Last night Drew Brees threw his way into the record books, eclipsing Dan Marino’s single-season record of 5,084 passing yards on his final touchdown pass of the game.
Having watched Tom Brady for the past decade, I’m particularly reserved when it comes to doling out praise on other quarterbacks. That said, Drew Brees is the real deal. Many of the same attributes that garner Brady so much praise apply to Brees as well, but in my eyes it’s their similarity as fierce competitors and their leadership ability that transcends them from simply being uber-talented QBs.
One consequence of Brees’ remarkable year is that Tom Brady’s season is flying under the radar, although I’ve become used to Brady’s accomplishments being taken for granted in comparison to those of other players. With regards to this year, Brees will almost certainly end the season having re-written the single-season passing yardage record. He ended last night with 5,087 passing yards—190 yards ahead of Brady’s 4,897 passing yards on the season.
What’s remarkable in all of this is that Brady only needs to pass for 187 yards against the Bills on Sunday to break Marino’s record as well—it’s a notch that will never be in his belt due to Brees’ remarkable season.
In many ways, he’s playing Sammy Sosa to Brees’ Mark McGwire.
All of this got me thinking about how Tom Brady, and the Patriots as a whole, are flying under the radar a bit this year.
Brees’ season aside, this is the best passing attack in NFL history. The team is 12-3. Despite all the grumbling about the defense (and I’m the biggest grumbler out there), the Patriots have allowed 322 points on the season. The two teams widely considered their biggest competition for a Lombardi trophy, the Packers and the Saints, have allowed 318 and 322 points, respectively.
The fact of the matter is plenty of teams that have allowed a ton of yards have won the Super Bowl—the Patriots and the Packers just happen to be the absolute worst in the league in this regard. But with the offensive prowess of both teams, a bend-but-not-break defense might just be enough to get it done.
In my eyes it’s not about the points scored against either of these teams, it’s more about the time of possession battle. Keeping the ball out of Brady’s hands is how you beat the Patriots—I’d almost rather see opponents score more points more quickly, so that Brady has more opportunities to do his thing. My rational, yes, is that he’ll do it better than your offense will, if only you give him a shot.
I still have not changed my mind—I have little faith in the Patriots' ability to win the Super Bowl, which I do directly correlate to their defense. I look back at the Patriots’ Super Bowl teams and it’s defense that those teams were built around. Heck, they didn’t even know what they had in Tom Brady at that point. But with regards to this year’s team, my tune is changing a bit.
I was convinced that the Patriots had lost to the Dolphins this Sunday, as they found themselves down 17-0 in the third quarter. Tom Brady then came onto the field and fired what may have been the hardest pass I’ve ever seen, a 20-something yard reception to Rob Gronkowski that set the tone for the second half. A stunning comeback ensued, and Brady would not be denied. The home-field advantage through the playoffs I’d seen slipping away in the first half was thus retained.
Honestly, I think this is huge for the Pats. A first-round bye, then only two wins needed at home to reach the Super Bowl. It’s certainly doable…I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m comfortable entertaining the notion at this point. And if the Pats can get to Indianapolis, one thing is for sure—we’re in for a shootout. The Pats' defense will be carved up if they make it that far, but Tom Brady should be able to do some carving up of his own. And we all know his Super Bowl track record.
I like the limelight shining solidly on Green Bay and New Orleans. My Super Bowl favorite is probably actually the Ravens. But with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs (assuming a win against Buffalo Sunday), the Patriots certainly have a shot—and I for one will be on my couch, covering my eyes but peeking through my fingers.
Geoff Roberts is the Founder and Managing Editor of howiGit.com, a Boston Sports Blog.