" and 313 lbs.) and is equally adept at run and pass blocking.
In choosing a team for a game with such colossal ramifications for planet Earth, this one is surprisingly easy. When the aliens bring their big guns (hopefully not literally) out to stop the run, our offense will counterattack with a full dose of Steve Hutchinson. If Hutchinson's first ten years as a pro are any indication, our team's offense can take that match-up all the way in for a touchdown.
Left Guard: Logan Mankins
-3X Pro Bowl Selection (2007, 2009, 2010)
-2X All Pro Selection (2007, 2010)
If anyone ever doubted Logan Mankins' impact on the New England Patriots, the 2010 season will provide testimony in Mankins' defense.
After starting every game in his first five seasons in the NFL (starting to notice a theme here in our linemen?), Mankins held out for the first seven games of the 2010 season to negotiate for a long term contract. Mankins' first game back was a November 2nd game against the Cleveland Browns, in which the Patriots suffered what we now know in hindsight was a fluke less to an eventual 5-11 team. How do we know this? Due in large part to Mankins new-found presence on the line, the then 6-2 Patriots didn't lose a game the rest of the year, finishing a robust 14-2.
In addition, even though Mankins only started nine games due to the holdout, he was still selected to the Pro Bowl for the third time in four seasons.
This body of work provides good leverage, to say the least, for Mankins to utilize in getting a new contract.
Mankins' on-field production speaks to just how valuable he is to the Patriots' offense. In the past four seasons, the Patriots have ranked in the top five in total offense in each one of them. Although a certain Tom Brady plays a huge part in this sustained offensive excellence, it would be only be fair to give Mankins his fair due as well.
A guard with a massive frame, (6'4" and 310 lbs.) Mankins utilizes this strength to knock back nose tackles off of the line. Mankins' great footwork and excellent hands give him the leverage to defeat nose guards in one-on-one situations. On top of that, his surprising agility allows him to "pull" from his guard position and block linebackers and safeties out in space.
All in all, Mankins can be described best as the complete package. Which leaves little room to doubt how he made it on this team. Even after only playing nine games, I'm confident Mankins would attack his alien foes with the same vicious force he did to opposing nose tackles and ends in the 2010 season.
Right Tackle: Jake Long
-Selected 1st overall in the 2008 NFL Draft
-3X Pro Bowl Selection (2008, 2009, 2010)
-2X All-Pro Selection (2009, 2010)
Forget, for one moment the 6'7" and 317 lbs. that make up one of the most mammoth human beings you will ever encounter. Don't concentrate on 2.5 sacks Jake Long gave up as a rookie in 2008, which were nine less than the man he replaced gave up in 2007. Instead, analyze these numbers.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the former is the record of the Miami Dolphins the season before they drafted Jake Long. The latter is the record the same Miami Dolphins put up in Jake Long's rookie year as a starter.
Now, can all of this be attributed to the addition of Long? No, of course not. One player cannot have that type of impact. But ask any Dolphins coach, player, fan and they will tell you the same thing. Jake Long was a big reason for that ten game improvement from the 2007 to the 2008 season.
Due to this, I'm not worried that Long will be playing right tackle for this team instead of his normal position on the left side of the line. When you have a chance to select one of the most complete lineman in the NFL, you fit him in wherever you can.
Long's ascension to the top of the all-important left tackle position has been surprisingly dominant to say the least.
In his first two years combined, Long only allowed a total of 6 sacks. That is two less than the man who beat him out for first-team All Pro in the 2009 season, Ryan Clady, had for that season alone. Long is the only the second Miami Dolphins offensive lineman ever to be selected in back to back Pro Bowls.
These accomplishments in a short, but already distinguished career speak to the level of play that Long has sustained. Long's superior work ethic complements every physical and mental tool that an offensive line coach could ever ask for.
So, although Long may be playing out of position for this team, don't expect any defensive player (human or alien) to have any success against the gargantuan Dolphins tackle.
No one else has.
