Tom Brady probably will not be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player this season. It’s looking more and more like that honor will go to Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, with Aaron Rodgers and the Dallas Cowboys’ rookie duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott also making strong cases.
But make no mistake: Even if Brady does not take home the MVP trophy, the 2016 regular season was one of greatest of his illustrious career, even though he spent a quarter of it in exile.
In 12 games since returning from his Deflategate suspension in Week 5, the New England Patriots quarterback has thrown 28 touchdown passes — including three in Sunday’s 35-14 win over the Miami Dolphins — and just two interceptions. How impressive is that ratio? Oh, only the best in NFL history, surpassing Nick Foles’ 2013 mark of 27 touchdowns and two picks.
(Understudies Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett also kept their passes out of opponents’ hands during Brady’s four-game absence, bringing the Patriots’ season total to 32 touchdown passes and two interceptions. That’s the fewest interceptions any team has thrown in a season since the 1970 merger and the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in league history.)
That was just one of several career milestones Brady reached this season. He also became the winningest quarterback in NFL history and moved into fourth place on the league’s all-time passing list, surpassing Dan Marino.
Brady entered Week 17 ranked in the top four in the NFL in passer rating, yards per attempt and yards per game, and he was flawless early against Miami, completing his first five passes to five different receivers. He threw touchdown passes on New England’s first two drives and finished with a 130.4 passer rating — his second-highest mark of the season — as the Patriots won their seventh consecutive game to close out the regular season.
All told, the Pats went 11-1 with Brady at the helm this season, averaging 30.0 points per game with a scoring differential of plus-171. They won their eighth consecutive AFC East title, secured a first-round bye for the seventh year in a row and will enjoy home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
Keep in mind, too, that New England played five-and-a-half games without star tight end Rob Gronkowski — and won all of them.
“I think we’ve proven that we can deal with a lot of things over the course of the year,” Brady told reporters after Sunday’s game. “14-2 is a good place to be. … We’ll try to take advantage of this week off and get some good things accomplished. We’ll be ready to play our best football against who(ever) we play.”
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images