Tom Brady may have locked up NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors Thursday night.
Especially given the way his year started.
That faux-trendy, trashy trash talk about Jimmy Garoppolo taking over for Gisele's hubby has long since faded. Brady's redemption and re-evolution took another sizable leap Thursday night during what was supposed to be a laugher against the New York Jets.
The Patriots won this game even though their defense allowed the Jets to score on their first five possessions. By the time the Jets punted, it was already 10:35 p.m. A scenario like that earlier this season would have meant certain defeat for the Foxborough 11.
The quarterback was misfiring, he could no longer throw the deep ball, he was immobile and, basically washed up. At one point this season, Brady ranked 15th of 17 AFC quarterbacks in overall QB rating.
His ability to lead scoring drives when the defense was playing well had been amply demonstrated by the 80 points New England totaled against Cincinnati and Buffalo. But Thursday night, the limited success of the offense was necessary, no vital, to beating the Jets in a game that went down to the last play.
New England won 27-25 when Nick Folk's 58-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Chris Jones.
Dodged an unnecessary bullet.
All but one of the points New England scored this night were needed to prevent overtime. The Patriots were basically one turnover away from losing this game. That turnover never came. The Patriots have not turned the ball over since their loss to the Chiefs, which seems like it was about six months ago.
Brady is the NFL's Mr. October. This month, he's 3-0 overall and 9-0 when it comes to TDs vs. interceptions. Brady has amassed a 118.1 QB rating, going 70 for 109 with 914 yds. He spread the ball wisely Thursday, eventually connecting with six different receivers.
He started things off for the second straight week with a completion to Brandon LaFell for 24 yards on the game's second play. The next snap led to a perfectly-arced ball from Brady that found a leaping Shane Vereen for 49 yards before he bounced into the end zone. What made the play even sweeter for the million of Brady-philes watching was how the QB rolled out on the play and launched the ball without hurry or complication.
Brady and the Patriots' offense was only on the field for 19:06. "We got killed in time of possession," he said after the game. "Our execution was pretty poor. We didn't throw it great, we didn't catch it great. We didn't block it great. We didn't run it great. It was bad offensive football."
But good enough to win on this night.
When he was moving the ball, Brady was crisp, efficient and threw the ball like it was 2004. He threw no interceptions and made no crucial mistakes, finishing 20-for-37 with 261 yards passing and three TDs. The Patriots were only 6-for-13 on third-down conversions. They pretty much gave up on the ground game in the second half, running only 15 times on the night for 63 yards.
If Brady wasn't money on every possession during the game, he looked like million bucks, or at least $10,000 after the game with this jacket.
There were dry spells and four three-and-outs. But nothing disastrous. Brady witnessed Julian Edelman find his inner Welker with a pair of Gisele-inciting drops in the fourth quarter. Edelman quickly redeemed himself by hauling in a monstrous 14-yard catch on a 3rd-and-five during the Patriots' final scoring drive.
Brady ended the productive part of his evening by rolling out again three plays and two penalties later when he directed a laser at leaping Danny Amendola for a 19-yard TD on 3rd and goal with 7:49 left in the game.
Shades of John Elway, but far more handsome.
It was only Amendola's fourth catch of the season.
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, who won't be missed that much after the season, wasn't happy about it.
Will Rex be back next year? Will he end up somewhere else? Does anyone really care? Probably not.
The offensive line, which has taken a relentless beating this season both on and off the field, not only protected their QB, but actually stuck up for him. Jordan Devey took a 15-yard penalty for pushing/shoving/tuba-ing Antwan Barnes of the Jets. This came after Brady was shoved from behind out of bounds by Barnes late in the second quarter.
Brady would add a nice little flop on his own after the play, but the real hit that got Devey upset came during actual play and didn't make the cut on Twitter.
It was light-years away from that horrid Monday night in Kansas City when Brady could not find a single lineman to help him get off the turf after being taken down. Both Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly sat out Thursday because of concussions. But Brady emerged mostly unscathed and got enough time and enough space to do his job.
The Patriots continue to have more questions than an episode of "Jeopardy." Their defense was tremendously awful. The Patriots learned Thursday night that they can count on the Ridley-less offense to bail them out against a 1-5 team, even when the defense "can't stop a nosebleed."
Meanwhile, the quarterback continues to look more and more like his old self, with touches of something new and mobile. Brady remains a quarterback who knows exactly what he can, and cannot do.
Thursday night, what he did was play well enough to carry his team to victory. With no help from the defense.
The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Bill has written and reported for ESPN, CBSSports.Com and was a sports/deputy sports editor at several metro daily newspapers. Reach Bill on the OBF Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
OBF email Address. Thanks always for reading.
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