Commentary

Tom Brady: The best at his best

Patriots QB moves to head of MVP discussion after dismantling Jets

Updated: December 7, 2010, 11:40 AM ET
By Jackie MacMullan | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Never mind.

The game of the year? A 45-3 drubbing can't possibly qualify.

That storyline about Rex Ryan "owning" the New England Patriots and their quarterback? Not so much.

The impenetrable Jets defense? You might want to, ahem, amend that as well.

Here's one thing we know we all got right in the wake of New England's dominating win: Tom Brady is the best quarterback in the NFL. In fact, it's time to take the next step and declare him the league's Most Valuable Player, the undisputed leader of a group that is looking more and more like the team to beat, no matter what the defensive statistics indicate.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesTom Brady was determined to get the better of the Jets' defense. He did, to the tune of four touchdown passes.

And to think we actually thought something was amiss with Tom Terrific back in Week 2. Brady was throwing balls in the dirt. Randy Moss was pouting, Wes Welker was still healing, the young receivers were running the wrong routes, the Pro Bowl left guard was holding out in a contract dispute and, just for a moment, we wondered if the best days of New England's franchise player and resident tabloid darling were behind him.

When the Jets delivered a 28-14 beatdown to the Patriots on Sept. 19, Brady appeared frustrated, confused. He threw two picks, was stripped and fumbled, and acknowledged Ryan's schemes were flummoxing.

With 11 days to prepare for the Jets this time, Brady and his corps hunkered down and watched enough film to start their own Cannes Festival. What he saw left Brady not only hopeful, but downright excited.

"We have a lot of guys who have good matchups out there," Brady said afterward.

He was referring, in particular, to former Jet Danny Woodhead, who caught a pass early in the game with tackle Mike Devito in helpless pursuit, as well as tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, who were left to do damage while corners Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie tried to stifle Welker and Deion Branch.

Brady didn't beat the New York Jets, he annihilated them. From the moment he lined up with four wideouts and an empty backfield, connecting with old friend Welker for a 9-yard reception to open the game, to when he sprinkled the finishing touches on his evening by tossing a 1-yard strike to Hernandez to kick off the final quarter, Brady was in control.

The prerequisites for a successful quarterback are poise under pressure and what they like to call "football intelligence." Sometimes, that means taking a sack rather than unleashing a hurried throw, as Brady did in this game on three occasions.

He has now thrown 228 consecutive passes without an interception. To provide a little perspective, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has now thrown 10 consecutive passes without a pick. Sanchez threw three interceptions Monday, the last a fourth-quarter pass intended for Santonio Holmes that came up short and was snatched by Patriots safety James Sanders.

Yet it's more than field smarts that separates Brady from the pack. Even though the Patriots skipped off the field with a 24-3 halftime lead, the quarterback was in his team's grill about the final two series of the half.

"We were terrible on those," said Branch, "and Tom let us know about it."

Even after his team had taken a 42-point lead and was clearly on its way to victory, Brady's intensity didn't waver. Veteran Fred Taylor, the running back who has seen a lot of football in his 13 seasons, checked in with 5:49 left and the first player to greet him was the quarterback.

"I mean, I'm coming into this game when it's all but over, and Tommy is right in my face shouting, 'C'mon, Freddy, take it to the [expletive] house!"' Taylor said. "He just never stops competing.

"The passion is always there, no matter what the circumstance. He never loses that sense of urgency. He always wants more."

What Brady wants is another Super Bowl ring. It's all well and good that he set an NFL record for most consecutive home games won as a starting quarterback with 26 (passing some guy named Favre, who used to play in Green Bay), but those accolades mean nothing.

Here's why this win was so important. Now Brady and the Patriots control their own destiny. They not only pass the Jets in the division standings, they have positioned themselves as the potential No. 1 seed in the postseason, which would guarantee them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Had they lost this game, they would have all but clinched their role as a wild-card team that would be trying to advance each week in someone else's house.

Brady is fond of saying, "We haven't accomplished anything yet." Wonder if he still feels that way. It sure felt like the Patriots were making some sort of statement in this game, like, oh, I don't know, "Who's kicking some ass now?"

I almost half-expected Bill Belichick (who looked remarkably like a blue marshmallow in his puffy winter sideline garb) to step up to the podium and declare, "We beat the Jets in every phase of the game."

He didn't, but he did speak glowingly of the 60-minute effort of his team.

"That was a really good effort by our players," Belichick said. "I'm really proud of them."

Brady's final numbers were 21-of-29 for 326 yards, four touchdowns and a passer rating of 148.9. He threw balls to eight different receivers. He never looked confused, flummoxed or frustrated.

He looked like the MVP of the best team in football.

Jackie MacMullan, who has spent nearly 20 years as a beat writer and columnist in Boston, is a columnist for ESPNBoston.com.

Jackie MacMullan

ESPNBoston.com columnist

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