As the saying goes, father time is undefeated. Well, Tom Brady has pushed that theory to the brink. In his age-40 season, Brady won an MVP and threw for 505 yards in the Super Bowl, regardless of it being a losing effort. Now in his age-41 season, Brady has the Patriots in position for another deep postseason run.
New England has control of the #2 seed in the AFC, currently trying to fend off the Texans who have been over-achievers, in my opinion, this season. The Chiefs have looked vulnerable after close battles with Oakland and then Baltimore, but are still clinging to the #1 seed by a thread after a stunning last-second loss to the Chargers on Thursday night.
However, no matter if the Patriots finish the 2-seed or if they sneak up on the Chiefs and take home-field advantage back, the moment of truth that will serve as evidence for whether or not Tom Brady is still the Tom Brady, is yet to come.
With Patrick Mahomes, Phillip Rivers and even Deshaun Watson all playing outstanding football, it’s up to Brady to stand tall and remind everyone of why he’s the true G.O.A.T.
Brady’s 65% completion percentage, 3,700 yards, and 23 touchdowns are all middle of the pack in this new-age passing NFL, but it’s still been good enough to get the Patriots to a 9-4 record and in firm control of the AFC East.
New England will still roll to a tenth straight division title, even after a hiccup in Miami. With Pittsburgh next up on the schedule this weekend, in a must-win for both teams, this will be Brady’s time to shine. Going up against Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown is never a game New England can take for granted, and it always feels like a playoff atmosphere; similar to anywhere the Patriots travel to just because of the magnitude of the game when they’re in town.
But whenever there’s a big game to be played and the lights are at their brightest, that’s Tom Brady’s bread-and-butter.
The quarterback, largely, controls the outcome of a game, and while Mahomes, Rodgers, Watson, and Wilson can make spectacular plays with their legs and cannon-like arms, there’s nobody better at reading and picking apart a defense than Brady, and that’s where he’s got everyone beat.
Brady may be 41 years of age and may not have the same level of mobility in the pocket he once had but, the arm strength, mind, and competitive fire are still very much there.
I wanted to point out the ‘mind’ piece in that last sentence. Brady’s head is so far ahead of every other quarterback and even most coaches in the NFL. There’s not a defensive look you can show him that he hasn’t seen before. And if you beat him with a look once in a game, you won’t get him with it again, so don’t bother trying. I’ll give you an example.
A few weeks back when the Minnesota Vikings came to Foxboro, a team that’s supposed to have a fantastic defense, was no match for Brady. On one play-action fake late in the 3rd quarter, Brady literally tells James White “checkdown” as he runs by him, and then proceeds to hit White right in between the numbers for an 8-yard gain.
It’s those kinds of things that separate the good players from the great players. Name me another QB that would have the presence of mind to audible in the middle of a play. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Couldn’t think of any? Yeah, me neither.
Brady is going to need to carry that brilliance to the playoffs with him, and that’s how the Patriots will survive. The stats? Not the best. The mobility? Never been the best. But the mental toughness? The preparation? The experience and the mindset? That’s still top notch and will be until further notice.
Often times, players in professional sports don’t get to decide when they’re done playing, their body does it for them. Troy Aikman, Dan Marino, and Peyton Manning are all prime examples of that. Deterioration is something that happens to every athlete, but no signs of rust have appeared in Brady’s game.
Arm strength has been a big topic of discussion among Brady ‘cliff’ talks, as Max Kellerman would call it. I think Brady’s 39-yard rope to Cordarrelle Patterson put that question to rest last week, however. Of course, there will be bad throws, and there will be misreads, as any player would have. These guys are human, after all.
We’ve just been spoiled by such a high level of play from Brady for so long, that at the first sign of potential decline, the media are the first ones to jump all over it and diagnose it as the beginning of the end.
Brady is still, in many ways, the same player he was 10 years ago. Sure, the mobility isn’t there anymore, (did he even have it to begin with?) but Brady’s done such an incredible job of preserving his body, that he’s still the same player physically he was 10 years ago, just add on 10 seasons of experience. Think about it, he’s never been a guy that could move in the pocket even back when he was 25, so why are we worrying about it now at 41? There’s no answer to it.
It’s easy to hit the panic button in September and October when you lose to teams like the Jaguars and Lions, but the Patriots have always been a team that thrives when it gets cold outside, and so has Tom Brady. The ones that really count are still yet to come, and Brady is hitting his stride at the right time, and these youngsters just better hope they’re ready for a fight.
Grab your popcorn, your favorite jersey, and your pliability rollers too, of course.
-Brendan Howe is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @Brendan__Howe