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Focal point

Patriots’ dominance is emerging, and it all revolves around MVP candidate Brady

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / December 8, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — As Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis said after Monday night’s game, “We just couldn’t stop them.’’

They couldn’t stop the Patriots. They couldn’t stop Tom Brady.

The Patriots quarterback threw for 326 yards, completing 21 of 29 attempts, and had four touchdown passes for a passer rating of 148.9.

He showed fire and grit, motivated his receivers, and demonstrated that the Jets aren’t exactly what they had claimed to be, on the field or in the media. And while the Patriots defense played admirably — one of its best performances of the year — it was Brady who deserved and got the credit.

He has been playing at least as well as any player in the league and certainly any quarterback, especially over the last month. Since the Patriots lost to Cleveland Nov. 7, a span of four games, Brady has displayed excellence and efficiency, and has established himself as the leading candidate for NFL MVP.

Not that Patriots quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien was interested in discussing any potential honors for Brady yesterday. He had more important things on his mind, such as preparing for Sunday’s game against Chicago. He did, though, acknowledge just how well his quarterback has been playing.

“I don’t have any thoughts on that,’’ O’Brien said about Brady’s candidacy for MVP. “I just think he’s a very consistent performer who’s playing well right now. And I think that there are a lot of guys that are playing well for us right now. And we just have to keep it going. But as far as MVP race goes, I have no idea.’’

He might be the only one not forming an opinion as the season reaches its final quarter. In the last four games, Brady has had passer ratings of 117.4, 123.1, 158.3, and 148.9. He has taken advantage of everything given to him by opposing defenses, made use of his greater knowledge week-to-week of a corps of receivers and tight ends heavy on rookies and new faces, and has rarely made a error.

He threw two interceptions against the Jets the first time the teams met, back on Sept. 19. He has thrown two since then. He has a string of seven consecutive games without one, a span of 228 passes. Contrast that with Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, who threw three interceptions against the Patriots, and who has thrown 11 in his last seven games.

“We made mistakes, and you can’t make mistakes on Tom Brady,’’ Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “That’s just one thing you can’t do. He’s a great quarterback and you can’t do it. When you do, he’s going to find your mistake and exploit you.’’

While Brady ranks only eighth in the NFL in passing yardage (3,029) and 10th in yards per game (252.4), he leads the league in passer rating (109.5), ahead of Michael Vick (105.7). He has led his team to a 10-2 record, the best mark in the AFC, and looks poised to take it deep into the postseason. He has helped mold players such as Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

And with them, he has led drive after efficient drive, has marched down the field against good defenses and mediocre defenses and bad defenses. He has been able to make good defenses look bad, as he did Monday night.

“He’s Tom Brady,’’ Woodhead said. “Everyone knows that. He’s been able to do some pretty good things throughout his career. I don’t know if stuff like that really surprises anyone.’’

Perhaps not. But that doesn’t make it any less impressive. As O’Brien said, the Patriots “executed the game plan the way we wanted to, for the most part.’’

That starts with the best quarterback in the game, at least at the moment, playing just about at his best. That starts with a team coming together around him when it needs to make a push for the playoffs. That starts with greatness and efficiency, two things New England and the Patriots have come to expect from him.

“That’s Tom,’’ Deion Branch said. “You’ve got to love playing with a guy like that. Great competitor. I enjoy playing with him.

“It’s great. You feel great when you’re involved with something special, and we’ve got it.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmalieBenjamin.

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