Left Tackle: Joe Thomas
-2006 Outland Trophy Award Winner (nation's best interior lineman)
-4X Pro Bowl Selection (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
-2X First-team All-Pro (2009, 2010)
Whether you call yourself a hardcore Cleveland Browns fan, or even a casual football fan, there will be little variance of opinion about who deserves the special distinction of being the starting left tackle for the game of all games.
Ever since the he stormed the NFL scene as a rookie in 2007, Joe Thomas has distinguished himself as the premier player at the premier position on the offensive line. Remember, many slides ago, when we discussed Dwight Freeney in a poetic and literary manner? This similar type elegant imagery can be attributed to Thomas' game as well.
Rhythmically sound footwork. Quick and powerful hands at the point of attack. Beautiful technique and balance when drop stepping into position. Neither bull rushing or spin moves can deter the geometrically perfect position that Thomas maintains throughout his one-on-one battles with defenders.
Those persistent naysayers may point to the dismal team that Thomas performs for as proof that his impact is overstated. What those same naysayers neglect to consider is that one individual, even someone with the talent of Joe Thomas, doesn't have the ability to change the fortunes of one team on their own.
Instead, look at the certain aspects of the game that Thomas directly affects. Specifically the Browns' rushing attack. In this context, the results may surprise you.
Case in point, Browns' running back Peyton Hillis.
Before Hillis joined the Browns in 2010, he played sparingly in a backup role for the Broncos in 2008 and 2009 in accumulating 397 total rushing yards.
With Thomas leading the way, Hillis exploded for an amazing 1,177 yards rushing behind the incomparable blocking skills that Thomas exemplified on a weekly basis. This specific example illustrates the enormous impact that Thomas has in creating a strong Browns' running game.
On this team, Thomas will only thrive in opening gaping holes on the left side for our soon-to-be-revealed all-world running backs. Poetry in motion will not only be able to describe our rusher off the edge.
But the man on the other side of the line too.
Tight End: Antonio Gates
-7X Pro Bowl Selection (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
-3X First-team All-Pro Selection (2004, 2005, 2006)
-NFL 2000's All-Decade Team
Poet Robert Frost reminded us that taking the "road less travelled" can "make all the difference." There are many roads that lead career in professional football. Anywhere from a first round draft pick out of BCS Conference school to an un-drafted free agent out of an NAIA school has made it. Likewise, there are just as many avenues for success a player can achieve while playing in the NFL.
But, to have been a college basketball player out of Kent State University with NO football playing experience, and then become the most prolific offensive tight end of the 21st century in a span of a few years?
Even Frost would agree, few roads have ever been traveled less than the one that San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates took to NFL stardom.
Many scouts were awed with Gates' raw physical abilities coming out of college, but few (if any) figured that those skills could be polished in the requisite time to prepare for a sport he had never played. The San Diego Chargers weren't deterred.
And boy did that confidence pay off.
The tight end position has traditionally been characterized as "an extra blocker" just another big body who can block for running backs coming off the edge. Tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez may have been the blueprint for changing this perception, but it was Gates that took the tight end position to a whole new level.
In Norv Turner's prolific passing attack, Gates is utilized as basically a blocking wide receiver. And the results have been astonishing."Since 2004, only future Hall-of-Fame receivers Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss, and Terrell Owens have caught more touchdowns than Gates. This is mind-boggling given that Gates isn't even a wide receiver! He is a tight end. To be putting up similar touchdown numbers as arguably the three of the top five greatest wide receivers of the 21st century at the tight end position speaks to the unbelievable production that Gates continues to provide year in and year out.
Furthermore, Gates' is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. Gates' lightning quick speed and great route running abilities make him impossible to cover by a linebacker. In addition, his size (6'4" and 260 lbs.) make it equally as unlikely that a defensive back will be able to bring him down once he has taken off running after the catch.
