Patriots' fans already have their stockings stuffed with a decade-plus of Tom Brady's brilliance.
Brady has been the gift that keeps on giving to Patriots' fans. The Ghost of Christmas present - and presents - wears No. 12. He is the consummate all-around football player. If anyone had any doubts about Brady's "grit and balls" they weren't watching NBC Sunday night.
Even when Brady screws up, he's remains America's Alpha Dog. His left-shoulder-first, touchdown-saving "tackle" against Carlos Rogers, who picked off Brady's pass attempt to Wes Welker on the Patriots' third possession Sunday night, was just another example of Brady's football player toughness. All that eventually stood between the rumbling Rogers and then end zone was a diving, crack-blocking Brady. But the $72 million quarterback got Rogers to stumble while trying to elude him (At the 55-second mark). That play was huge because Delanie Walker fumbled two plays later.
It was the biggest defensive play of the night - at least until Devin "Look What I Found" McCourty's interception in the third quarter.
Brady made a few key offensive plays as well. Check the highlight reel here. The Patriots trailed 31-3 Sunday night. There are roughly 31 or so other teams in the league who would have called it quits in that situation - to wit the Texans who trailed 31-3 New England in the third quarter two weeks ago Monday night before mailing it in down the stretch. Brady and the Patriots didn't.
Yes, they lost 41-34 at home in December, their first Foxborough 12th Month loss in 10 years. Yes, they most likely blew a shot at home field and definite bye. Yes, Brady and the offense was horrid in the first half.
"We blew off 30 minutes of football," said Vince Wilfork.
And who wants to argue with Big Vince, especially if he hasn't eaten yet.
But, as Bill Belichick probably has said a few thousand times, you have to play 60 minutes of football. The notable exception being if it's the Super Bowl and you're losing to the Giants, you can walk off the field two seconds early. Looking at Sunday's game in its entirety - it was an epic effort by Brady. He threw the ball 65 times and amassed 443 yards passing, with 373 coming in the furious second-half comeback. The only other QB in the league who could engineer a comeback performance like that is Peyton Manning. Eli usually saves his epic rallies for smaller leads against the Patriots in Super Bowls.
There are no moral victories and no one is claiming one here, especially given the inaccurate assessment of the 49ers we shared heading into the game with Las Vegas oddsmakers, who made the Patriots 5 1/2-point favorites.
But seeing Brady play with blind fury down 28 points in a cold, rain Sunday reminded us for the second week in a row just how historically unique this guy really is. The most interesting man in the world doesn't sell Dos Equis, he throws footballs for the Patriots on Sundays. Is it any wonder why Brady is able to dump actresses to marry supermodels? It's because he can. From all accounts, he's a also great dad and a great baby daddy. Vivian, John and Benjamin - and their great-grandchildren's grand-children - shall want for nothing.
Brady can get us to buy Uggs, off-brand candy and even a Dodge Dart. The last Dodge Dart I rode in was built during the Nixon administration and lacked luxuries such as air conditioning, heat, and working seat belts.
And if looks are everything, then Brady has infinity.
The biggest knock on Brady is that he hasn't won a fourth Super Bowl. Comprehend that one for a second. Brady and Red Sox have each won the same number of championships - three - since 1917. Try to remember that the next time you want to change his first name and start it with an "f." And Brady's oft-repeated quote about his favorite championship - "the next one" - amply demonstrates all one needs to know about his football character.
The next time I hear one of those foolish - "Who would you rather have, Brady or 'Fill In The Blank'?" - scenarios posed on talk radio - I think I'll throw my smartphone at the television. Brady is 35. So anyone in their right mind building a team would rather have a 24-year-old Andrew Luck or 22-year-old RGIII. At 35, Brady doesn't play as smoothly or throw as sharp as he did at age 25. But is there another quarterback you'd want in the clutch - not counting Eli in Super Bowls against the Patriots.
While Eli and Ebenezer Coughlin have possession of Rings No. 4 and 5, Brady walked off the field in Super Bowl XLII with the lead with less than three minutes to play and left the field in Super Bowl XLVI with the lead and less than four minutes to play. He was so close to Mario Manningham during his somewhat miraculous reception on the Patriots' sideline in the final Giants' drive of Super Bowl XLVI that he called properly called the catch in-bounds as Belichick threw his futile red flag. If they only allowed a 12th man in.
The official OBF Game Day outfit includes of a Brady jersey purchased in 2002. But before you brush this assessment off as just idiotic, unabashed homerism (as opposed to just idiotic), check out any post I've written on the Red Sox since the dawn of this blog in September of 2011 or our postgame therapy session after Super Bowl XLVI. And excellence doesn't necessarily equate with perfection. Turnovers killed the Patriots Sunday night. And the Ghosts of Super Bowl pasts will debate the Brady-bad-throw vs. Welker-drop until the next Mayan Apocalypse in 3012.
