A sit-down strike by Brady
FOXBOROUGH -- It was a bold play that came from those backyard games he played back home in San Mateo, Calif., and literally executed by the seat of his pants.
If you missed it, then sit right down and you'll hear a tale of Tom Brady's fateful trip in the third quarter of the Patriots' 35-28 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday at Gillette Stadium.
Facing second and 8 from the Patriots' 38 with 13:04 left, Brady dropped back to pass. The usually nimble quarterback tripped over the feet of Corey Dillon, who had come up to block, and landed unceremoniously on his butt.
Though his view of the defense came from a decidely lower vantage point than his 6-foot-5-inch frame would otherwise allow, Brady, with the ball firmly in his grasp and his receiver in his line of sight, managed to squeeze off a 7-yard completion to Patrick Pass.
Brady's amazing play kept alive an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 17-yard toss to tight end Christian Fauria and enabled the Patriots to extend their lead to 35-14 with 9:14 left in the quarter.
"That's going to be on `SportsCenter' tonight," said defensive end Richard Seymour. "He's a heck of a player. You never know what to expect from the guy. He's always making plays. He's always just doing the unthinkable."
Even from the seat of his pants, Brady found a way to land on his feet.
"It's one of those things where tomorrow it will be like, `Hey, good play. Don't ever do that again,' " said a smiling Brady, who completed 18 of 26 passes for 260 yards and 2 touchdowns to help the Patriots (12-1) clinch the AFC East title.
What happened on the play?
"I think I got tripped up by the running back who was coming up in blitz protection to block a linebacker," Brady explained. "I was on my butt, and it happened so fast, I realized I had a little time and I tried to get my eyes over there [to the left flat] to see where Patrick was, and he was standing over there all by himself [at the New England 45].
"Like I said, you don't want to do it too often, because the percentages are against us on a play like that. But I am glad that one worked out."
Brady said he might've completed a pass like that once before, in his backyard with his father and sisters.
"But never in any organized game have I done that," he said.
And Brady did it in a game that had playoff implications for both teams. The Patriots clinched their eighth division title after the Steelers defeated the Jets, 17-6.
"You know, I've seen it before," said coach Bill Belichick. "It was a nice play. I mean it was not the way we drew it up exactly, but a great sense by Tom. And it showed a lot of strength getting the ball out there."
It's the kind of creativity offensive coordinator Charlie Weis would like to see out of his future Notre Dame quarterbacks.
If any scoring drive showcased Weis's go-for-broke play-calling style -- and Brady's play-making ability -- it had to be the Patriots' third possession of the game. After Carson Palmer hit tight end Matt Schobel with a 2-yard TD to tie it, 7-7, the Patriots answered by going 70 yards in three plays, the biggest of which was Brady's 48-yard TD strike to David Patten (5 receptions, 107 yards, 1 TD).
It ranked as New England's longest touchdown play from scrimmage and longest TD pass of the season.
Asked what he thought Notre Dame fans would think of Weis's offense, Brady said, "Like I said, I'm not sure he is gone yet, so I don't know what to think. I don't care about Notre Dame fans. I care about Michigan fans."
Asked if he would miss Weis, Brady was coy, choosing to remain mum on the subject, "As per instructions of my boss," he said. "So I just follow directions."
But what has Weis meant to Brady?
"I think he is a tremendous coach," Brady said. "We have a great relationship and we have since the day I got here. And everybody on the offensive side of the ball puts a lot of trust in him.
"I mean, he is as hard-working and diligent as any coach I've been under. And he is a great play-caller. He is great with the adjustments, great with the attitude of the team and the attitude of the offense."
But even Weis, who will bid adieu to Brady and inherit Brady Quinn as his signal-caller in South Bend, will tell you it helps to have a quarterback who's capable of making a play every now and then from the seat of his pants.