What Tom Brady has been able to achieve this season with essentially spare parts at the offensive skill positions has been absolutely amazing. Could we be witnessing perhaps Brady’s finest season as a New England Patriot thus far?
It is not an exaggeration to say that it is a big surprise that the New England Patriots stand as the sole obstacle to Peyton Manning and his All-Star crew making the Superbowl. NFL pundits, fans and the Las Vegas bookmakers all had the Patriots as fourth, fifth and even lower ranked AFC Champion favorites at various points of this crazy NFL season.
The Bengals, The Colts, Chargers, Ravens and Chiefs all received more plaudits than the Patriots at various junctures of the season, and many picked Indianapolis to walk into New England and upset the Patriots in last weekend’s divisional playoff game. However, like a stone cold vampire, like an Egyptian mummy or any other of the army of the undead, the Patriots keep coming back from seemingly impossible situations and forcing themselves into the spotlight time and time again.
In seasons past they have done so with a smattering of good-to-great players on defense and a couple of legitimate superstars on offense, all working in tandem with future Hall Of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Name check time: Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Jerod Mayo, Big Vincent Wilfork and Aaron Hernandez, among others, combined to make the Patriots a dangerous football team last season. Welker and Hernandez are gone, Mayo, Wilfork and Gronk are injured and will take no further part in this season. The heart was ripped out of the Patriots skill positions in particular before this season got meaningful.
Nevermind. The Patriots won the AFC East yet again and qualified for the playoffs with a first round bye to boot. How did this happen? Well, you can’t really say the defense has carried the team in the absence of any big name offensive players. Instead, the defense has had to overcome its own rash of injuries, and has managed to survive without breaking completely only because of some herculean performances from kids who weren’t drafted and the proverbial guys off the street (free agents picked up and thrown in at the deep end). That and the brilliant defensive scheming of Bill Belichick, of course.
The real reason the Patriots have been a playoff caliber team, despite massive obstacles, is the man at the rudder, Tom Brady. He has been a bright, shining light of consistent play all season long. His efficient, calm leadership has kept the Patriots scoring points despite the fact they are lacking literally any big name offensive presence.
[[quote: “The real reason the Patriots have been a playoff caliber team, despite massive obstacles, is the man at the rudder, Tom Brady.”, pos:right]]Statistically the numbers are good, not great. Brady does manage to hang in around the NFL passing leaders in a few areas though. Fourth in completions, sixth in total yards, a good TD/Int ratio of 25/11, and seventh in yards per game average with 271, Brady has managed to hang around the leader-board despite the fact he had, you know, basically no one of note to throw to.
Achieving ‘good’ statistics when you are throwing to wide receivers that would barely make the cut on the Jaguars squad is an incredible feat in itself. Brady has efficiently led a very high scoring offense (The Patriots rank third in the NFL in 2013 with 444 points scored) despite the fact he is playing without a tight end of note, with several small, slow slot receivers and with absolutely zero deep threat receivers.
A closer look at the gentlemen who fill out the Patriots wide receiver depth chart is illuminating.
Danny Amendola figured to be the jewel in the crown, yet he has struggled to stay on the field. The Patriots' best offensive player other than Tom Brady has probably been hard-nosed, hardworking Julian Edelman. However, and we’re desperate not to insult such a hard working player, it is fair to say Edelman would probably find it hard to get on any other squad in the NFL right now, particularly any playoff squad.
The names at the WR position after those two gents are underwhelming to say the least. Thompkins, Dobson, Collie and Slater are trying their best (when not injured) and again, you hate to insult anyone, but seriously, have a look at that list and consider Brady’s stats above.
It is literally miraculous that the Patriots scored 444 points in 2013.
[[quote: “When a guy is a sixth round draft pick and climbs to where Brady is right now, nothing should surprise us.”, pos:left]]
Furthermore, Brady has done this with little more than the illusion of a running game behind him, with a group of running backs that either can’t stop putting the ball on the ground (Ridley), players no one has ever heard of (Bolden) or players the game of football had more or less given up on completely (Blount).
In short, you can say with authority, while Peyton Manning lorded it with a cast of super star Pro Bowl types around him, Tom Brady played the 2013 season with, effectively, the bare minimum around him at the skill positions.
The amazing thing is the Patriots managed some very high point totals in 2013 (43, 55, 34 three times) and that is almost entirely down to the skill, experience and competitive tenacity of Tom Brady. He basically willed the Patriots offensive forward.
Here’s the thing, and it’s a great thing and a clue as to why the Patriots are where they are.
Brady himself would absolutely balk (vociferously) at the suggestion that he has not had a supporting cast around him in 2013. He would probably reject the suggestion outright and respectfully point to the various strong points of the players who have been toiling away for the Patriots this season. That’s Brady all over, a consummate leader, a terrific teammate.
Add to that the experience that Brady and Bill Belichick have together leading the Patriots to three Super Bowls, two near misses, countless big game wins and a plethora of statistical wonders, and it is a little easier to understand why the Patriots are where they are today, standing once more on the brink of greatness.
Whatever happens this coming weekend in Denver, the 2013 season has been a personal triumph against the odds for Tom Brady.
Then again, when a guy is a sixth round draft pick and climbs to where Brady is right now, nothing should surprise us.