Christmas season brings a time of reflection. And New England sports fans should take a minute or two to ponder and savor this era of Patriots' football and Brady's achievements.
His handsome face is firmly chiseled into the Mount Rushmore of Boston sports. The QB who breaks Brady's records with the Patriots probably hasn't been born yet. Unless he's named Benjamin Brady or John Edward Thomas Moynahan. Gisele has Vivian ticketed to be a wide receiver so someone with the right DNA will be able to "catch the ball."
The millions of Patriots fans who can't remember this team before the days of Brady will have no where to go but down - at least for a bridge year or two - once he retires or rides off to play for hometown Los Angeles Jaguars in 2015.
These are the good old days. Enjoy them while we can.
Those Christmas stockings full of coal might be closer than we think.
Patriots fans can also celebrate the holiday season with another AFC East title and at least one home playoff game, along with season-ending games against two of three worst NFL teams located in the state of Florida.
College and high school football has been a dominant species in this state since Steve Spurrier won his Heisman Trophy in 1966 with the "Boys from Old Florida." The NFL enjoyed its Florida heyday back in the early 1970s, thanks to the Dolphins and their back-to-back Super Bowls, and again around the turn of the new century, when the Bucs won their Super Bowl and the Jaguars put together several consecutive playoff appearances and peaked with a pair of AFC championship game losses - including one to your New England Patriots 16 years ago next month. The Jaguars beat New England 25-10 in the 1998 wild card playoffs, the Jaguars only victory against New England in nine games. The Patriots won, 28-3, in a 2005 Divisional Playoff game and 31-20 in a 2007 Divisional Playoff game en route to their 18-1 finish.
Things aren't so good these days in the Sunshine State. The Dolphins, Bucs and Jaguars are a combined 14-28 this season. The Patriots are spending Christmas weekend in North Florida and kick off against the Jaguars at Waffle House Stadium Sunday at 1. All seven Jaguars fans have the same Christmas wish - after celebrating the birth of Tim Tebow on Tuesday they hope the Jaguars sign him in the offseason. Christmas in North Florida isn't much different than Christmas in Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia. The Elvis Presley (kids, look him up on Google) version of "Blue Christmas" and the Alabama classic "Christmas in Dixie" come to mind.
It's not hard to see why Patriots' fans aren't jumping at the chance to head south for Christmas in Florida if it's Christmas in Jacksonville. Not even the people in Jacksonville want to spend Christmas in Jacksonville.
Here, kitty, kitty.
The Patriots should make quick work of the Jaguars Sunday.
Here's this week's poll. Teams are listed with their records and last week's rankings. And I promise not to underestimate the 49ers until they play the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Time for this week's rankings. Teams are listed with their current records and ranking last week.
1. 49ers: (9-3-1; 6): Kaepernick-Gore > Clinton-Gore.
2. Broncos (11-3; 3): Peyton Manning - Comeback Player of the Third Millennium.
3. Falcons (12-2; 5): Schooled the Giants at home in December. Still have to prove themselves anywhere in January.
4. Patriots (10-4; 1): The world didn't end on Friday, and it didn't end on Sunday night either. The loss to the 49ers made the road to New Orleans difficult but not impassable.
5. Texans (12-2; 4): Someone once told me the loser on Monday night football covers the spread 80 percent of the time the following week. Have no idea if that's true, but it sure sounds about right.
6. Packers (10-4; 7): The Packers put out word this week that they needed 600 people to help clear snow from Lambeau Field for Sunday's game against the Titans. Wonder what Mark Henderson is doing this weekend?
7. Bears (8-6; 8): Started the season 7-1 before losing five of six. Jay Cutler said this week he's unhappy with the way things are going. Good news for Cutler, he grew up in Santa Claus, Ind., so can believe in anything - including himself. Remember, Cutler was traded for Kyle Orton, who was eventually benched in favor of Tebow, nowthe Jets' 20th-string QB.
8. Ravens (9-5; 9): Shredded by Peyton and the Broncos at home last week. This week, it's Eli's turn.
9. Colts (9-5; 10): Speaking of truly miraculous comebacks, Coach Chuck Pagano is expected to be back at work on Monday for the first time since being diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 26.
10. Seahawks (9-5; 13): Alleged-PED violator and cornerback Richard "U Mad Bro" Sherman back for Sunday night's showdown against the 49ers. Sherman's suspension appeal was heard by the NFL Friday. How did it go?
No questions about the appeal please the result will be announced soon enough. And I will be out there with my teammates Sunday!— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) December 22, 2012
11. Giants (8-6; 2): Can't remember the last time I was so happy to be so wrong than last week when I caught the Giants 34-0 loss to Atlanta. Anything that helps keep Big Blue out of the playoffs is a good thing.
12. Bengals (8-6; 12): BenJarvus Green-Ellis has three fumbles this season. Stevan Ridley has three fumbles in his past two games.
14. Cowboys (8-6; 16): Even with all their problems this season, the Cowboys find themselves right in the middle of the NFC East race. And they get the Saints this weekend. Tony Romo - the Redskins and Giants are counting on you.
