It took two all-expenses paid trips to Disney World, a record 18-game winning streak, a 43-12 career record, the only walk-off scoring drive in Super Bowl history, historically strong individual statistics
, and a bevy of eye-popping clutch performances unmatched in the history of professional football, but the national media finally seem to agree that this Tom Brady guy who plays for the Patriots is a pretty good quarterback. Note the panel discussion on ESPN's The Sports Reporters
Sunday morning. The show featured guests Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News
, Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald
, and Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star
, with host John Saunders. Here's a quick summary of what each had to say:
Lupica: "Tom Brady is the best quarterback in football in his time the way
was the best quarterback in his time. I don't know how you can say anyone is better."
Whitlock: "(Peyton) Manning gets the all the hype...but Brady doesn't have the same supporting cast."
LeBatard: "We're still having a hard time naming the guys who work with Brady."
Whitlock: "When Brady gets hit in the mouth, he's still the same quarterback. When Manning gets hit in the mouth, I don't think he's still the same player."
Lupica discussed the struggles Donovan McNabb had in his career throwing to an unheralded group of receivers, before the arrival in Philly this year of Terrell Owens: "Brady's been a winner with Donovan McNabb's receivers. He's won two Super Bowls with Donovan McNabb's receivers."
The Cold, Hard Football Facts can't help but wonder: Has any quarterback in the history of football had to do so much on the field before "pundits" finally acknowledged him as the game's top player? History seems to show that "pundits" are notoriously slow on the uptake. After all, as the Cold, Hard Football Facts noted last week, former No.1 NFL draft pick Drew Bledsoe had to play mediocre football for 11 long years before many "pundits" (and Patriots fans) finally acknowledged that he's a mediocre quarterback.
Much was made about the NFL's efforts this season to enforce the so-called "five-yard chuck rule." Loyal readers of the Cold, Hard Football Facts know that this was a concerted effort by Indy and Tennessee to emasculate New England's superior defensive backs
and to get a competitive advantage on a team they've been unable to match on the field of play. These fears were borne out in the first two games of the year, when New England's linebackers and defensive backs were whistled for nine pass-defense penalties (holding, interference, illegal contact). The trend changed course, at least for one week, against Buffalo. New England was flagged for just one pass-defense penalty for five yards Sunday (Ty Law, illegal contact).
New England has been whistled for 10 pass-defense penalties for 59 yards in 2004. After three games last season, the Patriots had been flagged for just three pass-defense penalties (all pass interference) for 62 yards.
What do you, me and Drew Bledsoe have in common? None of us have the skills needed to play quarterback in the NFL.
Bob Neumeier of sports radio WEEI (850AM) in Boston offered up this nifty little gem during the Patriots' "Fifth Quarter" postgame show on Channel 38: "This guy (Tom Brady) is a legitimate superstar. He's a legitimate superstar." Neumeier went on to report that baseballs are round.
Tom Brady is in the midst of the most productive period of his career. Brady has posted a passer rating of better than 100 six times in his last nine games (stretching back to the Dec. 14, 2003 victory over Jacksonville).
Brady is on pace this year to pass for 37 touchdowns and more than 4,500 yards. In three games, he has completed 58 of 94 passes (61.7%) for 850 yards, with 7 TDs, 3 INTs, a 102.7 passer rating, and an average of 9.04 yards per attempt. Brady's previous career bests in these last two categories came in 2001, when he posted a passer rating of 86.5 and averaged 6.88 yards per attempt.
Not all is perfect in Brady world, however. In fact, a disturbing trend ended – barely – against Buffalo. Heading into the Buffalo game, Brady had thrown end-zone interceptions in four straight games. These included potentially deadly INTs in both the AFC title game and the Super Bowl. Brady almost made it five-for-five against Buffalo. He was saved by a video replay that showed, correctly, that a Buffalo defensive back had dropped a ball that was originally ruled a drive-killing, end-zone interception.
Wanna lay some Cold, Hard Football Facts on those oh-so-sad DollFans this week? The Miami Herald has the best message board
with the angriest, most vile, ignorant, ill-mannered and easiest-to-upset DollFans. If you prefer to communicate with post-literate functioning hominids with opposing thumbs, check out PatriotsPlanet.com
The Patriots and the Jets are tied atop the AFC East with 3-0 records, but New England is the only team that can claim a quality win, courtesy of its Week One victory against Indy (now 3-1). New York 's opponents this season are a combined 3-9. New England 's opponents are a combined 4-7. Loyal readers of the Cold, Hard Football Facts have come to learn over the years that quality wins are the single most accurate indicator of a team's strength, typically more important than won-loss record.
Random NFL Cold, Hard Football Fact of the week: Pittsburgh 's Jerome Bettis is on pace this year to rush for 88 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Random NFL Cold, Hard Football Fact, part II: Arizona's Emmitt Smith ran for 127 yards in a 34-10 victory over New Orleans this week, becoming just the fifth player in NFL history to rush for more than 100 yards in a game after age 35.
During its 18-game win streak, New England has outscored its opponents by a combined score of 431 to 271, or an average of 23.9 to 15.0 points per game. Six of the 18 victories have been by less than a touchdown. Eight of the victories have been by double-digit margins. Last season, the Patriots, Chiefs, and Rams were tied for the most double digit victories (including playoffs) with seven.
Strong finish: The Patriots have outscored their opponents by 28 points this year (81-53). They've outscored their opponents 27-0 in the fourth quarter.