Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Art Of Football - Part 1: Brady's Super Bowl Performance Showed He's Far From Finished

Tom Brady is filthy.

Not just your standard-brand, slip and fall in the mud filthy - no, Tom Brady is rolling around in the pen with the swine, hanging out in the shadows of an alley, no-you-cannot-go-out-with-my-daughter filthy - and if anyone thinks that he's not, all those people have to do is watch the last six minutes of regulation and overtime of Super Bowl 51...
Brady's perfect throw to Amendola

...and if anyone doubts that Brady still has the tools to play at a high level, all one has to do is watch the throws the man made in overtime to rip the hearts out of the collective Falcons' defense.

Entering his eighteenth season, Brady can still make all of the throws required of an NFL quarterback - and not just make the throws, but to fire them into a tight window like a boss and also take a little bit off of a throw to drop it into a bucket over the coverage.  The most amazing thing is, however, that he can do both at the same time.

Absolutely filthy.

In overtime of Super Bowl 51, and after throwing nearly sixty passes to that point in overcoming a twenty-five point deficit, Brady made two of the sickest throws a football fan will ever see.

After completing a short toss to running back James White, Brady dropped back on a second and four from his own 31 yard line, initially looking up the seam to freeze the single high safety in his tracks then looked to Danny Amendola running an intermediate out pattern to the strong side...

...throwing a dart with just enough tough on it to keep Falcons' cornerback Brian Poole from making a play on the ball, but with just enough velocity to put the ball right on Amendola's hands on the right hashmark, gaining fourteen yards and setting up the Patriots just shy of midfield.

The very next play, Brady went to the weakside, patiently waiting for wide receiver Chris Hogan to sell a fly pattern up the left sideline to Atlanta corner Jalen Collins, then firing a missile five yards behind Hogan, who planted his lead foot and broke back towards the ball, which found Hogan's midsection just a split-second before Collins could get his hand in to break it up.

On both plays, the cornerbacks had perfect, tight coverage, and on both plays Brady pit the ball into a window so tight that to miss by a a fraction of an inch in any direction could have spelled disaster.

Even his next throw to Julian Edelman was on a line that you could have hung your clothes on, hitting the receiver right in traffic to set up a chain of events that included a pass interference call on Falcons' linebacker De'Vondre Campbell on the goal line and White's subsequent game winning strong-side sweep.

Those were not the kinds of throws made by a quarterback on his last legs, like Broncos' quarterback Peyton's wounded ducks in Super Bowl 50, where he was fortunate to be supported by a defense that forced four turnovers, two of them inside the Carolina Panthers red zone, and scored a touchdown themselves on a fumble recovery in the end zone.

The 17 points supplied, essentially and literally, by the Broncos' defense in that game turned out to be plenty to mask Manning's ineptitude and send him into retirement a winner - but Brady wasn't facing a middling offense that was easily intimdated and who couldn't hold onto the football.  The Atlanta Falcons gave the Patriots defense all they could handle, yet could only score 21 points against them...

...though they did supply the turning point in the game with a Dont'a Hightower strip sack of Atlanta's Matt Ryan that gave Brady a short field to turn a blowout into a one-score game, setting the stage for Brady's epic display of clutch passing.

Many in the media doubted Brady when he said last season that he could play well into his forties, but no one on either sideline in the Super Bowl had doubts about his abilities, even after he suffered through what may have been the worst first half of football that he had played all season - except maybe from Falcons' receiver Mohamed Sanu, who was captured commenting on the sidelines to fellow pass catcher Taylor Gabriel that the Patriots hadn't seen anything like what they were facing.

"It's Tom Brady, though." Gabriel replied matter-of-factly.

Sanu thought for a moment then replied, "I know, I'm never comfortable.  We're about to put 40 up on their ass."

Well, forty points would have won the game for sure, but instead the Patriots put up 31 unanswered points on Atlanta in the space of about twenty minutes, and ripped the Lombardi Trophy out of their hands like a street thug would a gold watch off an unsuspecting tourist.

