FOXBORO, Mass. — It turns out that Tom Brady won’t need to grovel to keep his job this week.
The New England Patriots quarterback proved there’s still fire in that 37-year-old belly and a charge left in his creaky right shoulder during his team’s 43-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
Brady threw for 292 yards while completing 23 of 35 passes with two touchdowns. He was especially passionate Sunday night, showing raw emotion even when running onto the field in warmups with rookie backup Jimmy Garoppolo in tow, giving a fiery fist pump to the Gillette faithful.
Those fans — some of whom had given up on Brady after last week’s tough showing against the Kansas City Chiefs — showered Brady with atypical adoration. The crowd chanted “BRA-DY, BRA-DY, BRA-DY” throughout the game, especially after he had thrown for his 50,000th career yard.
“That was awesome,” Brady said about the crowd. “I mean, I’ve been here awhile, so it’s — we have great fans. We get great support. It’s great to play well and play in this environment. I’m a very lucky guy.”
Brady was getting in Bengals players’ faces, and he even shoved safety Reggie Nelson after the defender hit him hard on a first-quarter slide. Brady carried the ball four times for 13 yards and tried to do his best Sam Gash impersonation on a short-yardage carry early in the game.
Brady was 7-of-8 passing in the first quarter and saw his numbers drop briefly in the second quarter, going just 4-for-11. By the time his biggest critics started to take notice of his supposed mid-game “regression,” Brady had completed 9 of 10 passes in the third quarter and 3 of 6 in the final frame. It was a vintage performance for one of the best who’s ever played the game, and perhaps a wakeup call to critics who surmised that Garoppolo would be given the reins “sooner than later.”
If the Patriots give up on the Brady who showed up Sunday night, they’ll look just as idiotic as anyone who was ready to write off the QB after four inconsistent games to start the season.
“To ride the ups and downs of, ‘You’re great. You suck. You’re great. You suck,’ it’s exhausting,” Brady said. “It’s exhausting enough when you’re winning to have to deal with those things, and when you lose, it sucks for everybody. We don’t play this game to go out there and not play well. Guys take it to heart. I think guys worked really hard this week to get prepared for tonight.”
Isn’t it amazing that when Brady’s offensive line plays well, and his receivers get open, he plays like the quarterback we’ve seen for years? Brady, who had been especially shaky on deep passes this season, completed 5 of 8 attempts that traveled over 15 yards against the Bengals.
This was the performance Brady needed to get his team back in order. Head coach Bill Belichick, who was asked last Monday night if the Patriots would have to evaluate the position, wasn’t interested in talking about his quarterback’s showing, but his answer to that question proved how important Brady is to New England’s success.
“I thought our whole team played well,” Belichick said when asked about the tone Brady set with a hot start. “I thought our team played well: We ran the ball, we threw it, pass protected, we caught it, ran after we had it. We scored 43 points. I thought the whole team did a good job.”
If the Patriots find ultimate success this season, it will be on Brady’s shoulders, and on Sunday night, he proved he still can perform on the biggest stage.