After a somewhat disappointing NFL regular season, Tom Brady has come out with 2 fantastic playoff performances. Is the 5-time Champion on the decline, or is he as good as ever aged 41? The Palmerbet Sports Team takes a deeper look.
Not the Same Quarterback?
Rams Cornerback Nickell Robey Coleman made headlines this week when he said that Tom Brady isn’t the same Quarterback anymore. Coleman wasn’t the first to make these comments, which have been a common sentiment amongst analysts this season.
— WEEI (@WEEI) January 28, 2019
In looking at the numbers, however, Brady’s 2018 campaign seems to be in line with his excellent career to date. He threw for an impressive 4355 yards, which he’d only done 5 times previously.
Other numbers such as 7.5 yards per attempt, 29 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions all fall in the middle ranges of his career so far. They fall somewhat short of the spectacular numbers he’s put up over the past 4 seasons but are still stats that 90% of NFL Quarterbacks would kill for.
Performing When It Counts
Whilst many NFL fans had proclaimed the Patriots dead after the regular season, two excellent playoff performances have shifted this consensus. The Patriots actually find themselves 2.5-point favourites for this game, largely due to Brady’s impressive recent displays.
He smoked the LA Chargers in the Divisional round, leading 5 first-half touchdown drives to cruise to victory. This opened up a lot for Rookie Running Back Sony Michel, who has 242 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns in 2 playoff games.
Brady was arguably even more impressive in the AFC Championship, putting up 37 points in a touch Kansas City environment. He controlled the game very well, throwing for 348 yards and a touchdown.
2 crucial interceptions were his only misstep and honestly made the game closer than it should’ve been. Should the Pats offensive line be able to contain both Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, there’s every chance of another dominant Brady performance here.
Edelman and Gronkowski Connection
Whilst Josh Gordon’s release left New England without a true #1 NFL receiver, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have continued to be Brady’s go to men. Against Kansas City last time out, they combined for an impressive 16 catches and 175 yards.
It’s very possible that this is the last time we see Gronkowski on the football field. He’s been a character on and off the field and definitely a key component of the Pats dynasty.
The Rams have struggled against premier Tight Ends this season, allowing an average of 125 yards and a touchdown in 3 games against George Kittle and Travis Kelce. If Gronk can get going through the middle, the Pats offence could be in for a huge day here.
The joy that teammates had for Rob Gronkowski after Sunday's win was hard to miss, with Julian Edelman saying, "I’m so proud of Gronk, going out there making crazy plays. It was awesome to see the big fella go out and do that.” https://t.co/Vh2GGYQ7gJ
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) January 21, 2019
Edelman himself has had two excellent Super Bowl appearances and his absence last year was definitely missed. He hauled in 9 crucial catches for 109 yards and a touchdown against Seattle in 2015.
Against Atlanta in 2016, he added another solid day with 5 clutch catches for 87 yards. The Rams top Cornerbacks simply don’t have the speed necessary to cover Edelman, which could result in another big day for the diminutive wideout.
You can make the strong case that Brady’s last 3 Super Bowl performances have been his best ones. Perhaps this is just a fixture of the modern pass happy NFL, however, it is also a testament to his excellent preparation routine.
He was excellent against the Seahawks in 2015, throwing for 328 yards and 4 touchdowns against the feared ‘Legion of Boom. Whilst everyone remembers the Malcolm Butler play, Brady’s two fourth-quarter touchdown drives were just as critical.
Brady took this up a level in 2017, throwing for 466 yards and 2 touchdowns in a memorable comeback over Atlanta. This is even more impressive when you consider that #1 target Rob Gronkowski was out injured in this one.
Even in last year’s defeat to Philadelphia, Brady threw for a Super Bowl record 505 yards and 3 touchdowns. Whilst he was outdone by Nick Foles on the night, Brady did everything to put his team in a strong position to win.
Having only had to play 2 games of football over the past month, expect a well-rested Brady in this one. Combine this with an offense-friendly dome environment and I don’t expect any major signs of fatigue.
Against a Rams offence that can also put up points in a hurry, the Pats will need another big day from Brady to bring home the win. With the form he’s shown of late, it will take a complete defensive performance to stop him.
Whilst Brady’s numbers may have slightly dipped this season, recent performances suggest that he’s the same excellent Quarterback. In Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and James White, he has three excellent weapons that should get good run here.
Should the Patriots ($1.74) end up winning this one, I think there’s every chance that Brady brings home his 5th NFL Super Bowl MVP at $2.10. Whilst he may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s hard to argue with his sustained level of greatness.