Shame on us all for saying the name “Tim Tebow” roughly 14 times more often than we said the name “Tom Brady.” I mean, really. What were we thinking?
Have you ever seen six touchdown passes look so easy? (Well, you have, but that was when Brady did it against Tennessee in the snow a couple of years ago.)
Have you ever seen 42 points scored so quickly (33:08) in the playoffs?
Have you ever felt more foolish for giving a quarterback attention when his team wouldn’t even let him try to throw the football?
It was a crazy display, the events of Saturday evening, but ultimately, the only thing we “learned” is that Tom Brady is head and shoulders and leaps and bounds and light years better than Tim Tebow. Shocking, right?
It’s not, I know, but I’m not sure we can take much more out of the 45-10 thumping the Patriots handed the Broncos, so let’s get into all the leftover thoughts.
–The defense has been the most-discussed aspect of this Patriots team all year long. While holding Denver to just 252 total yards was an outstanding performance, I wouldn’t get too excited just yet. The defense was never really challenged, as they followed their assignments on run defense and really didn’t have to do much with pass defense. Tebow’s complete inability to read the defense resulted in him running around like a chicken with his head cut off, leading to five Patriots sacks.
Bottom line: The defense played great, but it was essentially a bye week. It should be seen as a step in the right direction, and not much more.
–Remember when Shaun Ellis hit Tebow like a Mack truck hits a baby deer at 80 mph? That was awesome. The Boston Globe got a picture of it, but when it’s not in full speed, it just doesn’t do it any justice.
–The Patriots will now play Baltimore. This will lead to 3 million people talking about the 2009 playoff game. Please save your breath. Brady’s No. 1 target that day was Julian Edelman. The backfield consisted of Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk. Other players with receptions included Randy Moss, Sam Aiken, Ben Watson and Chris Baker.
The 2009 Patriots were barely a playoff team at 10-6 and were not very good. The 2011 Patriots have the most dynamic offense of any of the four remaining teams. They may not beat the Ravens, but if they lose, it will have nothing to do with 2009. So please, save your time and talk about something else.
—Rob Gronkowski‘s diving touchdown catch was incredible, and Brady said it was “one of the best catches I’ve ever seen.” And it was. But I thought Gronk’s catch on the first play of the fourth quarter was better. He hauled in a perfect pass along the sideline, absored a hit from Rafael Bush, and hung on to the ball to gain 28 yards and set the Pats up on the 4-yard line. Then he did this:
–That was Gronkowski’s 10th and final catch, as he finished the night with three touchdowns and 145 yards, if you’re keeping score at home. But more importantly, if you’re keeping score at home, what’s wrong with you? Don’t have you access to the Internet? Or friends?
–Back to that diving catch — let’s get into the anatomy of a ridiculous touchdown.
Step 1: Dive and get your hands on the ball.
–Brady threw a touchdown pass for the 18th consecutive postseason game, putting him just two behind the ol’ gunslinger himself, Brett Favre. The only two playoff games in which Brady didn’t throw for a score shouldn’t even count. One was the Snow Bowl and the other was the ’01 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh, when Brady left the game with what looked like a devastating knee injury early on. Since then, he has seven games with one touchdown, seven games with two touchdowns, three games with three touchdowns, and one game with, ahem, six touchdowns.
–I said going into the game that if the Patriots won the coin toss, they should break character and elect to receive so they can build an early lead and force Tebow’s offense to play from behind. As it turned out, Denver won the toss and deferred, and the Patriots led 7-0 just 1:51 into the game. That was pretty much the ballgame.
I love the strategy of deferring, because scoring before the half and coming out of the half can significantly change the football game. But once in a while, against certain teams, you need to take that football.
–I was tempted to head into Brady’s postgame news conference and lead off by yelling, “So, Tom, that interception you threw was pretty horrible, huh? Bet you want that one back.”
–The funny part is, if someone had asked that question, I’m sure he’d have been really hard on himself and told us all that he needs to play better. That’s what makes him Tom.
–Brady’s first playoff loss ever was to Denver, and now Mr. Tebow’s first playoff loss is to New England. Of course, Brady had 10 wins, three Super Bowls and two Super Bowl MVPs before that loss, so I think their careers are going a little differently.
–After a week off, you think Brady was ready to play football? The guy started 9-for-9 for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He was 10-for-11 for 129 yards before throwing that pick, meaning he matched Tebow’s production for the entire game in about 13 minutes.
–If you asked me to pick a defensive MVP, it’d be Rob Ninkovich, no question. He showed why you can’t run the option in the pros — defenders are too fast, too strong and too smart. There were several instances where Ninkovich defended both Tebow and the pitch man, and he made Tebow look like a second-string high school quarterback, unsure of when to keep and when to pitch. Ninkovich’s play was the biggest reason why Tebow’s rushing totals went from 93 yards in Week 15 to 13 yards on Saturday.
–Ninkovich, you’ll remember, was the guy who couldn’t bring down Tebow in Denver last time, and he definitely felt a sense of satisfaction by getting that early strip sack on Saturday.
