Tom Brady And Bill Belichick's Finest Playoff Moment And Other Leftover Patriots Thoughts
BOSTON (CBS) -- Well, that right there was something else.
Though most everyone in the football world predicted a Patriots win over the Colts, nobody saw that coming. That was ugly, and by the time the lights went out at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots had put the finishing touches on their most dominant playoff performance of the Bill Belichick era -- a period which hasn't exactly been lacking in playoff wins.
That's not making a grand statement, considering the 45-7 victory was the second-most lopsided AFC Championship Game ever played. But when you remember all of those "tomato can" matchups in the divisional round, all those lesser teams that visited Foxboro only to get run over, none of them led to a 38-point margin of victory for the Patriots.
For as good as the 2007 team was, that squad only won its lackluster championship game 21-12. The '01 Pats beat the Steelers by a touchdown, the '03 team beat Peyton Manning's Colts 24-14, and the 2011 team needed the famed Billy Cundiff shank to come away with a three-point victory. The only comparable to Sunday night's performance was 2004's win in Pittsburgh, but even then, the Steelers scored 24 second-half points to make the final score more respectable at 41-27.
Yet this year, there wasn't much respectable work done by the Colts, and as a result, the Patriots will not be short on confidence as they spend the next two weeks gearing up to play the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
But before we go into full-on Super Bowl mode, let's take one last stroll through the leftover thoughts from that 45-7 win over the Colts.
--I'll admit, it's a tad disingenuous to write about the New England victory with such high praise. Because the reality is that the Colts stink.
Sure, they made the conference title game, good for them, wahoo, all of that. But they're a team that made it this far without one single impressive victory. They beat the Jaguars (twice), Titans (twice), Texans (twice), Ravens, Bengals, Giants, Redskins and Browns in the regular season. In the playoffs, they beat the Bengals, who are now 0-6 in the postseason under Marvin Lewis, and then they ran into an out-of-gas, disinterested, ready-to-collapse Peyton Manning in a game that more closely resembled an August scrimmage than it did a January playoff meeting.
So when the ball kicked off in Foxboro, the Colts turned out to be who we thought they were. But the Patriots were still a bit better than anyone could have expected.
--Here's something cool: The Patriots have made the Super Bowl seven times since Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994. The Steelers have the second-most Super Bowl appearances during that timespan with four.
--Also, some preemptive work here: Tom Brady is going to become the first quarterback to ever play in six Super Bowls. Now, because we love to compare things which aren't comparable, Brady's Super Bowl record will always be placed next to Joe Montana's in any "Greatest QB Of All Time" discussion. And look, no matter where you stand on such a discussion (I personally choose to not compare the work of a QB who played 30 years ago in a league that was completely different), you cannot use the lazy argument of "Well, Montana never lost a Super Bowl and Brady has, so there you go."
Such a statement rewards Montana for losing in the playoffs before making the Super Bowl and punishes Brady for, you know, actually making the Super Bowl. So instead of that, look at this:
Playoff Win Percentage
Tom Brady: 20-8, .714
Joe Montana: 16-7, .696
Thank you for your time.
--Andrew Luck is supposed to be the next great quarterback, the natural heir to the Manning/Brady throne, yada yada yada. And maybe he'll end up in the Hall of Fame, who knows? All I know is that this is how Luck has begun his career against Belichick in four games:
82-for-163 (50.3 percent), 1,094 yards (274 per game), 6 TDs, 10 INTs. That comes out to a 0.6-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio.
In 50 games against everyone else: 1,127-for-2,010 (56 percent), 13,692 yards (274 per game), 89 TDs, 45 INTs, aka a 2-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio.
Much like your predecessor in Indy, you've got some work to do, Andrew.
--The story of LeGarrette Blount's 2014 season is wild and -- as far as I know -- unprecedented. Going from getting no touches in Pittsburgh to quitting on the team and walking off the field early to getting released and then getting picked up by a top team in the conference, and then to getting 30 carries for 148 yards and three touchdowns in the AFC Championship Game to secure your first-ever trip to the Super Bowl ... that's not how anyone draws it up.
LeGarrette, your thoughts?