Which brings us to the fundamental reason why Gates gets the nod over Gonzalez, Jason Witten, or any other successful tight end. There is no way to cover Gates without double coverage. This is exactly what our all-world wide receivers are waiting to hear (don't worry, they're coming up next). So, as our alien foes attempt to cover an incomprehensibly quick tight end with a linebacker or defensive back, they'll get to see in real life what all Chargers fans have been reaping the benefits from for several years.
The road less travelled.
Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald
-5X Pro Bowl selection (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
-2X First-team All-Pro selection (2008, 2009)
-Pro Bowl MVP (2009)
Conventional wisdom tells us that mitigating circumstances hinders production. Yet, elite producers continue to succeed even when faced with less than ideal circumstances.
If one individual ever personified the latter statement, it is a certain Arizona Cardinals wide receiver named Larry Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald legitimized his ascension to the top of the receiving world during the 2009 postseason, which he began by setting a conference championship record by catching three touchdown receptions in the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles. Fitzgerald followed that up by torching the Pittsburgh Steelers for two touchdown receptions in doing everything short of playing defense to stave off an eventual heartbreaking defeat in Super Bowl XLIII. In whole, Fitzgerald broke every conceivable single postseason record by a receiver by putting up 546 receiving yards, 30 receptions, and 7 touchdown receptions in the 2009 postseason.
Not bad right? What if I told you that Fitzgerald accomplished these feats while playing with a broken left thumb and torn ligaments in his left hand? Does that make his postseason nothing short of mind-blowing?
I thought so.
Fitzgeralds' ability to put up all-time records while playing with close-to-debilatating injuries to the part of his body (his hands) that he needs the most stands beyond and conceivable rationality or reason.
Need more proof of Fitzgerald's ability to shine under less than ideal circumstances?
In the 2010 season, the Arizona Cardinals started two completely unproven rookies (Max Hall and John Skelton), and a journeyman who has yet to be decent for more than one season (Derek Anderson). In essence, the Cardinals were a complete and utter disaster at the quarterback position in 2010. Their record (5-11 in the worst division in the NFL, no less) proved as much, to say the least. So, getting back to Fitzgerald, this had to hurt his production right? No way he could put up All-Pro numbers with the sinking Titanic at the quarterback position right?
Even with terrible quarterback play, Fitzgerald still ranked fifth in the NFL with 90 receptions and eighth in total yards with 1,137.
With that, Fitzgerald arguably owns one of the most impressive postseasons and regular seasons by one receiver in recent memory. Few receivers ever put up those type of numbers in one season, much less in a season with non-existent quarterback play while facing constant double teams.
So, if you think that Fitzgerald might suddenly be intimidated by playing against the aliens with superhuman abilities, you are forgetting the lesson that Larry Fitzgerald has taught us all today.
The best of the best come ready to perform, no matter the circumstance.
Wide Receiver: Andre Johnson
-5X Pro Bowl selection (2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010)
-3X First-team All-Pro selection (2008, 2009, 2010)
-3X NFL Alumni Wide Receiver of the Year (2006, 2008, 2009)
If one award ever validated the worth of an individuals' contributions to the NFL, don't be fooled into thinking that it is the Pro Bowl. As cute and nice as it is to have fan votes determine who makes the Pro Bowl, the collective fan vote is not knowledgeable enough to to truly determine the best of the best. This award would need to have the input of former players who are legitimate evaluators of talent and have the ethos to determine who stands out as the game is currently played.
Thankfully an award like that meets these requirements exists, and it is called the NFL Alumni Player of the Year Award.
Now that we've established the credibility of this award, I'll let you take a guess about which wide receiver has been awarded the NFL Alumni Wide Receiver of the Year Award the most ever.
That's right, the one and only Andre Johnson.
Johnson's talent has been undeniably rewarded by both former players and fans alike (see his five Pro Bowls and three First-team All Pro selections), but it is what's said about Johnson on the scouting sheet that truly sets him apart.
Unbelievable quickness off the line. Superb body control when making catches in traffic. Hands as dependable as anyone in the NFL. Breakaway speed at every level on the field. Incomparable ability to make tough yards after the catch.
