Tom Brady has been a steady presence around the New England Patriots locker room for the last ten years. This year, he has had to deal with more inconstancy on his offense than ever, with injuries and off-the-field drama mandating multiple changes. Despite this, the team has been able to hold the course, and they find themselves a win away from another Super Bowl shot.
This season was not the most productive season Brady has ever had, according to the numbers. Actually, it was his worst season statistically since 2006. Even so, the Patriots find themselves playing the Denver Broncos on Sunday, hoping for a trip to New York to play for the Lombardi Trophy.
Bill Belichick’s ability to adapt during games and to coach new, young talent to the point where they can really contribute has characterized his tenure with the team. The recent success of the Patriots can be directly attributed to his, along with Tom Brady’s, ability to hold true to form. In almost every press conference, Belichick can be heard to mention contributions from “all three phases of the game.” It has become a catch phrase that locals wait for in his usually brief and uninformative sessions. Though a source of humor for fans watching the media squirm, it cuts to the heart of his winning philosophy.
Whether it is switching to a power run style of offense to win ugly games in the cold, stitching together a decimated defensive unit to make impossible stops, or motivating special teams to make the plays that keep them in the game late, Belichick puts his money where his mouth is. Tom Brady, playing his role, keeps the ship on course. Although he has a combined for a total of 75 passes in the last three games, his lowest total of completed passes since 2004, Brady remains unconcerned. That 2004 season was the last time the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.
Tom’s supporting cast struggled early. With a couple of rookie wide receivers struggling to stay healthy after a promising training camp, along with lingering injuries to tight end Rob Gronkowski and newly signed Danny Amendola, the faces kept changing. Their running game stayed consistent throughout the year, despite fumble troubles for Stevan Ridley mid-season. They stepped up in a huge way late in the season. LeGarrette Blount was the bell cow last week, toting the rock for over 160 yards and four touchdowns.
Patriots cannot give all the credit to the offense though, with their defense forcing the Indianapolis Colts and Andrew Luck into four interceptions in last week’s game. Rookies and replacements have held the line in the face of season-ending injuries to Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, among other key defensive players. It may be Tom Brady who is the steady man under center, but in the last few games its been the new Patriots that kept the team on its winning ways.
Just before this season, Brady signed a new three-year contract to help free up some cap space for the Patriots. New England was able to free up about eight million dollars, to be exact. The Patriots used the newly found cap space to sign some key contributors to the team, while re-signing some free agents. Tom has been a great ambassador for the team, and leads by example every day he puts on a Patriots uniform. Nobody challenges his work ethic, not even his critics. Hardly anyone could have figured a sixth round pick out of Michigan would make such an impact on a franchise, but he has been a great feel-good story of success, and working your hardest to achieve it.
The combination of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady has been one of the most prolific coach-to-quarterback combinations of the last decade in the NFL. There has never been a quarterback in the NFL to reach the Conference Championship six times in his career. Brady will hit that mark this Sunday, and hopes to hold course and continue to set the mark in years to come. He may have had his touchdown record broken by Peyton Manning this year, but he broke another record of his own. He surpassed Brett Favre and set the record for most playoff appearances, with 25 in his career. His stats may have painted a picture of diminished capacity this year, but his steadfast performance has not. This is something his teammates have taken notice of, and applied to their games to keep the New England Patriots rolling through the playoffs.
by Justin Huffman