Brady Makes a Powerful Backstretch Move in the Race for MVP

Three weeks ago, I found myself a bit dumbstruck that Tom Brady was being discussed as a serious MYP candidate. Yeah, the Pats hit the halfway pole at 6-2 but Brady was coming off a relatively ordinary quartile that was punctuated by a rather humbling loss at Cleveland. Don’t get me wrong … Brady had some nice first half-moments, but MVP? The number three slot on the AFC Pro Bowl team was more like it.

But since then, Brady has made a big move on the backstretch. And as the race winds around the far turn, Brady is coming like Zenyatta, full of speed. I say that because over the last three games, yesterday included, Brady has been just about perfect.  And with a big night at Gillette on December 6th versus the Jets, Brady might just bury the field as the race turns for home.

“Ball Don’t Lie,” Rasheed likes to say. Well, Brady’s numbers over the last three games don’t lie either. They are flat out sick. Yesterday he threw a perfect game at the Lions. He was nearly perfect against the Steelers two weeks ago. And outside of a small fourth quarter hiccup, Brady nearly bowled a 300 game against the Colts. Thus, over twelve November days, Brady threw for almost 900 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions as the Pats rolled to three important wins. His QB rating over those three games was north of 130 and his seasonal total now sits at 106, which is just off Vick’s league lead. Take away the Hail Mary interception from the Baltimore game and Brady’s “adjusted” number may actually edge Vick by a hair. That is MVP stuff.

Yesterday being Thanksgiving, I will opt for the easy (and lazy) analogy and say Brady carved up the Lions like my girlfriend Molly carved up the Turkey. I say that even though a “turkey carving” implies some resistance and truthfully, Brady was more like a warmed knife cutting through soft butter. (For the record, here was yesterday’s menu …. A tender Turkey breast, Brussels sprouts sautéed with pancetta, a sasuage/cornbread stuffing and thinly sliced potatoes covered in gruyere cheese. I’m not going to say it was better than Brady but it was close.)

Brady simply crushed the Lions pass defense and before critics chime in with claims that Detroit’s air defense is woeful, it must be noted that the Lions actually rank right in the middle of the pack when it comes to “adjusted” pass defense. So the competition was meaningful and Brady still went ballistic, spreading the ball around and completing nearly every pass he threw. And if Brandon Tate hadn’t crapped himself on a perfectly thrown 2Q deep ball, Brady may have finished with another highlight and possibly a fifth TD.  

Beyond Brady, the big hero yesterday was cornerback Devin McCourty who turned the game around with a big 3Q pick that broke some Detroit momentum and set the Pats up to get the tying score that they couldn’t muster coming out of the half. McCourty then closed things in the fourth quarter out with a second interception that set the offense up for its final score and saved the Pats “prevent” defense from absorbing another hit to their stat sheet. If Darius Butler was a gift from hell, than McCourty was a godsend because he is quickly becoming the corner that the Pats have lacked since Asante packed his bags. He won’t be Defensive Rookie of the Year, but with the whole league watching yesterday, McCourty may have won some pro-bowl votes.

So the Pats now have the weekend off and come Tuesday, they will start cranking things up for the Jets. That figures to be a tough spot, but the Jets offense has sputtered a bit of late and quite frankly, I am not sure they can keep up with Brady. The Pats defense didn’t’ exactly distinguish itself against Shaun Hill yesterday and Mark Sanchez is an upgrade over Hill, but unless Brady cools off over the next ten days, I think the Pats are in pretty good shape to make a statement on December 6. And with a big night and the whole league tuned in, Brady might have a thing to say as well.

Extra Points:

* I was glad to see Sippy Woodhead ink a two-year extension. To say that Woody merely seized his opportunity is a vast understatement. He didn’t just seize it. He grabbed it by the throat and had sex with it. The big question now … what is Kevin Faulk’s roll going forward?  

*McCourty’s interception was a huge but for my money, an even bigger play was the 2Q pass interference penalty that kept a Pats drive going when they were down 14-3.  If the Pats punt there and then give something up, who knows if they get back into the game.

* Since returning from pacwest exile, Deion Branch has 33 catches for 433 yards in seven games. Meanwhile, Randy Moss, since leaving New England, has 14 catches for 200 yards in six games. Interestingly, Branch is basically putting up the same numbers as he did before he was traded to Seattle prior to 2006. That trade netted the first round pick that became Brandon Merriweather. And to get Branch back, the Pats had to only give up the pick they got for Laurence Maroney. I’ll save the gloating and just say “Branch for Maroney” was a nice trade for Bill Belichick.  

* Outside of McCourty, I didn’t think it was a very good day for the Pats defense. The pass rush wasn’t bad as I thought they got decent pressure on Hill without bringing a lot of extra guys. But Hill was constantly able to step out of trouble and the Pats just didn’t do a very good job yesterday tackling. A couple of third-down stops were left on the table as Detroit ball carriers broke tackles and made the chains, Chung didn’t’ have much of an impact and Spikes seemed to get a caught a couple of times out of position on cutbacks. It wasn’t a horrible day but it needs to be better.

* Another problem yesterday was the kick return team. Tate was stuffed on a few returns and his star seems to be falling right now.

* A guy who I am ready to upgrade is Gary Guyton. He might not be a sledgehammer at ILB but he is versatile and it seems like he is really coming on strong.

* On the other side of that coin is Kyle Arrington. To bench him means Darius Butler and nobody wants to see that but Arrington is becoming a real problem. He was overmatched against Calvin Johnson and don’t think for a second that the Jets won’t look to beat on him. This is hoping against hope, but the Pats really could use Butler to step up his game.

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