Every conceivable description of a vital skill that a receiver needs has been uttered with supreme amazement about Johnson.
After watching intently as the coach of the AFC team in the 2007 Pro Bowl, Bill Cowher said about Johnson “We had an opportunity to coach him in the Pro Bowl and that's a special player.''
Cowher's quote illustrates what football junkies have been passionately stating for some time, his statement validates what former players had been voting on since 2006.
Andre Johnson is at the top of the receiving crop.
Running Back: Chris Johnson
-3X Pro Bowl selection (2008, 2009, 2010)
-1X First-team All-Pro selection (2009)
-NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2009)
Stories of beating the odds and overcoming adversity define what has become "The American Dream." Oftentimes, these stories become sensationalized for the sake of pathos appeals.
However, Chris Johnson's is a story that may lack in emotional appeals, but it more than makes up for it in determination and perseverance.
We know Chris Johnson as one of only six running backs to ever gain 2,000 yards in a season. But, what doesn't get the attention is Johnson's rise to fame.
Johnson broke his leg his senior year of high school, which scared off many potential schools from recruiting him. As such, he ended up choosing to attend the lightly known East Carolina over the only other two scholarship offers he received from Eastern Kentucky and University of Connecticut. Even after accumulating many accolades in his four seasons with the Pirates, Johnson was predicted to last into the second or third round in the 2008 NFL Draft. That is, until Johnson tied the NFL Combine record with a superhuman forty-yard dash time of 4.24 seconds. After dropping the jaws of NFL scouts at the combine, Johnson was drafted in the first round (24th overall) by the Tennessee Titans.
The rest (thus far) is history.
Since hitting the scene in 2008, only Adrian Peterson rivals Johnson in terms of consistency in production. Over the past two years, no one has more rushing yards (3,234). Not even Peterson (3,143). Johnson has done all of this while shouldering the burden of having the third most rushing attempts in that same time frame as well (609). Yet, without anyone taking notice, Johnson has redefined the running back position.
Johnson isn't overly big, even for a running back (5'11" and 191 lbs.). He's not a typical every-down back in that he isn't a bruising runner with enormous body mass and strength like Adrian Peterson or Maurice Jones-Drew. Johnson is not likely to bowl defenders over on his way to a punishing touchdown run.This is why Johnson is so unique. He is just as effective as anyone with 20+ carries per game and running between the tackles, but he does it without sacrificing any of his prodigal speed.
In this manner, no one else in the NFL can compare with Johnson. In 2009, not only did Johnson accumulate 2,509 yards from scrimmage, but he was the first player in the NFL history to record touchdowns of 50+, 60+, and 90+ yards in one game. And for all this, how many MVP votes did Johnson garner after the season?
But, given how little respect Johnson has garnered throughout his entire career, this should be no surprise. Yet, there is little doubt that these continual snubs has fueled Johnson into becoming the premier running back in the NFL.
Which is why, if you just happen to be an alien defender hoping to tackle Johnson, you better have a Deion Sanders/Ronnie Lott hybrid. Maybe then you might be able to catch Johnson and bring him down (still not likely).
Which is why if our offense needs a play to be made, just put it in the hands of the most dynamic playmaker at the running back position in the NFL.
If there is anything Johnson has taught us, it's to not count him out or overlook him. For he will eventually make you pay.
Running Back: LaDanian Tomlinson
-5X Pro Bowl selection (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)
-4X First-team All-Pro selection (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)
-NFL 2000's All-Decade team
I can here the angry waves of complaints coming now.
"How can you pick LaWahed-up Tomlinson over "All Day" Adrian Peterson!"
Oh how easily the passing of time blanks us of our memories.
For a six year stretch from the 2002-03 through the 2007-08, Tomlinson was statistically the greatest running back in the NFL. In that six season span, Tomlinson averaged 1,560 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns a season.In terms of statistical dominance for the first decade of the 21st century, Tomlinson is in first in every conceivable running back-related category.
