- No matter what NFL team you root for, take the time to appreciate what Tom Brady is doing at 40 years old. He masterfully led the Patriots to a 36-33 comeback win over the Texans on Sunday—just one of his many feats that we shouldn’t take for granted
The guy who first called NFL plays for Tom Brady was just to my right, and Brady’s most trusted target as a twentysomething quarterback was in the next seat over. On second-and-18, with just under a minute left to play, we watched Brady’s bad pass land in the hands of Texans safety Corey Moore, who tumbled to the ground and effectively sealed Houston’s upset.
But then the ball bounced out, and suddenly a Patriots victory felt . . . inevitable.
I knew it, Charlie Weis knew it, and Troy Brown did too: You don’t give No. 12 second chances.
If you do, you better brace for the worst, which is just what Moore and his teammates experienced at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. A game they controlled at the line of scrimmage throughout the second half was ripped away by a 40-year-old whom they’d spent the better of part of the afternoon beating up. The near miss by Moore left Brady with 54 seconds to cover 52 yards, which was more than enough.
So on third-and-18, Brady found Danny Amendola for 27 yards and a first down, and then—with Jadeveon Clowney tossing guard Joe Thuney into his lap—Brady coolly put the ball through a credit-card-sized window to give Brandin Cooks his second touchdown of the day. The Patriots pulled off an improbable, 36-33 win that, actually, wasn’t all that improbable.
This is what we’ve come to expect from No. 12. And I’d suggest that you enjoy it while we still have it, no matter whom you root for, because even though we’ve all gotten used to it, this most certainly isn’t normal.
Too many people have spent the last few years twisting themselves into pretzels trying to see any signs of decay in Brady’s performance. But if you look at where those indicators usually reveal themselves in an aging quarterback, you’ll see no signs of the countdown that Brett Favre slogged through in 2010 and Peyton Manning scuffled with in 2015. With Favre and Manning, and so many other older quarterbacks, the hits started to accumulate and their internal clocks sped up, and it became harder and harder for them to fend for their health on the field—and then it was curtains.
With Brady? Look at the Patriots’ first win of the year, in Week 2. On his first touchdown pass, he stood in with Cam Jordan bearing down on him and dropped the ball over newcomer Rex Burkhead’s shoulder for six points. His next touchdown pass came flat-footed, pinned in the pocket without even room to step into his throw, and yet he hit Rob Gronkowski in stride down the right sideline.
We saw a lot more of that on Sunday. The aforementioned Clowney hit was the eighth that Brady took on the stat sheet, which were on top of the five sacks he took. The Patriots were without tackle Marcus Cannon and left tackle Nate Solder, and the interior linemen looked overmatched at times by a fearsome Houston front.
If there was ever going to be a game where Brady would look punch-drunk at the end, this appeared to be it—particularly because there were points early in the afternoon when it seemed he saw pass rushers who weren’t there.
Instead, he stood in at the end, took all the hits, overcame the near interception in the final minute and closed the game out with two dagger throws. And by the end, for Weis and Brown, who saw him from the very start, it was obvious that they’d seen this movie before. We all have, really. Even Texans coach (and former Patriots assistant) Bill O’Brien, who, when asked if he was surprised to see Brady finish the way he did, said with little hesitation, “No . . . Nope.”
We shouldn’t be surprised either. But we also shouldn’t take for granted what we’re watching: The greatest player ever essentially running up the score on the rest of the all-time leaderboard.
It may be a long time before someone like Brady ever comes around again.
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