In four playoff games, Blount now has a 5.2 average yards per carry, and he's got seven touchdowns. Not bad. (Playing the Colts twice has certainly helped inflate those stats, but they still count.)
When asked for further comment, Blount simply said:
--Tom Brady finished the night with some decent numbers, but he started the game pretty poorly. He missed Julian Edelman on third down on the Patriots' first drive, he was bailed out by great catches by Shane Vereen and Edelman on badly underthrown passes, and he pulled off the dual bad decision/bad throw combo on the interception to D'Qwell Jackson.
Brady went into halftime having gone 11-for-21 for 95 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
But of course, he's Tom Brady, so in the second half he went 12-for-14 for 131 yards and two touchdowns. It must have been the deflated footballs. There's no other explanation ... save for the decade-and-a-half of evidence that he's pretty good at throwing footballs.
--This was the catch by Vereen, which was utterly ridiculous.
That catch picked up 30 yards on a drive that ended in James Develin's touchdown, stretching the Patriots' lead to 14-0.
--And here is the ridiculous catch by Julian Edelman, who stopped himself while at a full sprint, dropped to the turf, twisted his back and caught the football whilst reclined on his buttocks:
I think that kid is going to make it in this league ... unless his body breaks in half.
--John Harbaugh likely expects the league to investigate the instance of clear deception when the Patriots threw a touchdown pass to Nate Solder. I mean, yeah, the officials announced No. 77 as an eligible receiver, but there's no way the defense actually thought he'd be catching a pass! Not fair, guys! Typical #classless Patriots.
--No joking though, that was a rather nifty effort by Solder to stretch himself across the goal line. I know he went to Colorado as a tight end before moving to tackle, but he hasn't handled a football in game action in seven years. The guy looked like a natural:
--That extra effort to score was indicative of a common theme throughout the game: The Patriots trying with all their might, and the Colts showing a disturbing lack of effort.
Here's the point of contact on the goal-line pass to Develin.
Develin was standing still; Jackson was running full bore. Develin won the battle.
Blount also turned this ...
... into this:
Blount also got hit behind the line of scrimmage on a third-and-1 ...
... but turned it into a three-yard gain to move the chains:
It's just a matter of will, heart, desire, effort and all the other things that high school coaches obnoxiously bark at you as they make you do 300 up-downs on a frigid Wednesday. And with a Super Bowl trip on the line, the Colts just didn't look like they cared to put in the extra effort that's required to win such games in the NFL.
--The Patriots were trying so hard that they even started going helmet-to-helmet on each other!
Way to up the ante, Paddy Chung!
--Tom Brady picked up nine yards on a scramble, and really, nobody made a huge deal about it. That tells you how much work he's put in to make that a not-quite-as-rare feat as it used to. Because if Brady scrambled for nine yards a year ago, we would have been subjected to an infinite loop of "The Urlacher Juke."
And it's not just jukes that the quarterback has. Tom's got some ups:
--Can you imagine how different the feeling in New England would have been on Monday morning if, after Brady launched a deep ball late in a blowout, this helmet came in just an inch or two lower?
--In the past two weeks, the Patriots have:
- Employed Edelman to throw a touchdown pass
- Employed Nate Solder to catch a touchdown pass
- Confused the heck out of an opponent by declaring certain players as ineligible receivers
- Gotten a five-catch, 81-yard, two-touchdown performance out of Danny Amendola (he had 27 catches for 200 yards and one touchdown all season long)
- Gotten a 148-yard, three-touchdown performance out of LeGarrette Blount (he had 547 yards and five touchdowns all season)
Do they have any tricks left in the bag? They'll likely need some against Richard Sherman and Co.
--My favorite part of the game came when the officials huddled together and tried to figure out the rules:
--This isn't a Patriots thought, but I really feel badly for that Brandon Bostick fellow on Green Bay. You know, this guy:
Hopefully someone can relay to him ASAP that we are all ants on this tiny planet and we're all more or less meaningless and we're all going to die some day. Oh wait, that's way more depressing than being responsible for losing a football game. I fear I have made things worse. Maybe he should just call Josh Cribbs and start a support group.
--I'll leave you with this:
See you in Glendale.
Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here. You can email him or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.
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