And it's not even close.
If the 1960's were the decade of the Beatles and the 1990's belonged to Michael Jordan, then the 2000's were the decade of LaDanian Tomlinson. For the 2000's in the category of total rushing yards, Tomlinson is nearly 2,000 yards ahead of second place finisher Edgerrin James (12,490 to 10,693). In terms of rushing touchdowns, Tomlinson finished 38 ahead of Shaun Alexander (138 to 130). And, Tomlinson accomplished this all while being burdened to carry a decade high of 2,880 rushes. In addition, none of these statistics even take into account that Tomlinson was also the only running back to have 100 or more receptions in a season in the 2000's (2003).
Yes, it is safe to say that the 2000's belonged to LaDanian Tomlinson.
Now, I'm sure many of you will still argue "but that was the past, Adrian Peterson is the present and future!"
But, as the criteria for the creation of this team stated, we are advised to look at past performance to determine the individual player's ability to perform in this pressure-packed game. Adrian Peterson may have had a great run in the past few seasons, but no one is more trusted and respected, even in advancing age, than LaDanian Tomlinson. The consummate gentleman on and off the field has earned the right to be apart of this team. His statistical domination of the 2000's proves that.
Besides, Tomlinson is still a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, something that our other running back (Chris Johnson) has yet to prove dependable in doing. This will allow our offense a lot of flexibility in creating mismatches in the open field, given that Tomlinson can split out wide or in motion to draw a linebacker in coverage. If not, hey, we still have one of the ten greatest rushers of all time to give the ball to between the tackles.
Although the state of Minnesota may be up in arms about this pick, the fate of humanity needs to know they can put the ball in dependable hands (yes, that pun is intended, since the last thing we need is "The Fumbler" to turn the ball over in this game, sorry Adrian). And, really, who better than the man whose dominance at his position in the last decade is almost unparalleled by any other 21st century athlete.
Just call him Mr. 2000's.
Quarterback: Tom Brady
-6X Pro Bowl selection (2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010)
-2X First-team All-Pro selection (2007, 2010)
-3X Super Bowl champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX)
-2X Super Bowl MVP (XXXVI, XXXVIII)
First there was Marciano vs. Louis. Then Mays vs. Aaron. Ali vs. Frazier. Bird vs. Magic. The debate that can't be truly be answered by the "eyeball test" or statistical comparison has captivated our collective conscience since sports became a recreational activity. Even the most die-hard of sports fanatics will never agree on the final result, but the unsolvable algorithm will never stopped being attempted. Yet, the wear and tear of time has diminished the passion of each of these rivalries. Few still argue with the same gusto they once did now that these individuals have either passed away or retired from their sport. Yet, the 21st century has presented us with another epic rivalry which will likely never have a definite right answer either.
Manning vs. Brady.
Both are Super Bowl champions. Both unanimously constitute the top two of every quarterback ranking list in the NFL (yes, even ahead of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers).
And that's not even a debate.
So, of course, here I am trying to tackle the question of "Which do you choose?" Am I to choose the quarterback who will more than likely hold the record in every quarterback-related statistic once his career is over (Manning)? Or the quarterback with three times as many Super Bowl rings that holds the record for the greatest single-season ever put forth by a QB (Brady)?
Hey, I never said this list would be free of second guesses did I?
The easy way out is to say that Tom Brady was chosen over Peyton Manning due to the decided advantage in Super Bowl trophies and Super Bowl MVP's (3-1 and 2-1). Though that definitely played a large factor, the entire body of work must be analyzed to truly provide solid reasoning to illustrate why the decision was made.
Ever since he was drafted 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft, Brady has had to prove himself in the NFL. Originally the fourth-string quarterback, Brady made the most of in-season strides and the injury to Drew Bledsoe in 2001, eventually leading his team to one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history when they took down the defending champ St. Louis Rams on an Adam Vinateri last-second field goal. This win set the tone for Brady's career, where his accolades far outnumber the length of this article (which is definitely saying something).But, in the earnest of providing warrants for such elaborate claims, let's analyze some accomplishments that can solely be attributed to Brady.
