We’ve got about 50-plus hours until Tom Brady and Patriots take the field against the Colts, and beyond all the hype, at the heart of all that’s holy, here’s one thing that everyone can agree on:
This is a game that the Patriots should win.
That doesn’t mean they will — it’s the NFL; Indianapolis is a good team; the Colts didn’t win 12 games by accident — but they should.
The Pats are just better. They have the home-field advantage. We’ll talk about all that and more in tomorrow’s preview.
But for now . . .
I mentioned this last week, but when Brady takes the field on Saturday, he’ll set an NFL record for playoff starts by a quarterback. It will be his 25th. And of course, once the actual game kicks off, no one will care. From that moment until the Patriots walk off the field for the final time this season, history will be meaningless. It’s all about the present and the future.
So while there’s still time, and in honor of Brady’s historic achievement, I spent far too many hours studying his first 24 career playoff games. Here are 12 things that stuck out:
1. Brady’s thrown 42 career playoff touchdown passes, which puts him in third place all-time behind Brett Favre (44) and Joe Montana (45). That also puts him four touchdowns away from a new playoff record. There’s always a chance he sets it on Saturday, but don’t count on it. Brady only has one career playoff game with four or more touchdown passes. That was two years ago, when he dropped six on Timothy Tebow.
2. He’s thrown those 42 touchdown passes to 20 different receivers, but only two of them will be active for New England on Sunday. The first is Shane Vereen, who isn’t even a receiver but caught two touchdowns in last year’s AFC Championship loss to Baltimore. The other is Julian Edelman, who caught two in the other playoff loss to Baltimore, in January 2010.
3. Brady’s actually thrown more touchdowns to active players on the other three AFC playoff teams. He’s thrown one to Danny Woodhead, who scored again last week for the Chargers. He’s thrown four to Wes Welker, who will be back in action for the Broncos. Aaaaand, he’s thrown four to new Colts receiver Deion Branch, who I shouldn’t even include on this list but want to because it’s hilarious.
Although the Colts won’t find it so funny when Belichick signs Ken Dilger on Saturday morning.
4. Quiz: Which player has caught the most career playoff touchdown passes from Tom Brady?
Answer: David Givens, who caught seven, and it’s not even close.
Rounding out the leaders, Welker and Branch are tied for second place with four. Ben Watson, Jabar Gaffney and Gronk all caught three. Mike Vrabel and Bubblicious Hernandez each caught two.
Another Quiz: Who’s caught more playoff touchdown passes from Brady: Randy Moss or Bethel Johnson?
Answer: I know what you’re thinking, “Why would he ever ask that question unless the answer was Bethel? It has to be Bethel!”
Wrong. They’re tied with one.
5. Andrew Luck will be the 19th different quarterback Brady’s faced in the postseason. He’s played Joe Flacco three times (he's 1-2 against Flacco) and Peyton Manning three times (2-1 against Manning). The other multiples are Philip Rivers (2-0) and Eli Manning (0-2).
Unfortunately, he only had one crack at Byron Leftwich.
6. Luck will be the third-youngest quarterback that Brady’s faced in the postseason. The youngest was Ben Roethlisberger, who was 22 in the 2004 AFC Championship. Next was Mark Sanchez, who was 24 in January 2011 — a few months younger than Luck is right now.
The oldest quarterback Brady’s ever faced in the playoffs was also the first quarterback he faced in the playoffs: Rich Gannon, who was 47* at the time of the Snow Bowl.
*OK, he was 36.
7. Luck’s the third No. 1 overall pick that Brady’s faced in the postseason, to along with the Manning Brothers.
Of the other 16 quarterbacks, five (McNair, McNabb, McLeftwich, Rivers and Sanchez) were top 10 picks and four (Roethlisberger, Flacco, Tebow and Pennington) went later in the first round. Jake Plummer and Kordell Stewart were both second-round picks, Matt Schaub was a third-rounder, and Gannon and David Garrard both went in the fourth.
Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme are the only two opposing QBs who were drafted later than Brady, although not really, because neither was drafted at all.
8. We hear a lot about Peyton Manning’s record in cold weather, but not so much about Brady’s. Except that it’s good. Which is a correct. Brady is 9-2 for his career in playoff games where the game time temperature was below freezing.
Although, I should point out that he started his career 6-0, and is only 3-2 since Super Bowl XLII.
Of Brady’s 11 sub-freezing postseason games, only one was played on the road. In January 2005, it was 9 degrees in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship, and the Pats won 41-27. Brady, playing despite having the flu, was 14-for-21 for 209 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
No. 2 might be on tap next week in Denver.
9. This weekend will mark the seventh time that Brady’s started a playoff game on a Saturday, and that’s easily the dumbest, most useless piece of information you’ll come across today. But I’m sorry. What’s done is done.
Brady’s 5-1 lifetime on playoff Saturdays. The one loss came at Denver in 2006. The Snow Bowl against the Raiders, the Ice Bowl against the Titans and the TeBowl against the Broncos were other memorable Saturday games.
10. The Pats are seven-point favorites against the Colts, which makes sense because they’re almost always favored in the playoffs. In fact, Brady’s taken the field as a postseason underdog only five times in his career.
I. First AFC Championship at Pittsburgh: 10-point underdog, won game.
II. Super Bowl XXXVI: 14-point underdog, won game
III. January ’06, divisional round in Denver: three-point underdog, lost by 14.
IV. January ’07, divisional round in San Diego: five-point underdog, won game.
V. January ’07, AFC Championship in Indy: 3.5-point underdog, lost by 4.
That’s 3-2 overall and 3-2 against the spread.
Saturday’s game will be the 13th time that Brady’s Pats are favored by a touchdown or more in the playoffs, and in the previous 12 they’re 9-3 overall, and 4-8 against the spread.
11. Brady’s first all-time in playoff pass attempts, and fifth all time in playoff interceptions. Only Brett Favre (30), Jim Kelly (28), Terry Bradshaw (26) and Dan Marino (24) have thrown more postseason INTs than Brady’s 22.
Yes, that means Peyton Manning has thrown fewer! Manning is one back at 21. But he’s also thrown the ball 126 fewer times, and has a higher interception percentage.
One regrettable interception note: At the start of the 2008 season, Brady’s career playoff record was 14-3, and he’d thrown a total of 9 interceptions over 17 games. In the seven playoff games since, he’s 4-3 with 10 interceptions.
12. Brady is 36 years old, and only three quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl after saying goodbye to 35: Johnny Unitas, Jim Plunkett and John Elway.
Elway was 38 when he won his last ring, and he’s the oldest to ever do it. But in a weird way, I’ve always felt it was Brady’s destiny to break that record. Especially after this long drought. It’s just too perfect.
Win your first Super Bowl as the youngest QB to ever do it
Win your last Super Bowl as the oldest QB to ever do it.
That’s a storybook ending, and Brady typically has a knack for finding it. Or at least he did. Or . . . whatever, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters now except the game at hand.
Colts at Patriots.
One step from yet another playoff record, but most importantly, two wins from another trip to the Super Bowl.
Back tomorrow with the preview.
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