Commentary

Tom Brady 2010: Better than 2007

Beating Packers with just 43 plays more evidence Pats QB is even finer tuned

Originally Published: December 19, 2010
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Remember 2007, the year Tom Brady threw 50 touchdown passes, used his off day to perfect fuel cell technology and later convinced Apple to release the iPhone?

This year might be better.

Brady can do almost no wrong. He is on one of the great heaters of all time. Standing next to him at the craps table are the New England Patriots, who keep raking in W's like leaves in the fall.

Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, Brady added to a Patriots win streak that is longer than his hair. The 31-27 victory against the Green Bay IRs, er, Packers, means the Patriots haven't lost a regular-season game since early November. Brady hasn't lost a regular season home game in more than four years.

Beating the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers wasn't much of a surprise. Rodgers is recovering from a concussion, but cornerback Charles Woodson, linebacker Clay Matthews and the rest of one of the NFL's best defenses were still here. And Brady, while not anywhere close to his usual otherworldly self, put the Patriots on his shoulder pads during what turned out to be the game-winning drive midway through the fourth quarter.

At some point you just have to admit that Brady is a football god. He didn't put up Gisele-gorgeous numbers (15-of-24 for 163 yards and two touchdown passes) against the Packers, but when it counted, when the Patriots needed him to be The Tom Brady, he delivered his lines.

"He's the best," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Stew Milne/US PresswirePats QB Tom Brady faced off with former Michigan teammate Charles Woodson (21).

He's the best for lots of reasons. On Sunday night he did the lemonade out of lemons thing, wringing 24 of those 31 New England points out of cameo appearances by the Patriots' offense.

Brady was on the field for only 43 plays, compared with 80 for the Packers. Green Bay more than doubled up the time of possession, 40 minutes, 48 seconds to 19:12. And the Packers outrushed, outpassed and outdid the Patriots on third-down conversions and first downs.

And they still lost, partly because the Patriots had Brady and the Packers didn't.

"Obviously, defensively we didn't stop them when we really needed to," Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "I don't know why."

I do. The reason's name is Brady.

"When we needed it, we made the plays," Brady said.

The Patriots are 12-2 and have reservations for the postseason. They will go as long and as far as Brady can take them.

Talk all you want about the 2007 season, when Brady threw for 50 touchdowns and 4,806 yards, won the league MVP and led the Patriots into the Super Bowl with an 18-0 record.

But I'll take the 2010 version of Brady. And I'm not alone.

When I asked Capers if 2010 Brady is more impressive than 2007 Tommy Boy, he didn't hesitate.

"I think it is," Capers said, "because they've adjusted."

In '07 Brady had a motivated Randy Moss. He had Wes Welker -- pre-torn ACL. He had the human security blanket, Kevin Faulk. He had the fourth-best defense in the league.

Moss is gone. Welker has a knee scar. Faulk got hurt in Week 2. The Patriots' D is ranked 28th.

Meanwhile, Brady's tight ends are two rookies and 10-year veteran Alge Crumpler. His running backs are BenJarvus Green-Ellis and a 5-foot-8 (cough, cough) New York Jets reject, Danny Woodhead.

And it doesn't seem to matter. Brady somehow transforms each of them into a mini-star.

Green-Ellis scored on a 33-yard run against Green Bay. One of those rookie tight ends, Aaron Hernandez, caught Brady's 30th and 31st TD passes of the season. Woodhead (59 rushing yards) and Welker (three catches, 42 yards) caused matchup nightmares. And the Patriots, despite being outplayed for large chunks of the game, didn't get outscored.

"That's what it's going to take," Brady said. "We're going to need everybody. There's not a player on this roster that we don't need."

[+] EnlargeAaron Hernandez
Stew Milne/US PresswireRookie tight end Aaron Hernandez and his Patriots found their stride late.

Most of all, they need Brady. He has thrown 21 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his past nine games. If you're counting, that's 292 attempts without an INT (though he lucked out a few times against the Packers).

Brady walked into the postgame interview session wearing a V-neck sweater and the easy smile of a winner. He cracked wise about the 71-yard kickoff return of his right guard, 313-pound Dan Connolly ("I've never seen anything happen so slow in my life," he said) and made sure to compliment the Packers ("They gave us all we could handle tonight").

But he wasn't thrilled about what happened Sunday evening. The Patriots won, but they won in spite of themselves. Morphing into Bill Belichick-speak, Brady reminded everyone, "It was really not a great offensive effort."

He's right, but at least the Patriots left Gillette Stadium with their favorite letter: W.

Brady is taking nothing for granted this season. He remembers 2007, when those 50 TDs and 18-0 record meant zilch once the Pats got to the Super Bowl. Things happen, and in that Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, New England got burned by a wide receiver who is serving time in the big house (Plaxico Burress) and by another wide receiver who is out of the league (David Tyree).

A clinched playoff spot is nice. A dozen wins is nice. But Brady judges success and a season by one simple thing: Did he hoist a Lombardi Trophy when it was over.

He has three Super Bowl rings. He craves a fourth. Everything else, including a comeback win against the Packers, is a football hors d'oeuvre.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.

MORE COMMENTARY »

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter