The Museum of Modern Gridiron Arts
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 30, 2006
By Cold, Hard Football Facts publisher Kerry J. Byrne
We hope all you students of the gridiron arts have taken copious notes in recent days.
After all, you've just been treated to a pair of virtuoso performances by the Michelangelo and da Vinci of the NFL Renaissance, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
No sooner had Manning dried the brushes after completing the Sistine Chapel of his NFL career – reaching to touch the hand of the Gridiron Gods with a remarkable 34-31 win at Denver – than Brady pulled the cover off his own pigskin Mona Lisa. He walked into one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL last night and took all of two minutes to turn it into a mausoleum of Egyptian mummies, shredding the upstart Vikings and their vaunted defense for 372 yards – including a dizzying 257 in the first half – and four touchdowns.
It was not the equal of Manning's Sunday masterpiece. The Colts quarterback faced a tougher defense and a better team, and was forced by his own inept defense to score with every second-half possession. But Brady's performance was one of those Rightbackatcha! games – serving notice to his fellow football Florentine that he will not cede the title of the game's greatest gridiron artist without a fight.
There are some analysts out there in the seedy underworld of online pigskin "punditry" who believe that the Manning-Brady debate is tired and old.
We believe that these people are high from the fumes of absinthe and oil paints.
"Brady or Manning?" is the most compelling debate in all of sports today – rapidly reaching the standards of Magic vs. Bird, Russell vs. Chamberlain and Tastes Great vs. Less Filling among sports-fan debates that will never die.
We should celebrate their historic rivalry.
Manning and Brady are often compared to Dan Marino and Joe Montana. But those NFL legends rarely ever faced each other – just three times in their 12 years in the league together. Brady and Manning square off Sunday night for the eighth time in the last six seasons, in front of a national television audience on NBC. It may be the precursor to a ninth head-to-head gunfight in January.
At the very least, it will be the regular-season highlight of 2006 – the most hyped and analyzed game of the season. The least we can do is revel in each and every meeting between the game's greatest performers – two bona fide future Hall of Famers at the very heights of their artistic genius.
Yesterday, we gave 10 reasons why Manning's win over Denver on Sunday was the best performance of his career.
Today, Brady gets equal billing. We take a walk around the Museum of Modern Gridiron Arts and, on the heels of another masterpiece, look at the 10 greatest games of his remarkable career.
As we did when weighing Manning's performance against Denver, we take into consideration a variety of factors, including the circumstances and the stakes of the game, the quality of the opponent and Brady's own individual production.
10 – New England 24, Philadelphia 21 (Super Bowl XXXIX, Feb. 6, 2005 @ Jacksonville)
The numbers: 23 for 33 (69.7%), 236 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 7.2 YPA, 110.2 passer rating
The story: His opposing quarterback had a physical meltdown under the bright lights and heavy pressure of the Super Bowl. But Brady was again near flawless in a Super Bowl victory, posting a 110.2 passer rating with 2 TDs and 0 INTs against a defense that fielded three Pro Bowl DBs and finished the season No. 2 in scoring. He threw TD passes to receiver David Givens and, for the second time in a Super Bowl, to linebacker/tight end Mike Vrabel.
9 – New England 34, New Orleans 17 (Nov. 25, 2001 @ New England)
The numbers: 19 for 26 (73.1%), 258 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 9.9 YPA, 143.9
The story: On a stormy night in Foxboro, the 5-5 Patriots welcomed the 5-4 Saints and launched one of the great late-season rallies in NFL history – a rally orchestrated by the inexperienced Brady. In just his ninth NFL start, Brady shredded the New Orleans defense, throwing TDs to four different receivers: venerable Troy Brown, journeyman ballcarrier Antowain Smith, immortal wideout Charles Johnson and legendary fullback Marc Edwards. New England would win its next eight games of 2001, concluding with its improbable Super Bowl XXXVI victory over St. Louis.
8 – New England 31, Minnesota 7 (Oct. 30, 2006 @ Minnesota)
The numbers: 29 for 43 (67.4%), 372 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 8.7 YPA, 115.6 rating
The story: Brady proved the Cold, Hard Football Facts maxim – espoused at the start of the 2006 season – that he could win throwing to tackling dummies on wagon wheels. He dissected one of the league's top defenses on the road in a hostile arena, with all the icy emotion and ruthless efficiency of a gridiron assassin. Brady completed 6 of 6 passes for 94 yards and a TD on the game's first drive, and ended with 257 first-half yards. He connected with 10 different receivers, including TD passes to four different players: Brown, tight end Ben Watson, New England newcomer Reche Caldwell and rookie Chad Jackson. Along the way, he ran his record in domes to 10-0 and upped his indoor passer rating to 104.1.
7 – New England 30, Denver 26 (Nov. 3, 2003 @ Denver)
The numbers: 20 for 35 (57.1%), 350 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 10.0 YPA, 108.0 rating
The story: What would become an NFL-record 21-game win streak nearly died in Denver after a mere five wins before Brady once again unleashed a masterpiece. New England trailed 24-23 with less than three minutes to play and was pinned at its own 1 when coach Bill Belichick opted to take an intentional safety instead of punt. New England got the ball back at its own 42 with 2:15 to play and Brady quickly put the game away by completing 4 of 5 passes for 58 yards, punctuated by an 18-yard, game-winning TD toss to Givens. New England would not lose another game until October 2004.
6 – New England 20, St. Louis 17 (Feb. 3, 2002, Super Bowl XXXVI @ New Orleans)
The numbers: 16 for 27 (59.3%), 145 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 5.4 YPA, 86.2 rating
The story: It says quite a bit about Brady's brilliant career when the only walk-off scoring drive in Super Bowl history merits just the sixth spot on the list of his greatest games. The truth is that Brady was merely ordinary for 58 minutes and 39 seconds, as the coaching staff kept the wraps on the Patriots passing game to avoid a shootout with the "Greatest Show on Turf."
