Brady leads another offensive show, sets record

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Brady leads another offensive show, sets record

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

Add Buffalo to the list of Tom Brady's NFL casualties.

"I haven't seen anybody slow them down offensively," Bills coach Chan Gailey said of the Patriots last week. "They're just like a machine out there. It's been quite a show.''

After New England beat Buffalo 34-3 on Sunday, you almost had to wonder if Gailey felt like shrugging about the points allowed. Did he believe his Bills would be the team to shut Brady down? Probably not. The Patriots quarterback is having another MVP-caliber season.

On Sunday, Brady threw three touchdown passes and set the record for attempts without an interception.

Gaily was aware of the tally before the Patriots rolled into Buffalo. "It's very amazing," he said of Bradys streak.

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick -- who, by comparison, went 18-for-37 with three picks and zero touchdowns -- was equally awed.

"It's unbelievable,'' he said. "It's mind-boggling."

Hear that, Terrell Suggs?

Brady now has 319 straight passes without a pick, surpassing Bernie Kosar's previous mark of 308. And he's doing it in one season.

Kosar made his mark in Cleveland from 1990-91 and Bart Starr tallied 294 pickless pass attempts in Green Bay from 1964-65. Brady's thrown his total in a span of nine NFL weeks.

"The work he puts into it is second to none,'' teammate Logan Mankins said after the game. "He's a competitor and he just wants to get better and he just wants to win. You can tell that with how he prepares."

That's why it's not strange that the Bills sounded like they wanted to carry him into Ralph Wilson Stadium on a litter. Touting the talents of TB12 isn't about kissing butt or exchanging pleasantries, it's about numbers.

The Patriots scored 21 points off seven Bills turnovers.

Brady has thrown two or more TD passes with no interceptions in eight consecutive games, an NFL record.

New England scored 24 (or more) first-half points for the third time in four games, and the fourth time this year.

With 31 points against Buffalo, the Patriots have scored 30 or more points in seven straight games. This streak is the NFL's longest since 1970.

The Patriots have committed zero turnovers in those seven games, an NFL record.

The landscape has changed. There's no Corey Dillion, no more Brady-to-Moss, no Kevin Faulk on third down, and this Sunday there was hardly any Welker.

Wes Welker -- "Brady's Binky" as some call him -- had as many dropped balls as he did receptions against the Bills. He lost his grip on a short second-and-six screen pass the first time. The second, Brady looked short left but Welker bobbled the ball at the Buffalo 11 when crossing the middle on third-and-six and killed the drive. He had another in the third quarter.

And so Brady's quarterback rating dipped this weekend. That's right, he no longer leads the NFL with a 109.9 score. He now leads it at 109.8.

No matter. New England got it done in different ways.

Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski had a big day, catching two of Brady's three touchdown passes on the day. The second score, on a beautiful back-shoulder grab, was Gronkowski's ninth TD of the season, tying Ben Coates (1996) for most TDs by a Patriots TE in franchise history. (Yes, another record for one of Brady's boys.) Fellow TE Alge Crumpler had the other touchdown.

The ground game was gaudy: 217 rush yards largely gained from former free agents BenJarvus Green Ellis (104) and Danny Woodhead (93). Even there, Brady's teammates saw his fingerprints all over the ball

"Days like today when he's handing off a lot, he's making the right checks and all that, so . . . there's more to quarterback than just throwing," Mankins said.

The yardage might have been a gimmie against Buffalo's 32nd-ranked rush defense, but consider this: Brady and his offense are 7-2 against top 10 scoring defenses (fewest points allowed) this season. The Patriots are averaging 29.6 points per game when playing the league's stingiest defenses when the rest of the NFL is averaging 16.7 points.

"I don't think as a lineman we have any comprehension,'' center Dan Koppen said. "I know it's a tough job, what he has to do, how many reads he has to make and get the ball out. What he does to this point in his career is nothing shocking."

Imagine creating a standard so high that setting records is pedestrian. It's not that nobody's impressed as each throw carves Brady's name higher into the All-Time QB totem pole. It's that they've come to expect their quarterback to play at a Hall of Fame level every week.

"He's definitely what you expect, I mean what everyone says,'' Danny Woodhead said. "He does everything well and he pays the attention to detail that he has to. He's a great quarterback, like everyone's seen."

Would New England be 13-2 if Brady wasn't near-perfect? Think about that.

Would this offense have blood-lust if he wasn't screaming about penalties though padded with a 30-point lead? Would the 2010 Patriots have clinched the division and home-field advantage in the playoffs if Brady wasn't its nucleus? If he wasn't so boringly brilliant?

"It never gets old, I'll tell you that,'' the quarterback smiled postgame. "We never get tired of winning.''

Good thing. With the way he's playing, the Patriots aren't done winning yet.

Tom E. Curran contributed to this report.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.