Tom Brady knows.
You could hear it when he spoke after Monday night’s 42-14 beatdown of the previously 11-1 Houston Texans. And again Wednesday.
Brady knows this is the year. He knows that this Patriots team has an opportunity to finish what the 2007 team and the 2011 team started. The 2012 Patriots have positioned themselves to win Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Nice symmetry there. The Superdome is where the Brady/Bill Belichick ring tandem started 11 years ago. That’s where the Patriots won their first of three championships in four seasons, a dynasty that elevated Brady into the pantheon of the game’s all-time greats.
Now he can win a fourth Super Bowl. He can tie Joe Montana. He can make a case that he is the greatest quarterback ever.
Brady was unusually candid and reflective after Monday’s statement game.
“I’ve been around for longer than anyone else on this team,’’ he said. “I’ve been around some great teams and I can see the attitude of great teams. I can see the work ethic of great teams, and that’s what I try to encourage. That’s part of my role as a leader, as a captain, as a veteran, as a quarterback.’’
He’s talking about this stuff because he knows he once again has a team that can win a Super Bowl.
The 2012 Patriots are playing their best football at the most important time. This is not 2007, when the Patriots exhausted themselves in October and November, then played with the weight of the 1972 Miami Dolphins on their shoulders over the last two months.
No. These Patriots are on the rise entering their final three regular-season games. They are 10-3 and toying with good teams.
There is no monster team in the NFL this year. Brady and Belichick know the Patriots have as good a chance as anyone else.
The prospect of playing the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night adds to the deliciousness of our football fall. The Niners were Brady’s team growing up in Northern California. He remembers watching the Niners at Candlestick and crying when his dad wouldn’t buy him a foam finger. It has always bothered Brady that he was overlooked by the 49ers in the 2000 NFL draft. He squirmed when San Francisco selected the immortal Giovanni Carmazzi in the third round. Brady didn’t go until the sixth round, pick No. 199, and he’s been making the NFL pay for 11 seasons.
He is at the top of his game. Monday he was 21 of 35 for 296 yards, four touchdown passes, and zero interceptions. He even scrambled 6 yards on a third and 5 on the Patriots’ fifth scoring drive. He has thrown 29 touchdown passes with only four interceptions.
Strange as it sounds, Brady is now officially underrated.
He is having an MVP-worthy season (though we all know Peyton Manning will probably win the sentimental vote). When asked whom he would vote for if he had an MVP ballot, Brady lit up and said, “That’s a hypothetical. We don’t answer hypotheticals at the Patriots. Belichick would stand up here and say, ‘You moron. Why would you answer a hypothetical question like that?’ and I sit right there and he doesn’t have to look very far.’’
He was also asked what game he would pick to show his newborn daughter, Vivian. That’s like asking Paul McCartney to name his favorite Beatles song.
“There have been some fun ones,’’ Brady said, smiling. “I like the snow ones; I like those ones. We need some snow around here in December.’’
He looked truly happy.
Why not? Tom Brady is the personification of “Living the Dream.’’ He has two healthy sons and a newborn daughter. He is better looking than George Clooney, has more money than Jay Gatsby, and is married to the highest-earning model in the world.
He can pull off anything. Who else could promote men’s UGG boots and live to talk about it?
Mark Wahlberg — another guy who Has It All — visited the Patriots’ sideline before Monday night’s rout. Marky Mark is wealthy, famous, accomplished, and has a picture-perfect family. He was “The Fighter.’’ He invented “Entourage.’’ He is the executive producer of “Boardwalk Empire,’’ one of the best television series of all time.
And like everybody else, Mark Wahlberg wishes he was Tom Brady.
Brady is the personification of smart and clutch. He is our greatest winner since . . . Bill Russell. And Russell was the greatest winner in the history of sports.
It’s been a long, magical run since Brady introduced himself to America in New Orleans in 2002. Now, he and his coach are ready to return to the Superdome.
Brady knows he has the team that can win. If you like the Patriots, this should make you feel great.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.