Brady can rest easier after turnaround
PHILADELPHIA -- Tom Brady won't need any No-Doz this week. After a long seven days of postmortems following the worst passing performance of his career in a season-opening 31-0 loss to the Buffalo branch of the Patriots, Brady came back yesterday at Lincoln Financial Field as if it was still 2001.
He was accurate, not antsy. He was productive, not passive. He was patient, not petulent. He was, in other words, Tom Brady, and the result was not only a 31-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, but an afternoon in which he finished 30 for 44 for 255 passing yards and three touchdowns. His quarterback rating was 105.8, his highest since the Kansas City game a year ago in which he passed for 410 yards and four touchdowns.
The difference between those two games a year apart was that last season Brady was still The Golden Boy with the Super Bowl MVP under his arm. After last week's terrible defeat, in which he threw four interceptions and finished with an abysmal 22.5 quarterback rating, that award and a lot of other things about his game had been forgotten. Suddenly there were more questions than answers about Brady and the offense he ran and Charlie Weis designed, because it had struggled in the final month last season and seemed to be beginning a new year still on its knees.
Then Brady and Co. arrived in Philadelphia and all was suddenly right with the world again. At least for the moment.
"I didn't sleep much this week," Brady said. "As a quarterback a lot of times you take pride in winning football games. When the team doesn't win and you get defeated, 31-0, and you throw four interceptions, and you get shut out for the first time in how many years, that's tough. At the same time, you need confidence to believe in yourself."
Brady got some of that confidence back in a hurry when he capitalized on two Eagles turnovers in the second quarter and turned them into back-to-back touchdown passes off play-action fakes. Both times those fakes froze the defense for just long enough to allow tight end Christian Fauria to break free in the end zone. Both times Brady found him, as he had so often last season, and those throws made the score 17-7. From that point on, the Eagles were reeling.
When he threw a third score to Deion Branch, also off play-action, midway through the third quarter to make it 24-7, it left Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb in the same position Brady was in a week ago. He was playing behind the eight ball, a position that most often leads to mistakes and more misery. Not to mention some sleepless nights.
"I think we had great field position [because of the forced turnovers]," Brady said. "Our defense created great field position. We scored some points early off those turnovers to take the lead. At the point we went up 17 points, they're running uphill. With your back against the wall you can't use the full gamut of your playbook."
Brady knows well about that because he just lived it. That is how quickly things can change in the NFL based on circumstances and fortunes. One week you are in a hole and cannot get out of it. Seven days later, after a lot of tossing and turning in your bed, you are pushing your opponent into a hole just as deep.
That is life in the NFL, especially for the signal-caller.
"Certainly playing with a lead we took advantage of a lot of different situations," Brady said. "The more times you can possess the ball [the better]. The defense forcing those [six] turnovers, that was huge for us."
A week ago, against the Bills, the Patriots' offense had the ball for only three plays in the first quarter and for barely 10 minutes in the first half. Brady threw those four INTs that day, and the Bills capitalized on them.
Yesterday it was the opposite, with New England's offense controlling the ball for the first 20 minutes of the game to the Eagles' 10 and turning the ball over only once. A large reason for that reversal of fortune was Brady's 20 for 29 passing in the first half, which was good for 177 yards and two scores. After that, McNabb was feeling the way Brady had a week earlier -- stressed.
"I don't think there's one guy on this team that wanted to come out here today and play the way that we did last week," Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi said. "We as a team were really fired up for this game. Nobody had to say anything. We ran three plays in the first quarter last week. You never want that to happen."
Tom Brady least of all, because a young guy needs his sleep.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.