FOXBOROUGH — Actions speak louder than words, and the gesture by Tom Brady on the final play of the third quarter showed exactly how he felt about yet another dominating individual and team performance on “Monday Night Football”.
After scrambling for 6 yards on a third-and-5 play to extend what would be a fifth scoring drive, Brady bounced up after sliding for the first down and excitedly played to the crowd, pumping his right arm and asking for noise.
He got more than that in response. As the teams made the long trek down to the other end of the field for the start of the fourth quarter, many in the Gillette Stadium crowd serenaded Brady with chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!”
It’s an award Brady is familiar with, winning the NFL honor in 2007 and 2010 and twice taking the hardware in the Super Bowl, the league’s ultimate postseason stage.
The biggest regular-season show comes in prime time on Monday, which Brady has turned into his personal showcase, especially lately. After torching the Texans for 296 yards and four touchdowns in the Patriots’ 42-14 rout, Brady once again authored a textbook example of how to be at your best when the entire league is watching. If his latest effort strengthened Brady’s case for another MVP season, consider that a bonus.
“It was just a good win. I don’t want to make more of it than it really is, it was a very good opponent, we played them at home, on Monday night, had an extra day to prepare, thought we took advantage of it, and we played a pretty good football game,” Brady said. “We’ve played a lot of big games here, but Monday night in December, it’s an important win for us.”
Brady has now played more than a season’s worth of games on “Monday Night Football”. In 17 career appearances, he has thrown for 4,715 yards (averaging 277 per game) with 41 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The Patriots are now 13-4 in “Monday Night Football” games started by Brady, and have won five straight and 10 of 11.
He seems to relish games in which he’s not the primary focus coming in. In the run-up against the Texans, Houston’s defensive front four and the hype surrounding two of the better teams in the AFC meeting in a playoff environment seemingly pushed Brady to the background.
At least until the game started. On an unseasonably warm New England evening, Brady came out blistering hot, throwing touchdown passes the first three times the Patriots had the ball. Two went to Aaron Hernandez, sandwiched around a 37-yard play-action heave to Brandon Lloyd. Before the game was 20 minutes old, the Patriots led, 21-0.
Avoiding the Texans’ defensive front wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t. Brady was sacked once and hit repeatedly, pressured enough to complete 21 of 35 passes. Good completion percentage, not great.
When his receivers were covered and the pocket collapsed, he improvised, at least on one oft-replayed play. That scramble to end the third quarter, with the Patriots leading, 28-7, and looking for an emphatic, game-sealing touchdown?
“I don’t run too often, so I have to show them that I can still run a little bit,” Brady said. “That was a big moment in the game.”
Show who you can still run?
“All the rest of the people out there, the opposing defenses that say I can’t run. At least there’s a little bit of a threat there. I’m not a big threat. I’m not RG3 back there,” he said, mentioning the Redskins’ electric rookie, Robert Griffin III.
Perhaps RG3 has MVP awards in his NFL future. Maybe Brady has another one, as soon as this season. Games like Monday’s make a convincing case that he’s playing some of his best football. His season numbers – completing 64 percent of his passes for 3,833 yards, with 29 touchdowns and just four interceptions – only add to the argument.
“That’s a hypothetical. We don’t answer hypotheticals on the Patriots,” Brady said, when asked who would get his MVP vote if he had one. “Coach [Bill] Belichick would stand up here and say, ‘You moron, why would you answer a hypothetical question like that?’ And I sit right there [motioning toward a front-row seat] and he doesn’t have to look very far.”
Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.