Tom Brady stood at the podium, his eyes vacant and rimmed with red. This is not how his M.V.P. season was supposed to end: outplayed, outwitted, outsmarted and out-and-out beaten up on and off the field by his bitter rival.
All week, the Jets had been playing Patriot mind games, seeking a return to the brashness and bravado missing from the team before December’s 45-3 pounding at New England.
Jets linebacker Bart Scott said after the game that he knew he had infiltrated the Patriots’ heads when he heard Wes Welker’s foot -laden press conference references Thursday. The Jets tried to lure New England into a war of words, and it worked so well that Bill Belichick actually benched Welker for the Patriots’ first offensive series as a punishment.
Getting into the Patriots’ heads… that was the idea.
Antonio Cromartie – he of the back-page expletives – said that was the Jets’ plan on the field as well: to keep Brady frustrated, flush him outside the pocket, play a hands-on, physical game and – dare it be said – confuse the Pro Bowl quarterback with different defensive looks and a game plan completely different from the one they used against Peyton Manning in the wildcard round.
Brady had not been sacked more than three times in a game all season. The Jets defense got to him five times (coincidentally the same number of sacks had by the last New York team to beat the Patriots in the playoffs, the 2008 Super Bowl champion Giants). Brady had started 11 straight games without an interception, the most since the 1970 merger, a span of an NFL record 339 straight passes. David Harris picked off a lousy Brady pass in his first series of the playoffs.
Admit it: you still believed, late into the game, that Brady would bring them back. Entering the Jets game, Brady had 31 career game-winning performances – in which he led his team to victory from a 4th quarter deficit or tie. But the Jets – and many players said this after the game – were focused more on Brady’s other statistics, the one you don’t hear that much about: his recent poor playoff performances.
Going back to 2007, Brady has posted subpar quarterback ratings in every game except the 2007 wildcard round and the 2008 divisional win against Jacksonville:
A win at San Diego in the 2007 divisional round: 57.6
The loss at Indianapolis in the 2007 conference championship: 79.5
After his record-breaking season hooking up with Randy Moss in the 2008 regular season, Brady again failed to deliver in the playoffs:
The conference championship win vs. San Diego: 66.4
The SuperBowl loss to the Giants: 82.5
Last year’s wildcard loss to the Ravens at Gillette: 49.1
Many analysts called this Brady’s finest regular season to date, which make his playoff struggles seem even more of a paradox. His quarterback rating during the 2010 regular season was an exceptional average of 117.2 over 16 games. Yet he posted an 89.0 in the loss to the Jets.
Brady had created an aura of invincibility by going eight years in a row without losing a playoff game at home. Now he has lost two in a row there.
About the Author
Written by Lisa Edwards
I am a former producer at ESPN and currently run my own television production company. I also am a field producer for the NFL Network.