FOXBORO, Mass. — There have been days in the last month when Tom Brady has struggled to walk without a limp. He's missed practice time in each of the last four weeks. But for one day a week, the Patriots quarterback has been able to shake off that injured right foot in order to play some brilliant football.
Brady was spectacular again Monday when the Patriots slaughtered the Jets, 45-3, at Gillette Stadium. It was supposed to be one of the great games of the NFL season, but because of Brady's precise passing — clearly, it would be unfair to ignore a dominant defensive effort and a superior coaching job — the Patriots killed the drama early in the second half.
"Nobody is better than him," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "I think that’s just part of what makes Tom Brady the quarterback he is."
And that quarterback completed 21-of-29 passes for 326 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He shredded a Jets defense that was ranked third in the NFL in yards and fifth in points.
Quite frankly, it was almost predictable. Brady had been flawless in the last month, and he was coming off of the second perfect passer rating of his career. In the last four games, Brady has completed 91-of-124 passes (73.4 percent) for 1,203 yards and 13 touchdowns. Plus, Brady hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 6.
And despite the fact that Wes Welker has been adjusting to new defenses, Deion Branch has relearned the offense and youngsters Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Tate are all playing in their first full NFL season, Brady has gathered them together to create a fully-functional offense that is probably the best unit in the league.
So, while the stats are impressive, it's the intangible stuff that has made Brady so valuable. He is one of the few constants in an offense that has been completely restructured over the last year, and he has demanded excellence from every single person in the huddle. That, in turn, is what they gave him.
Even in the fourth quarter, when the scoreboard was so far tilted in one direction that Brady didn’t even need to be in the game, he was out there coaching, making sure the offense stayed focused and improved. No, the execution in a 40-point game meant nothing late Monday night, but Brady knew the Patriots would see similar situations down the line. This was a good chance to get some work done.
"That’s Tom," Branch said. "You've got to enjoy, you've got to love playing with a guy like that. A great competitor, I enjoy playing with him."
Of course, it's always fun when they're winning, and Brady is the best in that category, too. He set an NFL record with his 26th consecutive home victory Monday, and the Patriots took the pole position in the AFC East with a 10-2 record. They've had at least a share of the best record in the NFL since Halloween, and they're eying home-field advantage in the playoffs.
"All in all," Brady said, "it was a fun night."