No other quarterback in the NFL has been as dominant as Brady since the beginning of October, and if this string of dominant performances continues, The Associated Press will have no choice but to name him the league MVP for a third time in his illustrious career.
Over the past five games, Brady is 133-of-197 (67.5 percent) with 1,601 passing yards (8.1 yards per pass attempt), 18 touchdowns, one interception and a 120.5 rating.
This offseason, the question was asked whether Brady was no longer a top-five quarterback. Over the past five games, Brady has been a top-one or top-two quarterback.
|Tom Brady vs. the pack, past 5 games (min. 50 pass attempts)|
|Past 5 games||Comp %||Yards||YPA||TD||INT||Rate|
Make no mistake: Brady is not doing it all on his own. He is getting help from an improved, revamped offensive line, which has allowed him to be sacked only six times in the past five weeks, tied for fifth-fewest in the NFL over that stretch, including some teams that have played only four games. He's also gotten a lift from wide receiver Brandon LaFell's emergence, tight end Rob Gronkowski's return to dominance and wide receiver Julian Edelman's relative consistency.
It's hard to believe that the same group of players who were criticized for a lack of talent just five weeks ago could now get credit for helping elevate Brady's play. No NFL talent becomes an MVP on his own, but it's fair to say that while Brady is getting better play from those around him, he is also bringing out the best in everyone around him.
Just look at the tight window Brady fit the ball through on his touchdown pass to Edelman with 11:45 remaining in the third quarter this week. Broncos safety T.J. Ward was climbing Edelman's back as the ball arrived, but the velocity of the throw and the location (low and in front of Edelman) made it impossible to defend.
The two-time MVP is always at his best when he has great targets over the middle, and with the "return of the Gronk" in full swing, Brady is looking as sharp as ever. Gronkowski's 36 receptions, 516 yards and five touchdowns all lead the team over the past five games. He doesn't seem to have missed a beat, and Brady is taking full advantage of his skill set.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised anymore when he makes incredible catches like this one-handed grab with Broncos safety T.J. Ward in coverage. He makes them look routine, even as he reaches his bionic left arm into the air to haul in the pass.
Plays like this are certainly helping Brady look even better, but Brady has been making his teammates look good for so long, there's more than a hint of the chicken-or-the-egg causality dilemma.
The scary thing is, Brady could have been even better against the Broncos.
"We, to be honest, still feel like we left a lot of points on the field last night in terms of our overall execution offensively: missed guys in the deep part of the field, dropped the ball, couldn't convert on short-yardage and then some of the same things on defense," head coach Bill Belichick said on his Monday morning conference call with Patriots media.
Two missed deep throws to LaFell could have resulted in touchdowns with a more accurate ball, or better hands from LaFell, or both. If those two plays had connected, the Patriots would have won by 30-plus and Brady would have thrown six touchdowns instead of four.
The fact that they missed on those two gimmes and Brady still came out looking like the best quarterback in the NFL on Sunday is a testament to just how well he is playing. Other quarterbacks can't afford to miss opportunities like those.
As it's always been with Brady, it's not about being deadly explosive, it's about being deadly efficient. Brady has thrown three interceptions all season, the third-fewest by any team this season. Sunday marked the first time since Week 4 that his passer rating dropped below 100, falling just barely short at 97.5.
"When (Brady) is on like he (was on Sunday), I don't think there's anybody better," LaFell said. "When our offense is flowing, everybody getting the ball, we're really tough to stop."
|Tom Brady, 2010-2013|
|Regular season games||Comp||Att||Comp %||Yards||YPA||TD||INT||Rate|
Recent history suggests they won't get any easier to stop in the stretch run of the regular season. That's typically when Brady starts to play his best football—and if we've yet to see the best Brady has to offer this season, the rest of the NFL should be very afraid.
The Patriots have won five straight games, with the offense scoring 43, 37, 27, 51 and 43 points (40.2 points per game). It's hard to imagine the offense getting any better than they've been in the past five games.
The Patriots currently boast the second-highest-scoring offense in the NFL (31.2 points per game), and if they continue on this roll, they will surely be the favorite to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLIX—if they aren't already—and Brady will be well on his way to a third MVP award—if he isn't already.
The challenges do not get any easier after the bye week, though. The Patriots have three of their next four games on the road, with those road games coming against the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers. Brady will have to maintain the high level of play we've seen from him over the last five weeks throughout the season, and do it against stiff competition, in order to notch that third MVP award.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained first-hand.