In the legendary 2007 season alone (I'm sorry that you have to relive this season again Pats fans), Brady finished in the top five all time for singe season records with 4,806 passing yards (third), 50 touchdowns (first), a passer rating of 117.2 (second) and 398 total completions (fifth).
As hinted earlier, even Manning's best statistical season (2004) can't compare to Brady's 2007 season, no matter what categories are utilized. That gives Brady an edge in the all-important question of "which has had the best statistical season between them?"
As in the Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell debate, the statistical production clearly favors one (Chamberlain) and the playoff/championship results hugely favor the other (Russell). The same can largely be said for Manning vs. Brady. Manning holds the edge in career passing yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and has a huge lead in Pro Bowl appearances (11 to Brady's 6). What must be noted though is that much of this can largely to the fact that Manning was the full time starter for the Colts for three seasons before Brady became the full time starter for the Patriots.
Yet, once the calender hits January and playoff time is beginning, this is where the debate takes a Shaun White-like 360-degree turn. Brady holds the NFL record for most consecutive postseason wins (10), most completions in a Super Bowl (32), most career Super Bowl completions (100) and the highest competion percentage in a single playoff game with a minumum of twenty attempts (92.9%).
Oh ya, and the whole three-to-one edge in Super Bowls is good too.
So, you have to be asking yourself, so what? What does this all mean?
If we use our criteria as our guide, the aforementioned Brady playoff records tells us all we need to know about why Tom Terrific was given the honor of representing human-kind in their most important game playing the most important position.
I've spent hundreds of words (literally) defending the crunch-time merits of each player on this team. Each of them has their great moments, but many of them have just as many weaknesses on their postseason resume as well.
Not the Golden Boy.
If I am a young child from East Asia who happens to be wondering why everyone around them is watching this foreign game with such interest (hey, this game would be broadcast globally, don't you think?), I would take a look at the confident and handsome features of Tom Brady on television and feel an innate sense of calm. Never does Brady look or play scared or intimidated. His grizzled face of confidence is inherently soothing.
On the same token, I could also be the most die-hard Colts fan watching this game and feeling the definition of cognitive dissonance (having to root for your rival in a game that your life depends on would qualify), but I would be lying if I didn't feel reassured seeing Brady trotting out into the huddle in the 4th quarter of an elimination game (literally). So would any fan.
To me, that's the ultimate deciding factor.
Manning has shown he can come through in the clutch just as much as Brady. Manning proved it he could even do it against Brady (see: 21-3 comeback in the 2006 AFC Championship).
But not even Manning has done it so consistently under the pressure of championship games and Super Bowls.
We remember the Adam Vinetari field-goal to win the 2002 Super Bowl, but what we forget is Brady methodically driving the Patriots all the way down the field with 1:21 left to set the field goal up. Oh ya, and did I mention the guy was a second year starter who was also only 24 years old?
Similarly, we remember Vinateri's game winning field goal two years later to win the 2004 Super Bowl against the Panthers 32-29. But what also goes under the radar is Brady, yet again, driving the Patriots all the way down the field with only 1:08 remaining and setting them up for the aforementioned field goal.
What did Manning do in the only time his team was trailing or tied late in the 4th quarter in the Super Bowl? It can be described in this shortened sequence of events. 3rd and 5, down seven, driving late in the 4th quarter. Manning throws it to Reggie Wayne. Intercepted by Tracy Porter. Returned for a pick-six. Touchdown Saints. Colts lose 31-17.
Not exactly "The Drive."
Game. Set. Brady.
And so, as the game-to-end-all-games approaches, and the painstakingly careful look at the roster has been broken down by position. I have one message to deliver about our quarterback in particular.
And, I speak to the entire planet when I say this:
Rest easy World, for in Tom Brady you shall trust.
Your livelihood depends on it.
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