So, Brady is going to be around for a little while longer, which means different things to different people.  For the rest of teams in the NFL and their fans, it means that the Patriots will remain the team to beat for the foreseeable future.  For Patriots' fans it means that the chance for a another trophy or two is not just a possibility, but a probability...

...but for backup Jimmy Garoppolo, Brady's continued excellence presents him with a bit of a quandary.

Garoppolo is heading into the final year of his rookie contract, and is set to hit the open market in free agency after the 2017 season, ready to cash in on what will be sure to be one of the more lucrative deals ever handed out to a seasoned clipboard holder - so many were questioning why the Patriots haven't been inclined to deal Garoppolo this offseason to try and get value out of him now instead of letting him walk for nothing next offseason.

The answer to that lies in the history of professional football, and it appears that New England is ready to franchise tag the Eastern Illinois product if they can't come to some sort of agreement with him to compel him to wait for his opportunity in Foxborough, because judging from their actions leading up to and including the draft, the Patriots don't want to deal Garoppolo, no matter the price.

And why should they?  In Garoppolo, they have a ready-made heir to Tom Brady already under contract, and while Brady is firm in his resolve to play well into his 40's, all it will take is one significant injury - and without a quarterback to fall back on, the Patriots' championship aspirations take a momentous hit - and history is replete with examples.

For instance, when Trent Green went down in the 1999 preseason, what would the Rams have done without Kurt Warner?  How about in 1971 when Roger Staubach replaced an ineffective Craig Morton in Dallas? How about Jim Plunkett for Dan Pastorini in 1980?  Jeff Hostettler for Phil Simms in 1990? Trent Dilfer for Tony Banks in 2000?  All of those teams went on to win championships with their backups.

Of course, how can Patriots' fans forget a guy named Tom Brady coming off the bench in 2001 to lead the Patriots to their first title?

But if you want a more recent example of what can happen if a team doesn't plan properly for injury, all one has to do is to look at what happened to the Oakland Raiders last season, when Derek Carr went down in week 16 with a broken fibula and all they had to fall back on was Matt McGloin and Connor Cook, who combined for two touchdowns and four interceptions as Oakland lost their regular season finale...

...at the same time losing the AFC West and a chance at homefield advantage, then went to Houston as a wild card and got thumped by a Texans team that had Brock Osweiller at quarterback.  If the Raiders had actually employed a decent backup - McGloin had been a career clipboard holder and Cook was a rookie - they might have had the advantage over every other AFC team, including New England.

As has been said numerous times, Jimmy Garoppolo may be the best backup in the NFL, and it is obvious that his value to the forward thinking Patriots as an insurance policy against an aging Brady is worth more than a couple of draft picks or future considerations.

The Patriots have no holes in their lineup to speak of, and their depth is better than just about anyone else's in the league, barring perhaps at defensive end and at offensive guard, and now that the draft is over, the options that the Patriots have in replacing incumbent talent with a college kid are narrow indeed, no matter the position.

In the end, the Patriots are loaded - as loaded as any franchise in any city in recent memory - a literal juggernaut with the greatest quarterback who ever played the game, playing at a level and with a confidence that has never been witnessed before.

That in itself is enough to generate awe from every one of their opponents, but when you include the ridiculous talent that head ball coach Bill Belichick has assembled around Brady, it becomes downright frightening - even if Garoppolo is forced into the lineup.

Needless to say, the New England Patriots are set at quarterback.

Next: Part 2, previewing the Patriots running backs

5 comments:

  1. You bet your bippy he still can and will!!! Looking forward to another great season!! Hope they all enjoy their time off before they go back to the grind....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Go Brady! If I were to die today, I can say, that I've seen THE best game of football EVER played, that last Superbowl was amazing.

    ReplyDelete
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  4. I can say, that I've seen THE best game of football EVER played, that last Superbowl was amazing.

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