Tom Brady has stated in the past that he’d like to play until he was 45.
“I have the answers to the test now,’’ Brady told Sports Illustrated shortly after winning Super Bowl LI.
In Sunday’s 36-20 win over the New Orleans Saints, Brady sure looked like he had all the answers. Several plays stood out as examples of when Brady clearly had a firm grasp of the NFL rules, and of situational football.
The first came on the Patriots’ third touchdown, a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Hogan. The back judge initially threw a flag, thinking the Patriots ran an illegal pick play. But picks are legal if they are executed at the line of scrimmage. Brady immediately pleaded his case to the officials, and the touchdown stood. In a radio interview Monday morning, Brady was asked if he persuaded the officials.
“No, they were talking right from the start,’’ Brady told WEEI. “The guy who threw the flag was the back judge, so he’s standing in the back of the end zone. He can’t tell how far they are down the field, so he’s got to go over to the official on the sideline and say ‘I saw the pick. Was it at the line of scrimmage?’ And they decided it was.’’
Another example came at the end of the first half, when Brady scrambled on third down and was stopped short of a first down with the clock running. However, the field goal team was able to bolt onto the field and get the three points as time expired.
“There’s a cutoff there, and it was right around what we were at,’’ said Brady. “We practice it quite a bit. Had I got the first down, you can clock the ball, but you can’t clock it on fourth down. I could’ve thrown it away if I didn’t feel like I had anybody open.
“The play just kind of developed. I thought I had a little space, and the rush came around me, so I scrambled and the guy tackled me, I think a yard and a half before the first down. I thought it was good execution by the whole team to get the field goal unit on to kick the field goal just before time ran out.’’
In the third quarter, it appeared that Brady threw an interception that was nearly returned for a touchdown, but in fact, Brady had called for a quick snap when he saw that New Orleans linebacker Manti Te’o was not going to be able to reach the sideline in time, leaving the Saints with too many men of the field.
“I was looking right over there at him,’’ said Brady. “I thought he was like three or four yards still on the field. It’s kind of a free play. (Hogan) and I weren’t really on the same page. I was just trying to get the five yards, and they didn’t throw the flag, which was confusing to me. Then they reviewed it and saw there was 12 on the field.’’
Brady is not the only Patriot familiar with the rules, as we learned when Julian Edelman wore a microphone in the victory over the Houston Texans in January. Edelman was warned by back judge Keith Ferguson about pushing off when running his routes, and Edelman pointed out other aspects of the rule that were applicable.