Passing the praise freely
Brady continues to bring out best
FOXBOROUGH — Rookie Aaron Hernandez said he doesn’t always need reassurance from his quarterback, but he got some last night anyway.
As soon as the tight end secured a 35-yard pass from Tom Brady in the third quarter of last night’s 45-3 victory over the Jets, Brady sprinted toward Hernandez and grabbed his facemask. Everything about what Hernandez did on the play was what Brady wanted to see out of the rookie.
“I’m not one to look for encouragement, but as a young player, hearing it from Tom Brady saying ‘good job’ and stuff like that, it keeps you motivated,’’ Hernandez said. “It keeps you going and keeps your head up.’’
This is Brady in 2010. His hair is longer. He is an endorsement magnet. He yells when he is frustrated. He encourages when he is pleased. All the while, he is executing and coaching an offense that is sprinkled with players getting to know Brady as a quarterback. Two rookie tight ends, a shifty running back, and a wide receiver back with his first team have been utilized by Brady in various ways.
“I think I certainly don’t take those guys for granted,’’ Brady said. “They work so hard, they take so much pride and they’re so well-coached. We do a lot of stuff with our offensive line in terms of communication and they handle everything so well, so it was a good night for us.’’
Brady completed 21 of 29 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns in the AFC East showdown. Brady left the field with the longest home winning streak for a starting quarterback in NFL history at 26 games. The streak dates to 2006, when Brady was completing passes to guys like Reche Caldwell and Ben Watson. And it continued in 2007, when Brady was searching the field for Wes Welker and Randy Moss.
Welker is the only name still in the mix. The constant is Brady. His leading receiver last night was running back Danny Woodhead, who had four catches for 104 yards. Veteran Deion Branch had three catches for 64 yards. Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski had one catch for 12 yards, while Hernandez finished with three catches for 51 yards.
Brady completed passes to eight players as the Patriots improved to 10-2.
“I think that’s when Tom is at his best,’’ center Dan Koppen said. “We’ve got our guys getting open and he can distribute the ball. No one puts in more time and effort than Tom does. He’s a competitor. Even when we’re up, he’s yelling at us, so it’s one of those things where if you got that guy behind you, you just want to play hard for him every play. His performance this year speaks for itself.’’
Brady boosted his season total to 27 touchdowns, one fewer than he had last season. In 2007, Brady set the NFL record with 50 TD throws, but before that he’d never had more than 28 in a season. Meanwhile, he extended his streak to 228 passes without an interception. It also was his seventh consecutive start without an interception, a franchise record.
“I think he’s getting very comfortable with everybody,’’ Welker said. “We have a lot of young guys and a lot of new guys on offense and there’s a certain way he wants certain routes run against certain coverages and that takes time. I think we’re toward the end of the season where a lot of the guys need to make sure they’re on the same page with him.’’
The performance, Brady’s second straight game with four TDs, may have cemented his spot in the MVP talk.
His outing didn’t surprise Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
“The guy is one of the best in the league,’’ Revis said. “It’s him or it’s Peyton [Manning] who is fighting between No. 1 and No. 2 in the league. We know this guy. We know who he is, and we know what type of player he is. When you play against those caliber of quarterbacks you can’t bring your C-plus game, you got to bring your A-plus game because they’re going to bring theirs.’’