You can’t blame Tom Brady for getting a little angry. After all, he was the Super Bowl MVP. That’s the funny thing about four-game losing streaks. They tend to make people forget how much they adored you just a few weeks ago.
After the third week of the season, Brady and the Patriots were on top of the football world at 3-0, and a favorite to regain their championship laurels. In week four they faced the surprising Chargers, who not only won the game, but exposed New England’s inability to stop the run. Before long, the loss had snowballed into four in a row and the champs found themselves in a must-win situation. To make matters worse for Brady, the must-win game came against the Buffalo Bills, whose high-powered offense is led by the man he replaced in Foxboro, Drew Bledsoe.
The media talked all week about what a mistake the Patriots had made in trading away the much-beloved Bledsoe. Just because you won a Super Bowl doesn’t mean you’re a good quarterback, they said. Look at Trent Dilfer, Mark Rypien and Jeff Hostetler. Brady was a fluke and they knew it all along.
Fluke this, media.
Brady exploded for 310 yards and four touchdowns against Bledsoe’s Bills on Sunday, leading the Patriots to a 38-7 victory and back to .500. He completed 23 of the 27 passes he attempted, including the first 10 in a row. As New England pulled away in the second half, Brady showed obvious signs of relief. The monkey, as it were, had been removed from his back.
While Brady may have benefited most from the victory, he didn’t do it alone. For the first time since last season, Bill Belichick got Antowain Smith and the running game going. With Troy Brown fully healthy again, Brady finally had a full complement of receiving targets. Most important of all, however, was the Patriots’ defense, which had its best outing since demolishing the Jets in week two.
Brady got his revenge. But will it last? Will the Patriots of the second half play like the team that won the Super Bowl? Or the one that lost four in a row earlier this season?
With games against Chicago, Minnesota, Detroit and Tennessee in the following weeks and the remainder of their AFC East games at home, the schedule favors the Patriots. And considering the way they finished last season, it’s apparent that Belichick knows how to prepare his team for the stretch run. As long as he can tighten the rush defense and make sure Smith gets 20 carries a game, Brady should have to do relatively little to keep the Pats in the hunt.
He will have to face Bledsoe one more time, at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 8. If you take into account the Dolphins’ recent struggles and Buffalo’s soft schedule, that game could be for the division title.
So Tom Brady can rest easy for now, but he’d better not get complacent. The monkey may have been lifted off his back, but it’ll jump right back on if he slips up again.
As long as Drew Bledsoe plays in the NFL, Brady will be measured against him, just as Steve Young was endlessly compared to Joe Montana. Unlike Young, however, whose lone ring will forever be overshadowed by the four Montana has, Brady can admire his ring without envy. Bledsoe may have one too, but he owes it to the QB who was and is the right man for the Patriots’ job: Tom Brady.
Random Thoughts: Week 9
Cincinnati 38, Houston 3: Nice Job, Lebeau. You’ll still lose your job at the end of the season. I guarantee it.
Pittsburgh 23, Cleveland 20: Dan Reeves once benched John Elway for Tommy Maddox. Now we know why.
Tampa Bay 38, Minnesota 24: Need to discover your offense? Try playing the Vikings.
Tennessee 23, Indianapolis 15: McNair throws for just 82 yards, Titans still win.
Detroit 9, Dallas 7: Emmitt lucky he didn’t face Detroit last week.
Atlanta 20, Baltimore 17: Vick’s birds prey on weaker Ravens.
Philadelphia 19, Chicago 13: Odysseus (Donovan McNabb) slays suitors (Bears), lays claim to Ithaca (Champagne, ne Chicago).
NY Jets 44, San Diego 13: Chargers don throwback jerseys, receive throwback results.
Washington 14, Seattle 3: Mike Holmgren: It’s fourth down, we’re trailing by 11 and within easily makeable field goal range. I know, let’s foolishly go for it!
San Francisco 23, Oakland 20: Woah, I guess Bill Callahan took my Chucky jokes to heart. Raiders turning into a real horror show.
St. Louis 27, Arizona 14: Rams following 2001 Redskins’ blueprint: Bomb the first five games, then get to work.
Monday Night Preview: Miami at Green Bay
It’s two good teams with quarterback issues. Miami’s backup, Ray Lucas, faces a dinged up Brett Favre. On the other hand, knowing Favre, he’ll probably play better that way. Green Bay 33, Miami 13.