While announcer John Madden famously told New England to take a knee and play for overtime, Brady molded the foundation of a legend. With no timeouts remaining, he calmly drove the Patriots 53 yards in 74 seconds, completing 5 of 7 passes before spiking the ball to set up Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard game-winner. The drive earned Brady his first Super Bowl MVP award in just his 17th NFL start.
5 – New England 29, San Diego 26 (Oct. 14, 2001 @ New England)
The numbers: 33 for 54 (61.4%), 364 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT, 6.7 YPA, 93.4 rating
The story: For some reason, Brady in his first year developed a reputation among the "pundits" as a role-playing game manager. Apparently, nobody saw him play that season. Take, for example, his third ever NFL start, when he attempted 54 passes and connected on 33 for 364 yards. That's the equivalent of about three games of work for Ben Roethlisberger in his first two seasons in the league. The Patriots needed every single attempt. Brady led New England to three straight scoring drives to overcome a 10-point deficit with less than four minutes left and to win with an overtime field goal. Brady completed 15 of 20 passes for 155 yards on those three must-score drives.
4 – New England 23, Pittsburgh 20 (Sept. 25, 2005 @ Pittsburgh)
The numbers: 31 for 41 (75.6%), 372 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 9.1 YPA, 92.7 rating
The story: The heaviest of the NFL's heavyweights – the current winners of the last three Super Bowls – squared off in an early-season rematch of the 2004 AFC title game. Brady again hushed a loud road crowd with a display of clutch, surgical precision and artistic mastery. He completed a perfect 12 of 12 passes for 167 yards in the fourth quarter, which ended with Brady taking New England 37 yards on four plays to set up Vinatieri's 43-yard game-winner with one second to play.
3 – New England 16, Oakland 13 (Jan. 19, 2002 @ New England)
The numbers: 32 for 52 (61.5%), 312 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 6.0 YPA, 70.4 rating
The story: Everyone remembers the "Tuck Rule" call. What they don't remember is that Brady completed more than 60 percent of his passes for 312 yards in one of the most memorable blizzards in NFL history, while leading his team to three scores in their final four drives and a comeback from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Brady carried his team through the maelstrom, completing a remarkable 20 of 27 passes for 143 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime, while running for one TD. It was just his 15th start as a professional. Brady became one of just a handful of quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for more than 300 yards in his first playoff game. Among Live Ball Era Hall of Fame quarterbacks, only Montana topped 300 yards in his playoff debut (304).
2 – New England 32, Carolina 29 (Feb. 1, 2004, Super Bowl XXXVIII @ Houston)
The numbers: 32 for 48 (66.7%), 354 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 7.4 YPA, 100.5 rating
The story: The Patriots defense allowed a league-low 238 points in 2003. But in the biggest game of the year, New England found itself locked in a fourth-quarter shootout with the spunky Panthers. Brady responded with a Super Bowl-record 32 completions, 354 yards (fifth-most in Super Bowl history) and his second Super Bowl MVP performance. He led the Patriots to 18 fourth-quarter points, including 11 points in the final two minutes, culminating in a last-second game-winning field goal. Brady threw TDs to three different players: wideout Deion Branch, Givens and Vrabel. The drama certainly attracted a lot of attention – Super Bowl XXXVIII remains the most watched TV program in North American history.
1 – New England 41, Pittsburgh 27 (Jan. 23, 2005 @ Pittsburgh)
The numbers: 14 for 21 (66.7%), 207 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 9.9 YPA, 130.5 rating
The story: Brady channeled the spirit of his Hall of Fame 1960s predecessor, Bart Starr, in this, his definitive performance. Pittsburgh had every advantage heading into this game: a 15-1 record, a raucous home crowd and the league's No. 1-ranked total and scoring defense. It was also the second-coldest game in Pittsburgh history (11 degrees, -1 wind chill).
These obstacles meant nothing. Brady picked apart the league's top team like a Cold, Hard Football Facts troll pulling apart barbecued Carolina pork. He led New England to 34 offensive points and to a comfortable 41-20 lead late in the game. It reminded the football historians among us of Starr's precision performance in a 28-7 win over the Rams in the 1967 playoffs. The Rams earned a home game by virtue of their 11-1-2 record and still stand as one of the most dominant teams in NFL history. But Starr led the 9-4-1 Packers to postseason victory by completing 73.9 percent of his passes (17 for 23) for 222 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT (100.3 rating). Both Starr and Brady would punctuate their amazing playoff performances with Super Bowl victories.
It was days later, in a Sports Illustrated report, that we discovered that Brady was laid up the night before in his Pittsburgh hotel room with a 103-degree temperature and an IV drip stuck into his arm.
New England 31, Atlanta 28 (Oct. 9, 2005 @ Atlanta): Brady pieced together one of the best statistical games of his career (140.4 rating, 13.0 YPA, 81.5 percent completions) and directed another ho-hum, game-winning scoring drive that ended with Vinatieri's 29-yard field goal with 17 seconds to play.
New England 33, Chicago 30 (Nov. 10, 2002 @ Chicago): Brady completed 36 of 55 passes for 328 yards and 3 TDs to spark a comeback from a 27-6 third-quarter deficit.
New England 41, Kansas City 38 (Sept. 22, 2002 @ New England): Brady completed 72.2 percent of his passes (39 for 54) for 4 TDs and a career-best 410 yards to lead the Patriots to an overtime victory.
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