Tom Brady wasn't in much of talking mood following the Patriots' payback win over the Jets yesterday at Gillette Stadium. Perhaps, that's because the quarterback felt he had sent a message loud and clear to the jabbering Jets and their cocksure coach with his performance in the Patriots' 30-21 victory.
It went something like this: Checkmate.
Jets coach Rex Ryan had said that the game was going to be a chess match at the line of scrimmage. It was, and Brady was Garry Kasparov. He got the Patriots out of bad plays and into good ones. He deciphered coverages and fronts. Most importantly, he took what Ryan's defense, heavy on defensive backs, gave him -- room to run the football.
New England ran 35 times for 152 yards, led by BenJarvus Green-Ellis and his career-high 136 yards. Evidence of the Patriots' firm commitment to attacking on terra firma is that their longest rush was 15 yards.
Brady didn't let retribution or his ego blind him from the most prudent play call. He wasn't too proud to ground and pound his nemeses. That more than his now-requisite 300 yards passing (321) or completing his highest percentage of passes against the Jets since Ryan took over, going 24 of 33 (72.7 percent) is why the Patriots won.In their throwback uniforms, Brady and the Patriots played a vintage brand of football, hearkening back to when they were more than an "oohs" and "aahs" air show, when they won because they could beat you at their game or yours.
That trait should not be lost on Patriots fans, because in a lot of ways the Patriots have morphed into the very team they vanquished to birth their dynasty, the Greatest Show on Turf St. Louis Rams. Part of the brilliance of Bill Belichick's game plan in Super Bowl XXXVI was relying on and feeding off the hubris of Rams coach Mike Martz. Those Rams didn't just want to beat a team, they wanted to do it their way -- with a fusillade of passes.
Belichick banked on that, and Martz stubbornly threw away a Super Bowl, trying to pass when he should have been jamming Marshall Faulk down the Patriots' gullet.
It would have been easy for Brady to fall into that familiar trap. But what has separated Brady as a quarterback from the moment he usurped Drew Bledsoe is his uncanny ability to process information and make the right decision.
It's why long before he piled up yards and touchdown passes like Red Sox pitchers do beer cans, he was regarded as one of the game's best QBs. Brady might toss pretty passes, but it's his Mensa mind that has always defined his greatness.
That's why it was so humbling for him to be flummoxed and fooled by Ryan, an MVP season going up in smoke amid a fog of confusion. Brady was not going to allow a repeat.
"The guy is Einstein on the field," said wide receiver Matthew Slater. "That's because of the preparation he puts in. Not only does he have physical attributes that make him great, an arm, a golden arm and all that. The mental aspect. You can't coach that. You either have it or you don't. God has given him plenty of mental [ability]. There is no question about that. As far as I'm concerned I'm just happy to be on his side."
The Jets, who played more man defense than in January, did sack TB12 four times and force him to hold the ball at times, but sometimes the best pass is the one you don't throw. Just ask Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles.
It's easy to point to the Patriots' final drive as evidence of Brady's commitment to the run for the second straight week, after racking up 183 yards rushing against Oakland.
But it was the first scoring drive that set the tone. After Brady completed a 32-yard pass to Wes Welker, the Jets stuck star cornerback Darrelle Revis on Brady's boy. He responded with four straight BenJarvus Green-Ellis run calls to the end zone. It was the dedication to running that set up the 73-yard pass to Wes Welker in the second half, as New York safety Eric Smith took a false step forward on a play-action fake.
Speaking of false, don't let the postgame indifference fool you. This game obviously was a personal challenge for the Patriots and their QB. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork said the team came in on its off-day (Tuesday) following a West Coast road game to watch film and that they were in meetings until 2:15 p.m. on Saturday.
"It's no mystery, for all of us these guys are our rivals," said Slater, a team captain. "We've struggled with them the last couple of years there. It means a lot to all of us. Obviously, it means a lot to the Big Dog [Brady]. Every win means a lot to him. I think there is added incentive due to the fact they knocked us out last year when we had things really rolling. It was emotional.
"I know guys talked in the locker room last week, right after we beat Oakland about this week. Nobody was really too excited about last week's win because we knew what we had coming. ...Obviously, it's a good football team who we don't necessarily like them, and they don't necessarily like us. It means a lot. A lot of work was put into this week, a lot of emotion. We're going to enjoy it, but we're going to prepare for a good football team next week."
Brady is going to get a double dose of defense Ryan-style; he must prepare for the Cowboys and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, Rex's twin brother. That's like following the SAT with the CPA exam. As Cleveland's defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan beat the Patriots' last year, holding them to 14 points.
It could be another week where Brady doesn't care to share what's on his (beautiful) mind -- Ryan revenge.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.