15. Steelers (7-7; 11): Ben Roethisberger on Monday apologized to offensive coordinator Todd Haley and the Rooney family for ripping Haley's play-calling in Sunday's overtime loss to the Cowboys. At least he's apologized to someone.
16. Vikings (8-6; 14): Everson Griffen and Fred Evans went at it during Friday's practice in the Vikings soon-to-be-annual breakdance competition. Would love to see Bill Belichick's reaction if this happened in the practice bubble down in Foxborough.
17. Saints (6-8; 19): Once upon a time, Drew Brees was almost a QB with the Miami Dolphins. Former Dolphins coach Nick Saban (that seems like a million years ago) addressed the subject again this week and Saban blamed it on the team's doctors for flunking Brees at his physical. The Dolphins went with Daunte Culpepper instead. Saban has bounced back quite well.
18. Buccaneers (6-8; 17): Linebacker Adam Hayward got into a shoving match with defensive coach Bryan Cox during last week's 41-0 loss to the Saints. Not a good idea.
19. Dolphins (6-8; 22): Sandy Hook Elementary school psychologist Mary Sherlach was an avid Dolphins fan and the team sent flowers in her memory to her funeral, which was held Friday. Just a nice thing to do.
20. Chargers (5-9; 23): Norv Turner said this week he'd be open to an offensive coordinator's postilion if/when/once he's fired by the Chargers after another non-playoff season. The Chargers are playing the Jets this week and Tony Sparano is all but toast. Norv and Rex together on the Jets - that would be Norv-ana for Patriots fans.
21. Rams (6-7-1; 20): If Adrian Peterson could play against the Rams every week - instead of just last week - he'd gain 3,392 yards and Eric Dickerson would still be irrelevant.
22. Titans (5-9; 25): Chris Johnson paid tribute to the Sandy Hook shooting victims by writing their names on his shoes. He then used those shoes to run all over the Jets and scored a 94-yard touchdown.
R.I.P to all the victimslockerz.com/s/269751704— Chris Johnson (@ChrisJohnson28) December 17, 2012
Later in the week, Johnson spoke to the family of Grace McDonnell, one of the victims. And then he decided to donate the shoes to NFL Auction to raise money for the United Way's Sandy Hook School Support Fund. The top bid was over $2,500 as of Friday night. We routinely trash athletes for underperforming and whenever they screw up. Johnson, Victor Cruz and the multitudes of other athletes who offered their support to the victims didn't have to do anything. But they did. Well done.
23. Jets (6-8; 26): The parallels to the Red Sox continue as Tebow asks for a trade after Butt-Fumble was benched and Greg McElroy got the not to start against San Diego for the see-you-in-2013 Jets. Stat of the week - according to the ESPN Total QBR poll - there are 35 quarterbacks in the NFL better than Sanchez - including both quarterbacks for the 2-12 Jaguars this season - Blaine Gabbert (30) and Chad Henne (34).
24. Cardinals (5-9; 24): The Cardinals rank dead last in total offense and rushing this season. And they once beat the Patriots. Amazing.
25. Bills (5-9; 24): Bills lost 50-17 in their annual visit to Toronto and have been permanently kicked out of the country.
26. Browns (5-9; 31): Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would "jump at the chance" to become head coach in Cleveland if/when/once coach Pat Shurmur is fired following the season. Patriots fans from Bangor to Waterbury are lined up to drive him to the airport.
27. Panthers (5-9; 29): Cam Newton and Carolina play host to Oakland this week. The pigeons in Charlotte are standing by. (See below.)
28. Lions (4-10; 18): Speaking of records, Calvin Johnson was just 181 yards short of the single-season reception yard record set by Jerry Rice (1,848) set in 1995 with the San Francisco 49ers heading into Saturday night's game.
29. Eagles (4-10; 27): Andy Reid will be coaching what is likely his final home game for the Eagles this week against RGIII and the Redskins. This means Philly Fan can boo two fat guys for the price of one once Santa Claus shows up..
30. Raiders (4-10; 28): The big news in Oakland was the arrival and much-delayed departure of a pigeon on the field at O.Co Coliseum during the second quarter of Sunday's 15-0 win over the Chiefs. The bird ignored Kansas City's defense, just like most of their opponents this season. One fan says the bird is actually Al Davis, who has come back from the beyond to "peck at their feet."
31. Chiefs (2-12; 30): Season can't end soon enough.
32. Jaguars (2-11; 32): No many Patriots fans in New England want to make the trip to Jacksonville to spend the Christmas holiday considering the people in Jacksonville don't want to make the trip to Jacksonville to spend the Christmas holiday in Jacksonville.
Since EverBank Field is about two hours or so from the OBF lair, I'll be on site tweeting @realOBF throughout the Patriots-Jaguars game Sunday until my cell phone battery dies. As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page or e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author is solely responsible for the content.