–We interrupt this story for a commercial break.
OK, carry on.
–Brady passed Dan Marino in all-time postseason passing yards, so we can finally put to bed the notion of Marino being a better playoff performer than Brady. I’m glad that’s over with.
–I’ve said so many nice things about Stevan Ridley in the past month or so, and he repays me with a fumble that kills our chances of seeing Brady and Gronkowski set records. Thanks a lot, Steven with an A.
–I was in the Denver locker room after the game, and before Tebow went out for his meeting with the media, he stood in front of a mirror and fixated on getting his hair just right for about two full minutes. I don’t know why this fascinated me, but it did. You can see the final results of the efforts of Tebow the stylist in this video.
–Putting aside his focus for getting his hair to have that laid-back whatever look, the guy is the real deal. After warmups, he met with a group of people that included Zack McLeod, who suffered a serious head injury while playing for Buckingham Browne and Nichols in 2008. Tebow shook hands and hugged about 30 people. He was in no rush to leave these people. He was genuinely excited to be around these people.
And after the disappointing game that ended his season, he was in the tunnels of Gillette Stadium, hanging out with this same group of people and lighting up McLeod’s day.
I understand some people are sick of Tebow talking about his Lord and savior, and hospitals in the Philippines and all of that, but it’s definitely not a charade put on when the cameras are around.
–He also warms up. A lot. He warmed up twice before any of his teammates had warmed up once. He threw and threw and threw and threw and threw, and he did it all with no sleeves. He also did this:
–My walk from the parking lot to the stadium was no more than 300 seconds, but I wanted to die 300 times from walking in that cold. The walk back to the car was worse. It was the type of cold where you just lose control of your jaw, and the conversation you’re trying to have just devolves into semi-audible murmurs. I don’t know how the players performed in that weather, and I have endless respect for the fans who showed up to sit in it for four hours.
–Also, the folks with big wallets brought their playoff intensity too, as the red seats filled up almost to capacity for the third quarter. You often see those seats remain empty after halftime, as it’s hard for the aristocrats to re-emerge after heading inside at the end of the second.
–I still don’t understand the fans who showed up two hours before kickoff, just to climb up and sit in their 300-level seats. I mean sure, watching Zoltan Mesko warm up can be the excitement of a lifetime, but I’d rather sit somewhere warm for a while if I know I’ll be out in the cold for the rest of the night.
–Under normal circumstances, I probably would have mentioned Wes Welker for his six catches, 55 yards and touchdown, but the fact that such a performance didn’t generate any headlines tells you how ridiculously lethal this offense can be.
–I should also probably mention Aaron Hernandez, who had a standard evening of four catches for 55 yards and a touchdown (during which he was hit while high-stepping, which he definitely didn’t like), and, you know, just 61 rushing yards on five carries. He led the team in rushing, which isn’t bad for a tight end.
–Oh, and how about Deion Branch turning back the clock with not one but two deep routes on perfectly thrown passes from Brady? Sure, only one ended up working, but Branch looked as spry as he has all year.
–In the “We have to at least mention Chad Ochocinco once in every story” department, I counted him on the field for one play. It looked like Edelman took all of his snaps, and Tiquan Underwood also saw some action. At one point late in the game, Matthew Slater was out there, too.
But, really, who cares?
–There’s no storyline I enjoy less than the one of the Patriots “running up the score.” If you want to tweak me, that’s a good place to start. So it’s only fitting that when the Patriots do show mercy by having Brady punt the ball away on third down, it ignites a sore loser on the other team (Von Miller, hello) to start a brawl. It’s perfect, really. It’s almost more insulting to punt on third down than it is to keep playing football.
–Miller didn’t talk to the media after the game, but he did tweet this: “Was not a cheap shot, hit was totally legal, Play wasn’t over, I could’ve loafed and said game over, but I didn’t. Never quit, never give up.”
Yes, Von Miller, the play was over. Two men were downing the ball inside the 10. You hit Dan Connolly from behind. Then you started a shoving match that turned into a fight. Never quit!
–All year, when NFL talking heads have discussed who the best quarterback is in the NFL right now, they almost unanimously selected Aaron Rodgers. That’s the same Rodgers (26-for-46, 264 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) who was outperformed by Brady (26-for-34, 363 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT), Eli Manning (21-for-33, 330 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT), Drew Brees (40-for-63, 462 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs) and, worst of all, Alex Smith (24-for-42, 3 TDs, 0 INTs).
Just another reminder that this is the NFL, the craziest damn sports league in the world. Just when you think you have it all figured out, Alex Smith leads his team to a game-winning drive in the final minutes of a playoff game. Twice.
–On a similar note, the debate all year in New England has been whether the Patriots’ defense is strong enough to shut down Brees or Rodgers. That won’t come in to play, as the Pats could legitimately win a Super Bowl by beating Tim Tebow, Joe Flacco and … Alex Smith. It will still count, though, if that happens. At least, I think it will count.